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« More Ramadan Photos from India by Farid Zadis | Main | Guelaguetza by Ji-Young Park »

October 10, 2005

Hoeng Hwe, Vinegared and Seasoned Skate by Ji-Young Park

P1010050_1Please join me on Book of Rai forum to discuss Korean food!

Hoeng Hweh can be described as a type of ceviche. Skate is marinated in vinegar for several hours. The typical vegetable components are mu (daikon radish), carrots, peppers, onions and minari (Korean watercress) stems. Some cooks add cucumbers and Korean pears.

I don't consider this dish to be commonly homemade. It's labor intensive and time consuming. Most people just buy it pre-made from Supermarkets, open air markets or a local banchan (side dishes) maker.

My mother's home cooking is not representative of typical Korean home cooking. She learned how to cook growing up on her family farm, where they had access to more ingredients than most Koreans did at the time and lots of domestic help to prepare the food. Back then in Korea there was a huge divide between the wealthy and the poor. The large middle-class that exists today is the result of Japanese occupation, civil war and rapid industrialization.

During the chaos of the Korean war my mother spent some time with relatives from North Korea. They were wealthy North (then it was simply Northern as the country was not officially divided) Koreans who fled to the South with every bit of gold, jewelry and money they could strap to their bodies and carry. They opened a now closed restaurant in South Korea. My mother learned how to make North(ern) Korean specialties while staying with them.

My mother is an intuitive cook. She does not measure out ingredients with teaspoons and measuring cups. She measures with her hands, "pour the salt into my hands, a little more. Give me this much of garlic. It needs just a drop or two more of sesame oil."

She cooks very slowly and maintains an impeccably clean kitchen.  I drive her mad with my faster methods. We argue sometimes. I lose most of the time to keep her happy. She has a pantry large enough to open a restaurant. She prepares food in huge quantities. There are always tons of leftovers when guests come. She insists they take them and they do so gladly. For her to run out of food, to not have enough is unthinkable. I suspect this has to do with yearning for a lost and somewhat mythicized table of abundance and communal dining from her childhood. All that was taken away from her because of the Korean war, she remembers through her food.

This isn't a recipe per se, I'm not giving ratios. Although I think an experienced cook can reproduce the dish based on the photos and my notes. This is more of a documentation of how Korean food is prepared in certain homes.


Frozen skate ready to be drowned in vinegar. The vinegar is plain comparable to Heinz white vinegar. Why frozen skate? What did people use before refrigeration? Fresh skate. I've been told that the texture of frozen skate is preferred.



The skate is marinaded in the vinegar for 4-5 hours. This batch took about 4 hours. It's about knowing how to recognized the texture, when to stop marinading. This is how hoeng hwe was cut in the days before electric slicers. It was hand cut into cubes. These days Korean butchers will machine cut the skate for you. But my mother insists that the old way of marinading the skate whole and then cutting, rather than marinading pre-cut pieces of skate,  results in a superior dish.

At the age of 62 she complains of aches in her arms and back whenever she makes this, but still stubbornly refuses to change her methods. I offer to cut the skate for her. She  suspects I will rudely hack it and never lets me. She is proud of her cooking and her joy is to share her food with family and friends. To hear us "ooh and ahh" over her special creations, to be asked about her "secrets" which she is just now giving away.

Drain the skate and cut into cubes. You will need a sharp, heavy knife. The bones are quite thick and resistant. Drain the cut skate.



Julienne mu and carrots on a mandolin. My mother used to insist on hand cutting this as well, "the texture and flavor" are better she would say.. She thought using a mandolin resulted in loss of precious juices by "bruising" the vegetables. But encroaching age has meant that she is forced to take some short cuts.

Before adding the gochu garu (red pepper flakes) gently and slowly massage in some sesame oil in a raking and turning motion for about 10 minutes. My mother believes fast hands "bruise" the vegetables. She believes coating the mu and carrots in sesame oil first helps them maintain their integrity, a more distinct texture and flavor.



Gently mix in the red pepper flakes. This need not be done thoroughly.



Add the skate. You'll notice my mother is wearing plastic gloves. That's pretty common these days. In the old days some women would rub sesame oil into their hands as a protective measure against the burn of hot peppers. Other women would not, saying it was a waste of precious sesame oil and brag about how hardy they were.



Combine in a circular raking and turning motion.


Add more gochu garu





Add sweet sliced onion, minari stems cut into 2 1/2" pieces, scallions sliced into 2 1/2" pieces, julienned green and red bell peppers. Traditionally long thin Korean green and red peppers are used. I started seeing bell peppers in markets in Korea about 10 or so years ago. My mother prefers the crunch of bell peppers



Season with roasted sesame seeds, salt, sugar and garlic. Continue to blend using the raking and turning motion, taste, adjust seasoning, blend again, taste, adjust seasoning, blend again... When she's confident that the seasoning is almost there, she asks family members to taste. "Do you think it needs more sugar? Do you think it needs more sesame seeds?" I'm proud to say that even when I was a child my mother trusted my palate.


Divide into containers. The large tray is for her Church party. The smaller containers are for her children to take. Garnish with pine nuts.





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Wow - I haven't had that in the longest. Looks delicious!

Funny what you said about your mom having to prepare enough for an army - If not specifically Korean, I think it's generally a very Asian way of entertaining. It's unthinkable in my family, too, that anyone should desire to have more and not be able to.

Thanks for sharing your family's food traditions with us. Can't wait to read more!

What a special cook your mom is! I'd love to watch her cook and then taste her food. ;-)

I like the idea of rubbing the sesame oil over the hands as a preventive measure when handling the peppers.

And I'd love to know how to measure the ingredients without using a measuring spoon or cup, like your mom. Alas, I don't think it will happen. I have no concept of measurement without the spoons and cups.

Thanks, Ji-Young!


Very interesting!!!! Thanks for the story and step-by-step photos and instructions. Looks really good!!!!

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