Hongsam Mulhwe is a seafood dish typical to Ulleung Island. Hongsam is Red Sea Cucumer, and is served raw with Sora, a kind of shellfish. The first time I ate Hongsam and Sora was at a mountain picnic. The creatures were swiftly chopped up and served with gochujang (hot pepper paste). It was still moving. If my memory serves me right, my fellow South African and I had to employ much acting when we finished off the slow dying beasts so as not to offend our host. The texture is kind of tough and crunchy in all the ways you don’t expect while all the other bits are jelly-ee. We were later offered the same seafood in a soup. This time it was more tender and juicy.
If you are going to try your palate at Hongsam and Sora for the very first time, I recommend Honsam Moelhwe. The sea cucmber and shell fish will arrive at your table already dead and mixed with a bounty of vegetables. Fist take a scoop of pepper paste and then dish in a spoonful of iced soup (yuksu). When you’ve mixed all these together, grap a ball of noodles with your chopsticks and mix it with the rest of the ingredients. The result is a crunchy (from the vegetables this time) salad-like cold dish with a hot sweet taste. In case you were considering trying to make this at home, here are a few of the ingredients.
cucumber, pear, lettuce, red seacucumber, sora, giant radish, hot sauce, iced soup (yuksu), sesame seeds, noodles (guksu)
This dish is great if you are visiting Ulleungdo on a hot summer’s day and you feel like trying something out of the ordinary. I’ve found that foreigners often prefer raw seafood that has a softer more buttery texture, such as salmon or tuna. However, most Koreans prefer raw seafood that has a chewier texture. It is important to be aware of that when visiting places like Ulleungdo. However I have good news for all of you who often crave a slice of salmon sashimi. Ulleungdo has a buttery fish called Bangeo, that can be ordered at seafood restaurants thinly sliced, and it is delicious! Fortunately for me it is in season round my birthday in autumn.
Bangeo can also be panfried. Buy a fresh fish from the fish market down at the harbour. If you are squeemish, ask a friend to buy it for you. Bangeo is quite a large fish, so you may want to buy a fish amongst two or three of your friends. Once you get home, rub the fillet with course seasalt and leave it to rest for 3 hours. Then place it in a heated pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil and fry it for 3 minutes on each side. Place the bare side in the pan first so you can seal in the natural juices of the meat. The result is a succulent piece of tender fish that will go wonderfully with a tangy mixed garden salad. Ulleungdo has no suppliers for lemons, so I recommend you bring a bottle of easy lemon with you. Otherwise, a little bit of grape vinegar mixed with extra virgin olive oil and some garlic paste will make a delicious dressing for your salad. A little meditiranian for Asia, I know, but everyone gets a little homesick once in a while.