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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Korea Roundup 2011: Grilled Salted Fish, Raw Crab and Magical Moving Tables

I like the food at Chungmok (청목 나들애), especially the grilled goolbi, or salted white croaker (although I'm never sure about the exact translations when it comes to fish because they vary depending on who you ask).

It serves jungshik (no relation to the restaurant I just reviewed of the same name), which is a full meal where the table is literally covered with loads of side dishes and main dishes. The stars also included gyejang, or raw marinated crab and bossam, steamed pork belly wrapped in cabbage leaves with some fiery kimchi.

The grilled fish was soft, smoky and just salty enough from the salt added when the jogi (fresh fish) was turned into the dried salted kind, goolbi, similar to bacalao (salted cod) popular in Portuguese cuisine.

While very challenging to consume (good luck getting the tiny bit of flesh out of the shell), the raw crab was gooey and salty in a good way and went so well with the fantastic rice cooked in an individual stone pot.

I didn't appreciate the excellent quality of the rice as much when I was there, until I returned to LA and made some rice in my humble rice cooker and...realized how each grain had a good bite to it and was cooked just right -- not too soft, not too hard. Oh my. I miss that rice.

Probably the most fascinating thing about this place besides the pretty good fish and crab was this:

Check out how the tables are set. It's Korean ingenuity at its best. Ok, I'm not sure Koreans invented this but I've never seen it before anywhere else. So efficient. Fascinating.

The restaurant is based in Icheon, a city southeast of Seoul known for its ceramics, rice and peaches. The stone pot rice will undoubtedly make the city proud. It has three additional locations, including this one in Bundang.

Chungmok (청목 나들애)
(031) 717-4224

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