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Korean Spicy Fish Stew (Mae Un Tang)

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Korean Spicy Fish Stew (Mae Un Tang)

This Korean fish stew is a little bit spicy and sweet and has dozens of different variations. Cod is my favorite fish to use since I am almost always able to find it fresh, but you can also use red snapper, halibut, yellow croaker, corvina, sea bass or pollack and get a delicious stew. Try to go to a fishmonger so you can have the fish head for the broth, even if you have it cleaned and filleted for you.

For vegetable variations, you can include soybean sprouts, pumpkin, mushrooms, scallions, watercress or Korean parsley (minari or water dropwort). Some cooks and restaurants also add clams, oysters or other shellfish to their mae un tang. Radish, zucchini and chili peppers are the only essentials for me if I'm making it at home. If I order it in a restaurant, then I also like to see sukgat* (edible chrysanthemum leaves/crown daisy) or minari. If you are making this recipe and you can't find the sukgat listed below, then you can substitute with watercress or even spinach.

In certain seafood restaurants in Korea and in some Korean restaurants abroad, you can choose your fish while it's still swimming. The chefs at the restaurant will prepare your fish so that you can enjoy it raw (hwe). Then the restaurant will make this soup for you from the left-over parts of your fish (the head, leftover flesh and bones) to eat after your sashimi (hwe). Mae Un means spicy and Tang means soup or stew in Korean.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 3-4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cod fish (daegu), filleted with the head separated but reserve
  • 8 oz Korean or Chinese white radish, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
  • 1 red chili pepper, cut on the bias
  • 1 green chili pepper, cut on the bias
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced into strips
  • 3 tsp kochukaru (Korean crushed red chili pepper powder)
  • 3 Tbsp kochujang (korean chili pepper paste)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 scallions, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 block firm tofu, cut into larger cubes
  • 4 oz edible chrysanthemum leaves (crown daisy, sukgat)
  • 1/2 zucchini, halved and sliced
  • salt and black pepper

Preparation:

  1. Cut the fish into several pieces.
  2. Bring 3-4 cups water (depending on the size of your fish) and the fish head to a boil.
  3. Then add radish, garlic, kochujang, kochukaru, sliced chilies and continue to cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes.
  4. Overall, don't stir too much! You want the broth to be relatively clear.
  5. Remove the fish head and add the fish meat into the pot.
  6. Simmer until fish is tender, about 3-4 minutes.
  7. Add tofu, edible chrysanthemum (crown daisy) and simmer for 2-3 minutes more. Do not stir anymore.

*Edible chrysanthemum leaves. They are used in Korean cuisine like spinach or watercress, and they add fragrance and freshness to complex dishes.

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