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Yeongsanpo Hongeo: The Attraction of Fermented Food[남도향토음식] 나주 영산포 홍어
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승인 2013.12.09  13:50:46
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Hongeo samhap compose ou sliced fermented skate, boiled pork and kimch

   What comes across your mind when you think of Jeollanamdo? Maybe you will conjure up the image of delicious food. This region is famous for its tasty food and has a rich food culture thanks to lots of mountains, sea and fields that provide various cooking items. Also, because of the warm climate, fermented food is developed in the region, such as pickled vegetables and salted fish. Among them, fermented skate is noted for its smell and taste that you can feel a mysterious and deep flavor. Why was fermented skate (hongeo) first eaten by people from the Jeolla region? In this article, we will find out.
   Skate belongs to the family Rajidae. This diamond shape flat fish has a small head and short traps. It has round light colored spots and its color is dark brown. Skate is distributed in the West Sea, South Sea, East China Sea and others. In Korea, Heuksan Island is famous for its skate, but fermented skate is popular in Yeongsanpo. Yeongsanpo was the storehouse of Honam region in the Joseon Dynasty and had a big fish market where various fish were traded by many fishermen. Consequently, many fish including skate were transferred to Yeongsanpo by boat. During this period, most fish brought to the pier were decomposed but only skate was fermented and still edible. Rather, the fermented skate had a chewy texture and better taste. Thereafter, fermented skate was widely eaten in the South Jeolla region. Skate Festival is held annually in April because skate can be too-rapidly fermented with the hot weather in the summer. At the skate festival, people can see a variety of skate foods and learn about it through various activities such as a skate quiz show, cutting skate prettier, skate instant auction, and so on.
   We can make about 10 kinds of food with fresh or fermented skate, for example, fried skate, seasoned skate, steamed skate, skate pancake and so on. The most popular food is hongeo samhap composed of sliced raw fermented skate, boiled pork and kimchi, and the dish with rice wine is called hongtack samhap. Skate has a lot of ammonia which is disassembled from urea and has a piquant taste but the rice wine neutralize skate's ammonia, thanks to organic acid and protein. With the rice wine, hongtack samhap is the icing on the cake.
   The Chonnam Tribune met the master of skate Ahn Guk-hyun who is managing a restaurant ‘First Street Skate’ in Yeongsanpo for about 10 years. Master Ahn explained how to ferment skate, "To ferment skate, put it in an earthenware jar with straw which helps fermentation under low temperature. After being fermented between 5 to 10 degrees Celsius for 10 days, skate becomes more delicious. If you want well fermented skate, store it in an airtight container and take away some moisture frequently. Then you can eat totally fermented skate.”
   Many people cannot eat or have not tried to taste fermented skate because of its foul odor and piquant taste. When you try fermented skate for the first time, hongeo samhap is not recommended because it has a strong smell and pungent taste. If you really want to taste hongeo samhap, it is better having it with lots of kimchi to reduce the piquant taste of fermented skate. Fried fermented skate has the strongest taste because there is a lot of ammonia gas in the skate fritter. When you eat a bite, the taste floods your mouth.
   However, skate is good for our health, for instance, it is good for a diet due to its high protein and low fat. Skate's ammonia has a sterilizing effect which prevents food poisoning and controls harmful bacteria. Skate is also good for arthritis. Skate’s skin has many collagens that are good for beauty treatments and skin care. Nowadays, many people make products for skin care such as soap and body wash from the skate’s skin. Try fermented skate, give yourself a challenge! Someday, you may fall in love with skate.

By Lee Su-jung, Tribune Reporter

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