Thursday, December 20, 2018

[Food] Uh-mook (어묵, Korean fish cake)


[Food]  Uh-mook (어묵, Korean fish cake)

Uh-mook soup

In every snack shop in Korea, there are four main dishes that they must have. These are Tteok-bokki (click it to read), Soondae (순대, Korean sausage), deep-fries (vegetables, dumplings, and sweet-potato noodle rolls) and Uh-mook (어묵, Korean fish cake). Uh-mook is a very friendly and well-known Korean dish. Most Koreans love cheap, tasty and hot soup. Its soft, tender and chewy texture attracts everyone, regardless of age.

Soft Uh-mook with hot soup! Yum! Everyone's favorite :)

It's flavor is usually mild but it differs by shop and city. Often spicy chili is added to the soup, so spicy and red Uh-mook is also a beloved dish in a Korean snack shop. If you walk into any downtown Korean city, you will see many small snack shops that sell Uh-mook, Tteok-bokki and Soondae and hungry commuters enjoying their momentary happiness around an Uh-mook table.

Uh-mook arcade, Bupyeong market, Korea

It was a really cold winter day in Korea. I was a 12-year-old boy with a chubby and round face with round silver shining glasses. There were lots of small snack shops in my town and my hobby was tasting snacks from every snack shop. In winter time, most snack shops sell a lot of hot food and uh-mook was sold in every shop. My most frequented shop was the one on the way back home from the English institute. The shop was 5 square-meter big beside their own shoe-repair shop. I remember the smell of thick fish-cake soup from far away on the way home. Every time I saw white steam rising out of the shop, I settled down at the shop and started to pick hot and long uh-mook skew from the snack shop's large and square hotpot to eat quickly. My favorite uh-mook was wide and flat uh-mook that is folded many times.

Uh-mook in the middle section is my favorite :P

"Hi, it's you again. My favorite allowance-maker."

"Hi, Hannah. You are here again too. Where's your mom?"

"At the market with dad. I'm so sure they are having a date while leaving the shop to me."

"Ahahaha. Don't you want to go with them?"

She giggled a little. I could see her dimples.

"Nah, Jerry. I have to take care of my brother. He will come home soon. I will have supper with him."

"Right, I have to go home after this. My mom said she will cook Kimchijjigae (Kimchi stew) today."

"Then, shouldn't you go home before you eat any snacks? You will be full before you eat dinner."

I smiled as I chewed uh-mook.

"It's okay. I can still eat one more dish, hehe."

"Duh, you are piggier than you look."

"..........I'm not fat, I'm just larger than others."

"Ahaha! That's the best joke I have heard recently!"

She had black twin-tailed hair with two hair bands with pink flowers. Her complexion was pale but she had some freckles on her cheeks. I remember her being clever enough to make good jokes but also mature and with more responsibility than other 12-old-year girls. Well, I liked her cheerful and bright personality and the good thing is that she went to the same school as me :)

A fish cake master in Ansan of Korea

"Hey, are you okay?"

" burned my arm, so dumb of me.."

She accidentally burned her arm (a little), while moving uh-mook skews and talking with me, by rim of her stainless hotpot. Soon, her short and bruised burn turned red and started to swell slightly.

"What should I do, Jerry?"

"Uhm...use my handkerchief, let it soak in cold-water in your kitchen and put it on the burn."

I thought of the first-aid skills I had watched on a survival show on TV. She listened to me and did what I said.

"Thanks, Jerry. I feel a little relieved now."

"No problem. hehe."

"Here, take this for free in return for your handkerchief."

She gave me another skew of uh-mook with a smile.

"Wow, thanks!"

Her burn healed but it left a little scar on her right arm.

One year later, one day, mom said that my family soon had to move to another town in the city. She said it was a really good home with a better school and environment for us but I didn't like it at all because I had to say goodbye to friends in school, as well as to Hannah.

Busan is also famous city for Uh-mook (Korean fish cake). This is the promotional booth for Busan's Uh-mook

"Hey, new boy."

"Oh, shut up. I'm not in the mood for jokes about coming to a new town."

"Sorry, but you're still in the mood to eat uh-mook, again, aren't you? Haha"

"Hahaha....yeah, right..thanks, Hannah."

She passed me my favorite flat uh-mook, which is my favorite, and whispered:

"Eat as much as you want, I'll pay for you today with my allowance of this week."

"Is it a good-bye gift for me?"

"Yeah, kind of...but I don't think we won't meet again. Maybe we will see each other sometime in life, won't we?"

She was saying good-bye but didn't look sad at all while I was kinda being grumpy and cranky to my parents at home because of the move.

"You are right. Let's meet again later when we grow up. You will still be in this town even after...10 years, right?"

"Yeah, I think so, unless my parents win the lottery or something, hahaha."

A few days later, my family moved to a new town in the city and I didn't go back to my old town, so I also couldn't see Hannah again. I missed her shop's uh-mook...and her.

Deep-fried uh-mook bar. Popular snack.

Famous uh-mook shop in Korea. You can buy a variety of uh-mook here.
Today, it has been more than 20 years since I left my hometown and Hannah. I'm visiting my hometown again because of work. And, I started to wonder whether Hannah's snack shop by her family's shoe-repair shop is still there or not. Slowly falling into reminiscing of uh-mook and Hannah's shop, I walked towards the place where her shop might still be.

Instant uh-mook for home

Corn-uhmook with laver in it

Uh-mook with sweet-potato noodle inside

Uh-mook with mozzarella cheese strings inside

Deep-fried uh-mook croquette

Bon appétit!

<To be continued>

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