Slippery, slimy salve for a holiday hangover – INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily.

Slippery, slimy salve for a holiday hangover
[FOOD & KOREA] Gomchiguk, Samcheok, Gangwon
December 09, 2010
Gomchiguk (moray eel soup) Provided by the Korea Tourism Organization

During the winter months, when the numerous year-end parties often result in seemingly incurable hangovers, Koreans resort to one of the classic hangover soups – gomchiguk, or moray eel soup.

The fish was first found in Korea about 50 years ago in the East Sea. The fish was about 1 meter (3.28 feet) long, and it was very plump and dark-colored, which reminded fishermen of a bear. So they named the fish “gomchi,” which means “like a bear” in Korean.

Gomchi wasn’t used as an ingredient for cooking until recently.

In the past, fishermen would throw the fish back into the water as soon as they were brought ashore because of their gruesome appearance and slimy skin. Gomchi was considered a useless, inedible fish – until fishermen started making soup with it.

For many fishermen, who constantly wrestle with the ocean waves, alcohol often helps keep them warm. So the fishermen would cook soup with the leftover gomchi that they didn’t sell to ease their hangovers after a night of drinking. Once boiled, the slimy skin of the fish makes the broth of the soup smooth, which is said to calm an upset stomach.

It was not long before word about the soup’s ability to ease hangovers got around.

Although its appearance is ugly and dull, gomchi is used in steamed dishes, broth and even as sliced raw fish fillet.

The recipe for gomchiguk varies from region to region, but one of the most famous places for the soup is Samcheok, Gangwon.

Samcheok gomchiguk is cooked with thoroughly fermented kimchi and has a spicy and refreshing taste.

The freshness of the fish is another bonus. Samcheok, which is located on the East Sea, offers fresh fish caught by fishermen daily.

The Sajik Bungae market is one of the most popular dawn markets that sells fresh fish caught in the neighboring harbor and Jeongra Port for a relatively low price. It is called the Bungae (“lightning”) market because it opens and closes like lightning, or from before 6 a.m. to about 9 a.m. The market is located in Sajik-dong, Samcheok.

By Junghee Lee Contributing writer []