Mackerel – pickled, boiled or grilled to perfection
Vinegar-pickled mackerel in Yeongdo
To make mackerel chohoe (raw fish pickled in vinegar), mackerel is slightly salted before pickling. Moon Gallery in Yeongdo is well-known for its mackerel chohoe. Included in the unique experience at Moon Gallery: an artificial golden moon rises above its sign each night.
The dish, too, is a source of wonder even as it’s being served. Only mackerel measuring more than 40 centimeters is prepared, served whole and expertly-garnished for optimal impact. Mackerel is plated beautifully with blossoms and branches. Chohoe is made through a process of pickling and maturing fatty mackerel in vinegar, which results in a clean and simple taste, as the vinegar eliminates any strong smell while enlivening its firm texture.
Siraegi gukbap (dried radish leaves rice soup), made of Moon Gallery’s own homemade broth, is also quite popular. Craft beer and dongdongju (rice wine) pair well with the chohoe.
Address: 207, Jeoryeong-ro, Yeongdo-gu, Busan
Hours: 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. on weekdays and 12 p.m. – 11 p.m. on weekends. Closed on Tuesdays.
Mackerel Chueotang (loach soup) in Yeongdo
Mackerel chueotang is a local take on the more common loach chueotang. Made by boiling mackerel instead of loach, its nutritional values and flavors match that of the original, but at a fraction of the cost.
Jinju Restaurant in Yeongdo has been serving mackerel chueotang for more than 60 years. Ground mackerel used here deepens its flavors without a strong smell, contrary to some expectations.
Filled with siraegi (dried radish leaves) and rice in a thick broth, mackerel chueotang is a surefire morning hangover cure. Season with Chinese pepper powder provided on each table for an even more refreshing flavor, but those who go heavy-handed with the spice, be warned. You may just set your mouth on fire with the potent pepper.
Address: 2, Jeoryeong-ro 14 beon-gil, Yeongdo-gu, Busan
Hours: 4 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Grilled Mackerel in Jagalchi alley
When all is said and done, mackerel is best grilled and the mackerel alley in Korea’s biggest fish market is the best place for it. Four signs at the entrance of the mackerel table d’hote alley in Jagalchi Market welcome visitors.
Jagalchi mackerel table d’hote combines a basic spread of side dishes with the main course of browned mackerel. All mackerel eateries in the alley serve this meal in a similar fashion: with clear siraegi soup, flavorful grilled mackerel and side dishes.
For 4,000 won, under $5, it’s a solid table of food. A hefty chunk of properly-salted mackerel meat is incomparable alongside a bowl of fluffy white rice. It’s a good breakfast for the hard workers who usually open the fish market at 3 a.m., not to mention a satisfying meal for famished market merchants at any time during the day.
Address: 6, Jagalchi-ro 23 beon-gil, Jung-gu, Busan. Get off at Jagalchi Station (Metro line 1) and go out exit 6. Turn right and walk straight about 50 meters.
Hours: 3 a.m. – 6 p.m.