Everytime I travel around Korea, I am blown away by how much I do not know about the cuisine of my own country. Samsugi-tang (삼숙이탕) was also something I’ve never heard of before. A local dish of Gangneung area, Samsugi-tang is a soup made with a fish called samsegi(삼세기), or samsugi in local dialect.

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It’s not a brain! It’s just fish guts.

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They say this is a traditional local food but the truth is that history of samsugi-tang only goes back to about thirty years. That is because the fish was considered inedible just because of its horrifying looks. Unfair, yes, but in the past this is how it was in many cases. Like with monkfish or cubed snailfish, which are now popular ingredients, people just wouldn’t dare to eat something that has rough scales, sharp fins, bulky eyes and big, scary mouth until one brave pioneer decided to boil it up and make one of the most hearty fish soups in Korea.

The old Haesung Restaurant is on the upstairs of Gangneung Jungang Marketplace. It is not easy to find the signless eatery in a traditional market but the place had already gained national fame through multiple television appearances. Among many foodies, samsugi-tang is already a well-known east coast delicacy. Although samsugi is still treated as rough fish that has lesser value, at Haesung it is the main ingredient of one of the only two dishes on the menu.

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Jijangsu makgeolli and local side dishes

The signature soup is famous for its thick, flavourful broth. The flesh of freshly boiled fish has soft texture and yet the chewy skin makes it extra interesting.  The side dishes here are also nothing close to boredom. Dried pollack is lightly seasoned and steamed. Fermented halibut is marinated with red pepper sauce and grains. And to wash it all down, Jijangsu rice wine offers clean, sweet after taste.