Would you eat fish that has been left to ferment in its own urine for a month? What if we told you it had “a sharp, pungent aroma,” kind of like “a heady mix of public toilet and wet laundry left untended for days.” According to NPR, that’s more or less how people describe the smell of hongeo, or skate left to ferment in its own piss.
But before you swear off the Korean seafood delicacy forever, know that hongeo allegedly contains some major health benefits—including alleviating hangovers, aiding in digestion, and increasing virility—which is part of the reason it is “an essential serving at important dinners” in the South Korean port city called Mokpo. In Mokpo, the fish is commonly served with boiled pork belly and old kimchi, a combination that allegedly distracts from the dish’s unpleasant smell.
Before you go and try to find the closest restaurant to you serving hongeo—or better yet, book a flight to South Korea—know that the dish can get pretty damn expensive. “A sashimi platter of hongeo for three to four people usually costs anywhere from 60,000 ₩ (U.S. $49.78) to 150,000 ₩ (U.S. $124.46),” reports NPR.
‘SAMHAP’ FERMENTED SKATE AND STEAMED PORK SLICES SERVED WITH KIMCHI 유락 파타야점에서는 한국에서 공수해온 홍어 삼합을 맛보실 수 있습니다 (미리 예약 주문 전화시 유락 라용점에도 맛보실 수 있어요) #YURAK #PATTAYA #RAYONG #thailand #thai #korean #food #restaurant #유락 #파타야 #라용 #태국 #맛집 #한식 #레스토랑 #먹스타그램 #fermented #skate #skateray #flatback #hongeo #steamed #pork #slices #kimchi #samhap #홍어 #돼지고기 #김치 #삼합
Still intrigued? Here’s a little more intel on how the fish is prepared: According to the New York Times, “the hongeo lacks a bladder and excretes uric acid through its skin. As it ferments, it oozes ammonia that keeps it from going bad.”
If you’re wondering how people even found out this dish was edible, you would have to look back to mid-14th century Korea. Settlers discovered that skate was the only fish that would not go bad on long journeys. You know what they say: Don’t knock it ’till you try it.