While in Canada I suffered greatest craving of raw seafood. There are sushi and sashimi in Canada as well and occasionally I would satisfy my appetite at all-you-can-eat sushi places (where they serve not-so-high quality sashimi but under reasonable price). Although I loved the raw fish served in Canada (especially sockeye salmon and tuna belly.. yummm) it is completely different from what you can experience here in Korea.
Surrounded by the ocean, Korea has three coastlines that provide rich collection of sea treasures. East, west, and south coasts of South Korean peninsula all offer different types of regional seafood dishes. But whichever coastline that you choose to visit, you will get a chance to taste fresh sashimi of exotic saltwater fish. And even at an inland city like Daejeon you still have an opportunity to try live sashimi.
The place I went with my parents was quite unique. On the first floor of Daesin Seafood Center were huge tanks of live sea creatures. This is where you pick the fish of your choice. Among the list are Russian king crab, Canadian lobster, octopus, squid, and various clams all live and breathing in their own tanks. Almost feeling like visiting an aquarium, I went sightseeing from tank to tank and watched the skilled staff catch the exact ones that my mother points out.
Mon wanted me to try jul-dom (줄돔/돌돔: also called dol-dom). The sashimi is one of the rare and expensive delicacies in Korea. Also known as striped beakerch, the fish looked so gorgeous that I doubted that it should be edible. The silver and grey scales were sparkling under the fluorescent light. The stripes across the body of the fish were beautifully aligned. I almost felt guilty that such an amazing animal is needed to be killed for food.
My mind was filled with the controversial debate of carnivorous diet as I was watching the living fish butchered right on the spot. The skilled sushi men then send off the completed plates to second floor where the restaurant is. As we settled at a table in the corner, our plate of exotic sashimi (that was alive just minutes ago) was served.
As soon as the food is served, my mind starts to analyze as if I am a food critique. The visual aspect is sure different from common sashimi that I am familiar with. The vivid pink in the middle makes the fish look more fresh and appetizing. What amazed me most was the texture of the fish. The sashimi is soft and yet has a unique chewy texture — unlike any other raw fish I have ever tasted.
In Korea, sashimi of a fresh, live fish is called Hwal-eo-hwae (활어회). For master anglers, juldom is supposedly on top of the list for best hwaleohwae out there. I can imagine why only after I taste the flesh.