Koreans eat a lot of seafood. Pretty much everything you eat in a coastal area will include some kind of fish. In the fish markets here I've recognised mackerel, Pacific cod, Atlantic lobster, king and snow crab from Russia, "flower" crab, mussels and quite a few other species. I've eaten quite a few different things here, too, sea urchin roe, live octopus (chopped up but still trying to cling to the plate it was served on), sea squirts and countless plates of heui (pron. "hway"), Korean sashimi, sliced raw fish. Heui is usually more "proletarian" in presentation than Japanese sliced fish. It is often served just sliced on a plate with some bowls of chogochujang (vinegared hot pepper sauce) or, sometimes, soy and wasabi into which the fish is dipped before wrapping it in lettuce or perilla leaves and eating it. I'm not fond of sliced fish made with whitefish, but I like salmon and a couple of other red-fleshed fish.
I've cooked shellfish here a few times, mostly mussels and cockles, but I hadn't cooked any "fish" fish. My decision to try cooking fish was brought on by the ridiculously expensive prices of meat. I went to the supermarket but most of the fish are sold cleaned, head and tail on. Filleted fish can be had in the freezer section but I was looking for some culinary adventure. I didn't recognize much among the fish that were on ice, so I called Se-yeong and she dropped by the supermarket to show which fish were suitable for pan-frying. I settled on a package of Korean salted mackerel. The fish is salted but not cured and Se-yeong said it's salty so I should soak it in water a bit before I use it. She also suggested I fry it and serve it with a little soy. I wasn't sure what to do with it, Korean-style would be to fry it with the head and tail on and serve it that way, similar to Chinese cooking. I decided I'd fillet the fish and browsed over to YouTube, where I found a brief video on filleting mackerel. In all my years of cooking and fishing, I've never actually filleted a fish and it seems a little wasteful, some of the meat is lost along with the bones. I also watched a brief video on "pin boning" salmon. I tried this out on the fish but I think that next time I'll just fry the whole fish and eat around the bones: 40 million Koreans can't be wrong.
After soaking the fillets in water for a while I sliced a few slashes in the skin side of each fillet, dusted them with black pepper and flour and fried them in a little oil. Then I decided to ruin them adventurously by making a sauce with garlic, green onion, brown sugar, apple vinegar and soy.
At right is a terrible, unappetizing-looking close-up of the fillets in my lunchbox (I hate flash photography, it always makes things look unreal and ugly.) They actually turned out pretty tasty and made a nice hearty lunch along with a bowl of rice. I thought they'd be saltier but then I'd say my Newfoundland-bred palate has a much higher threshold for "salty" than most Koreans. The filleting made the fish easier to fit in the pan during cooking and more portable for a lunchbox. It took about as long as in the video (a few seconds) so I think I'll try it again next time.