중앙데일리

A hit abroad, pollack roe is rallying at home

‘We sprinkled pollack roe instead of the usual salt on Korean seaweed. Even Chinese people who are unfamiliar with pollack roe will be able to enjoy it without feeling repulsed.’

Sept 12,2015
Korean pollack roe has recently become popular among Chinese people, a phenomenon that was demonstrated at the recent Shanghai International Fisheries & Seafood Exposition late last month.

During the event, one of the booths showcasing pollock roe jam grabbed the attention of a Chinese buyer, which led the buyer to ask, “It tastes great on crackers. What kind of jam is this?” In response, Kang Chi-bum, the head of Daekyung F&B, a company selling pollack roe, said, “This is a form of spread. It also tastes great on bread.”

Pollock roe is the salted and seasoned roe of pollack fish, but you wouldn’t know it from the taste. And after hearing the explanation, the buyer responded, “It doesn’t have a fishy smell, almost making me think it isn’t fish roe. If the product is officially imported to China, I’m definitely willing to purchase it.”

On the same day, a neighboring booth was crowded with people checking out seaweed. But this seaweed, which is usually black in color, was covered with orange particles that turned out to be pollack roe.

“We sprinkled pollack roe instead of the usual salt on Korean seaweed. Even Chinese people who are unfamiliar with pollack roe will be able to enjoy it without feeling repulsed,” explained Jang Seok-wie from Deokhwa Food, a company that produces and sells pollack roe.

Deokhwa Food CEO Jang Seok-jun has introduced pollack roe with less salt.
Korean firms specializing in pollack roe amassed a number of contracts over the four-day international event, with a total value of $74,000. It was the first time that Korean pollack roe has been introduced in the Chinese market.

Although it is widely considered a Japanese fare, pollack roe is a traditional Korean food, according to the Korean producers. By actively targeting the Chinese market, they are hoping to reclaim for Korea the title as the origin of pollack roe.


More popular in Japan

According to historical record, Korean people have been enjoying pollack roe since the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). One example of historical evidence can be found in a 1652 entry in the “Seungjeongwon Ilgi,” or the Journal of the Royal Secretariat, which recorded the king’s public life and interactions on a daily basis during the Joseon Dynasty.

“The management administration should be strictly interrogated for bringing in pollack roe instead of [cod roe],” the entry states. An interrogation is reported to have been held in Gangwon involving the parties who served the wrong cuisine at the royal court.

Top to above: Pollack roe bibimbap (mixed vegetables with rice); Toasted bread with pollack roe spread; Egg roll-up with pollack roe filling
“Siuijeonseo,” a Korean cookbook speculated to have been recorded during the late Joseon Dynasty, and an encyclopedia titled “Ohju Yeonmun Jangjeon Sango,” written by late Josen-era scholar Lee Kyu-kyung, also mention the use of pollack roe.

Since pollack lives in cold waters, they are usually caught off the eastern coast of Korea. The meat was traditionally cooked in a soup while the roe and internal organs were enjoyed after being salted and seasoned.

As pollack roe often went bad at room temperature, it wasn’t easy to enjoy the dish in every region of Korea. Despite the difficulty, the Japanese were able to overcome the temperature issue.

Pollack roe was first introduced to Japan during the colonial period (1910-45), according to a widely accepted theory. The founder of Fukuya, the biggest Japanese producer of marinated pollack roe, said he used to frequently eat the food while growing up in Busan.

Busan is an important city for pollack roe. According to popular belief, pollack roe became prevalent there because the Japanese gave fish laborers roe instead of money.

After World War II ended, the Fukuya founder moved to Japan and opened a grocery store in the Hakata District of Fukuoka, where in 1949 he started selling pollack roe. As the food gained a following, the number of businesses selling the product steadily increased.

Called mentaiko in Japanese, pollack roe has become the specialty of Fukuoka, along with cod roe. In fact, the Japanese pollack roe market is worth about $1.7 billion and it accounts for 90 percent of the global market, while Korea takes just 10 percent.

But while the food is now well loved across Japan, Fukuya doesn’t neglect to mention on its website that it originated in Korea.


Growing appeal in Korea

Recently pollack roe has been growing more popular in its country of origin. Although some Koreans find it unpleasant due to its unique texture and salty taste, many companies have begun wooing consumers through various methods.

One example is Deokhwa Food. The company was established by CEO Jang Seok-jun in 1993. His pollack roe recipe has become popular because it has only 4 percent salinity instead of the usual 10 percent, and it lessens the fishy smell by adding cheongju (clear rice wine).

Top to above: Pollack roe spaghetti, in which the roe balances the greasiness of the sauce; Grilled pollack roe that goes well with alcoholic drinks; Pollack roe seaweed
The company also unveiled a pollack roe cookbook on its website, introducing various ways to use the ingredient. The book includes diverse dishes from pollack roe seaweed to pollack roe egg roll-up and even olive pasta with pollack roe.

These innovations came out of the research and development office at Deokhwa Food. Whenever the CEO and researchers came up with an idea, they all gathered around to try making the experimental dish. As a result, in 2011 Jang became the first person to be nominated as a Korea Master Hand in the field of seafood.

Another pollack roe producer, Daekyung F&B, has begun selling in major department stores such as Shinsegae and Lotte as well as coming up with innovative products, including pollack roe rice chips and grilled pollack roe that goes well with alcohol.

As for the pollack roe rice chips, all 1,200 snack packs the company initially prepared sold out within a month. According to the CEO, the company’s goal is to create a pollack roe product even the young generation can enjoy.

Since pollack roe is high in protein and vitamins, it’s considered a healthy food. In the past, it was widely perceived as salty, but nowadays many companies are making products that have less salt.

“Along with the decrease in consumption of rice in Korea, the expected demand of pollack roe was low [due to its high salt content],” said Prof. Jang Young-soo from Pukyong National University in Busan.

“However, thanks to diverse recipes that are being developed, more people seem to want pollack roe. And the Chinese market will be a great opportunity to spread Korean pollack roe in the world.”

BY CHA SANG-EUN [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]


dictionary dictionary | 프린트 메일로보내기 내블로그에 저장