A tasty way to say goodbye to winter
|Agujjim at Yetjip. By Cho Jae-eun|
The time of year has come when the sunlight begins to show compassion and the grass hints of colors to come. It’s been a long winter and a bit of anticipation can be witnessed on the faces of passersby as they look up at the sky.
Winter in Seoul this time wasn’t as cold as in seasons past. From last October to this month, almost everyone I met had at least one comment about how warm it was. Saying goodbye to this winter almost felt like saying goodbye to a friend about whom I have lukewarm feelings. A bit indifferent and reserved, I decided to greet the months ahead with a bit more pizzazz. Spice and color were at the top of the list. I decided on agujjim, or steamed angler with red hot pepper sauce and bean sprouts. There are two main agujjim streets in Seoul ― one in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul, and the other, older agujjim street in the Jongno district, northern Seoul.
I paid a visit to the Jongno agujjim street at dinner time one day last week. There were around 20 restaurants on the street, all paying homage to the fish, but two in particular, Tongnamujip and Yetjip, were the only ones with lines stretching out their doors. I decided on Yetjip, as its three floors looked a bit less crowded.
The owner commented that he had inherited the restaurant from his mother and that it is the oldest one on the block, over 25 years old. All the names of the restaurants have Masan Agu in front of their names, as the dish originated in the city of Masan, in South Gyeongsang province, as a filling, affordable dish for laborers.
The steam coming from the hot dish embraced my back as the ajumma came in with one giant dish of agujjim for my tablemate and me.
We dived in with a twinkle in our eyes but the steam and spice left tears instead. The agu, or angler, tasted chewy, the texture being less like a fish and more like a cross between rice cakes and chicken.
With the crispy steamed bean sprouts, the dish was extreme in every sense of the word, full of spice, color, texture and volume.
My favorite part of the meal came after the main dish. For an extra 2,000 won, the ajumma took some of the sauce from the main dish and mixed toasted seaweed and flying fish eggs with rice and sesame oil.
The density of the rice comforted our stomachs a bit, and we left for some beer to further cool us down.
Stepping out of the restaurant we were greeted with a quick gust of wind blowing in our direction. I wondered what this winter will leave behind and walked forward into spring.
Yetjip is located in Jongno-district. Takeout is available for no extra charge. The nearest subway station is Jongno 3(sam)-ga, line No. 5, exit 5. For more information, call (02) 763-8558 or 1588-5.
By Cho Jae-eun Staff Writer [email@example.com]