Humble Pollack Comes Into Its Own at Festival On East Coast

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Humble Pollack Comes Into Its Own at Festival On East Coast

The fish that Westerners know as Alaska pollack is extremely popular in Korea, as demonstrated by the wealth of names it is known by in different preparations and the number of recipes that it features in.

The general name for the fish in Korean is myeongtae, but it is also known as dongtae (when frozen), bu-geo (when sun-dried), hwangtae (when dried in a cool wind after being dipped in ice water). The thin, enervated-looking pollack spawn is called kkeoktae, after the Korean verb kkeokda, "to break," because it looks as though it could be snapped. Chuntae is the name for Alaska pollack caught during the spring, as chun means spring. Because "net" is mang in Korean, the fish is called mangtae when it is caught in a fishing net. These are just a few examples of the names given to the much-loved fish. It has many other local names that are unfamiliar even to many Koreans.

The fish is also loved for health reasons - protein-rich and simple-tasting, it is said to keep skin healthy and help children grow. It is thus no wonder that recipes for the fish are as diverse as its names.

The most popular Alaska pollack dish is bugeoguk, a soup boiled with sun-dried Alaska pollack and slices of radish and bean sprouts. As the soup is thought to soothe the stomach and reduce the effects of excessive drinking, many Koreans enjoy it in the morning, often with a touch of red pepper powder.

Myeongtaejjim and myeongtaegui are also popular dishes. Both dishes are prepared in a similar way, by marinating Alaska pollack in various seasonings such as red pepper paste, soybean sauce, sugar, chopped garlic and spring onion, and sesame oil, but the former is a steamed dish and the latter is a grilled one. Both are often served as side dishes to accompany a main meal or alcoholic drinks.

The fish is even important enough to merit its own special event. The third annual Myeongtae Festival will be held from Friday to Sunday at Geojin port in Goseong-gun, Kangwon province, in the region where the fish is most abundant.

The festival promises to be more than a promotion event. Visitors will be treated to free rides on fishing boats between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Friday and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Pung-eoje, a traditional ritual for a good myeongtae harvest, will be held every day. There will be street performances of pumba, singing and dancing done in the style of the beggar bands of yore, and nongaknori, a show by a peasant band, as well as juggling and mime shows. Every evening there will be a firework show at 9 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday there will be performances of tightrope dancing at 3 p.m. There are also arm wrestling and beer drinking contests.

And of course, let's not forget the myeongtae events. Demonstrations of how to catch, cut and dry myeongtae are on the list, as are bait preparation contests. Visitors will be able to taste various myeongtae dishes at a special market set up at the port, where sea products including all types of myeongtae will be sold at cheap prices.

To get to Geojin port, drive from Seoul via Hongcheon, Inje and Ganseong to Goseong. The drive takes about 4 hours. If you wish to go by public transport, take a bus from East Seoul or Sangbong bus terminals and transfer to a local bus at Goseong-gun. Guides will be provided.

For more information, visit the Web site at kosung.kangwon.kr or call 033-682-7766 (Korean service only).



by Lee Chul-jae

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