Here’s a cooking technique you probably don’t want to try at home: fermenting fish in its own urine. But apparently, in South Korea, urine-soaked skate, eaten raw, is considered quite the delicacy, never mind the fact that it smells and tastes horrible.
NPR recently looked into the phenomenon of “hongeo” – a traditional dish in the South Korean provinces of North and South Jeolla. The regional specialty is made by letting skate, which is fished locally, soak in its own urine for about a month before serving it alongside a bit of boiled pork belly and old kimchi. The explanation behind the bizarre fermenting method in part has to do with biology. “The skate doesn't pee like other animals,” the owner of a local hongeo restaurant told NPR. “It releases urine through its skin.”
If it sounds like an acquired taste, you’re right. NPR describes it as having “a sharp, pungent aroma—one might describe it as a heady mix of public toilet and wet laundry left untended for days—and a hard-to-swallow texture of chewy flesh and crunchy cartilage.” If that doesn’t leave you running to your local hongeo restaurant, I don’t blame you. Luckily, you probably don’t have a hongeo restaurant nearby. Still, fans of the pee fish say you eventually can learn to love the dish. Korean food journalist Sue Ahn said hongeo provides a “minty feeling in the back of your throat [that] many say is addictive” despite its “ammonia-hair-dye, bone mush” flavor.
More good news: Some people proclaim that hongeo also works as a hangover cure—probably because after sucking down a plate of this foul-smelling fish, you suddenly have bigger problems to worry about. It would take a pretty massive hangover for me to give it a try, so only once or twice a week tops.
[h/t First We Feast]