Recipe for Spicy Korean Fish Stew

Spicy Korean Fish Stew
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  • 30 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins,
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Yield: 3-4 servings
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Use this recipe to make the classic Korean fish stew known as mae un tang. The stew is a little bit spicy and sweet and has dozens of different variations. Cod, red snapper, halibut, yellow croaker, corvina, sea bass or pollack may all be used to make this delicious stew. Try to go to a fishmonger so you can have the fish head for the broth, even if you have it cleaned and filleted for you.

For vegetable variations, you can include soybean sprouts, pumpkin, mushrooms, scallions, watercress or Korean parsley (minari or water dropwort). Some cooks and restaurants also add clams, oysters or other shellfish to their mae un tang. Radish, zucchini and chili peppers are frequently used in homemade varieties. If I order at a restaurant, ask if the dish includes sukgat* (edible chrysanthemum leaves/crown daisy) or minari . If you are making this recipe and you can't find the sukgat listed below, then you can substitute with watercress or even spinach.

What You'll Need

  • 1 cod fish (daegu), filleted with the head separated but reserve
  • 8-ounce Korean or Chinese white radish, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
  • 1 red chili pepper, cut on the bias
  • 1 green chili pepper, cut on the bias
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced into strips
  • 3 teaspoons kochukaru (Korean crushed red chili pepper powder)
  • 3 tablespoons kochujang (Korean chili pepper paste)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 scallions, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 block firm tofu, cut into larger cubes
  • 4-ounce edible chrysanthemum leaves (crown daisy, sukgat)
  • 1/2 zucchini, halved and sliced
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste​

How to Make It

  1. Cut the fish into several pieces.
  2. Bring 3-4 cups water (depending on the size of your fish) and the fish head to a boil.
  3. Then add radish, garlic, kochujang, kochukaru, sliced chilies and continue to cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes.
  4. Overall, don't stir too much! You want the broth to be relatively clear.
  5. Remove the fish head and add the fish meat into the pot.
  6. Simmer until fish is tender, about 3-4 minutes.
  1. Add tofu, edible chrysanthemum (crown daisy) and simmer for 2-3 minutes more. Do not stir anymore.

Ordering Seafood in Korean Restaurants

In certain seafood restaurants in Korea and in some Korean restaurants abroad, you can choose your fish while it's still swimming. The chefs at the restaurant will prepare your fish so that you can enjoy it raw (hwe). Then the restaurant will make this soup for you from the left-over parts of your fish (the head, leftover flesh, and bones) to eat after your sashimi (hwe). Mae Un means spicy and Tang means soup or stew in Korean.

*Edible chrysanthemum leaves. They are used in Korean cuisine like spinach or watercress, and they add fragrance and freshness to complex dishes.