They are called eomuk (어묵) or odeng (오뎅). They consist in chopped fish and seafood croquettes, that are deliciously fried and crispy.
What is odeng?
Korea was colonized by Japan from 1910 to 1945, and there are still many Japanese words that are used in everyday Korean.
Japanese oden has nothing to do with Korean odeng. It is a kind of pot-au-feu and consists of ingredients simmered for a long time in a dashi-type broth flavored with soy sauce.
Japanese oden is made up of several ingredients such as hard-boiled eggs, daikon, and konjac and it is prepared with konbu seaweed, dried bonito (katsuobushi), fish cakes such as eomuk, and soy sauce.
The odeng are composed of 2 or 3 kinds of white fish such as cod , pollock, plaice or snapper, that are finely chopped. They can also include other seafood such as shrimp and squid.
Oily fish are absolutely not suitable for the preparation of odeng. Salt, sugar, flour and starch from potato or corn, or even sweet potato flour, are also necessary ingredients. Additionally, herbs should be added such as yellow onion and scallions, as well as garlic.
After being fried, odeng can be tasted as is or dipped in a broth with other ingredients to prepare what is called an eomuk tang (어묵 탕), meaning an eomuk soup or a Jeongol eomuk (어묵 전골), meaning an eomuk hotpot.
There is also a dish called eomuk bokkeum (어묵 볶음), where the eomuk dough is rolled out like a pancake and then fried. It is then sautéed in a spicy sauce made from peppers, scalions, spices and herbs.
Odeng can also garnish various eomuk jjigae (casseroles) and gimbap (seaweed and rice).
The eomuk are generally presented on a skewer and are immersed, with the skewer, in a sauce or broth.
What is the origin of odeng?
The Korean fishing industry originally developed during the Japanese colonial period and, at that time, the first fish cake factory created by the Koreans was Dongkwang Food, whose founder was Lee Sang-jo who started in the Bupyeong-dong market.
In 1953, Jae-deok Park, who had learned the technique of making fish cakes in Japan, founded the Samjin Fish Cakes at the entrance of the Bongnae market in Yeongdo. It is the oldest fish paste factory.
At the same time, the Korean War broke out and, as refugees flocked to Busan, a port city in South Korea, the production of fish cakes began to explode. At that time, the owners of the Donggwang Food and Samjin Fish Cake factories jointly created Hwanggong Fish Cake in the Yeongju-dong market.
From the early 1950s to the early 1960s, factories manufacturing fishery products like Mido, Hwangong, Samjin, Donggwang, Daewon and Yeongjin were established. Busan is now the temple of eomuk.
Fish cakes around the world
In Romania, the fish cakes are called chiftele de peşte and are prepared with carp.
In Singapore, fish cakes are made from one or more kinds of fish and their texture resembles that of eomuk.
In Thai cuisine, you will find taste tod man pla.
In Yorkshire, England, Yorkshire fishcake is a variant that is traditionally served at many fishmongers in South Yorkshire, in parts of West Yorkshire and in the East Riding of Yorkshire. It consists of two potato slices with fish between them.
In St Helena, the overseas territory of the United Kingdom, fish cakes are made of shredded tuna or wahoo in mashed potatoes with herbs and spices, then fried.
In northern Germany, white fish cakes are called fischfrikadellen.
In Portugal, pastel de bacalhau (or bolinho de bacalhau) is a very popular type of croquette made from cod, potato, parsley and egg.
In Japan, fish cakes are made with a mixture made from fish and mirin, cornstarch, egg whites and spices. After they are formed, they are usually fried and/or boiled.
Tips for frying
- Kitchen tongs allow to catch food in boiling oil, avoiding splashes and the risk of burns.
- A kitchen thermometer should be used to establish the ideal time to immerse food in oil.
- The ideal temperature for frying is between 340 F and 350 F (between 170˚C and 175°C). For a perfect and uniform frying, without odor, a fryer is strongly recommended.
- Ideally, the pan or Dutch oven should have a heavy metal bottom to heat the oil slowly, and avoid burns and allowing constant boiling during frying.
- For the fat, saturated fat is called “bad” fat. The fat with the highest percentage of this type of fat is lard, followed by butter and palm oil.
- Among the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, or rather the “good” fats, there are sunflower oil, corn oil, extra virgin olive oil, soybeans and finally peanut oil.
- To find out if the fat is ready, throw a tiny piece of bread: if it emerges on the sizzling surface and forms many bubbles all around, the oil is ready.
- For perfect frying, the food to be fried should be immersed in a large volume of oil.
- There are several ways to fry odorlessly: use the hood at the maximum power. The spread of the odor can be prevented by boiling a mixture of water and white vinegar in a saucepan near the frying pan.
- Another equally effective blend is the one made with water and cloves, for those who don’t like the smell of vinegar.
- An old but effective remedy is to put slices of apple or carrot in the frying oil in order to limit the unpleasant smell.
- To avoid oil splashing, before pouring it into the pan, heat it and sprinkle it with a pinch of salt.
The odeng (or eomuk) are delicious and crisp y fish cakes with a delicious Asian scent.
- 8 oz. cod fillet
- 8 oz. snapper
- 8 oz. squid without bone or head
- 8 oz. raw shrimp peeled
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 onion
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 large egg
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup sweet potato flour or cornstarch or potato starch
- Vegetable oil
- In a food processor, place the fish and seafood, cut into small pieces, garlic, onion, salt, sugar, pepper, flour and sweet potato flour (or cornstarch or potato starch), and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
- Blend for a few minutes to obtain a smooth paste.
Heat 3 cups (750 ml) of vegetable oil in a pan over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.
- Brush a long and wide rectangular spatula with oil.
- Spread about 1 large tablespoon of fish paste on the spatula with a knife.
- Use the same knife to carefully roll the dough into a cylinder and gently slide it into the hot oil at 340 F (170˚C).
- Repeat the procedure until the dough is used up, gently pushing the fish mixture into the hot oil, only 3 to 4 fish cakes in the pan at a time.
- Stir the eomuk from time to time to fry all sides evenly.
- Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes over medium heat until golden.
- Place them in a colander by tapping them gently with paper towels to remove excess oil.
- Skewer them before serving.