Hweh (회), Korean Raw Fish with "Chojang"
Updated: Apr 6, 2022
"No salt and pepper. The fish comes in contact with nothing but the knife! ... We take the fish, dip it in the sauce."
In-Chan, Korean fellow Seafoodie (2020)
The initial inspiration for this dish came from the book "Asian Bites" by Tom Kine that I have had for years and not looked at for a very long time. It caught my attention both because it was an unusual bream recipe and because it used an ingredient that I have only relatively recently discovered and really like - a Korean chilli paste called Gochujang, something I used in Golbangyi Muchim.
I showed the recipe to a fellow Seafoodie, a Korean chap called In-Chan who I have come to befriend through the market stall and a man with an admirable interest, passion and knowledge of food. He immediately seized upon the recipe title "Cho Go Chu Jang", and pointed out that this, in fact, referred to the dipping sauce insofar as cho signified the "vinegar" being added to the Gochujang to create a sauce more commonly known as Chojang. As such the given title made no reference at all to the fact that the dish being offered was one of fresh raw fish, or Hweh as it is called in Korea (actually 회, of course!), a dish which is ubiquitously served with Chojang. Making no apology here for the pedagogical use of an analogy, the title "Cho Go Chu Jang" is akin to us being offered a platter of sashimi under the name "Wasabi". I am therefore reliably advised that the title of this dish, to be true to its Korean origin, should be Hweh.
I wouldn't for a minute pretend to be an authority on the preparation of raw fish at home and will leave such deliberations well beyond the scope of this recipe blog post. Suffice it to say that black bream is my favourite white fin fish to use raw, though I would have no hesitation in using bass, brill or mackerel from the stall, so fresh is it supplied to us. While on this subject I might add that I also love scallops raw, though with them it is my preference to shuck them moments before serving.
In-Chan reliably informs us that "In Korea, it's about fresh as possible. People love going fishing, out onto the sea on a boat, and catching it and cutting it up there and then. In Korea, a lot of the fish sold are kept live in tanks, ... , even in some supermarkets and department stores. And definitely most fish restaurants that specialise in raw seafood dishes, or even fish stews."
And how should it be eaten? See quote!
After a pretty concerted research effort, going through recipes for the Chojang both from Korean and English-language sources, and with the help of In-Chan, what I think is fair to say is that Chojang is another of those recipes that you find everywhere in world cuisine for which there isn't a recipe. By that I mean there isn't one recipe. There are a small number of essential ingredients combined in a rough range of proportions, but other than that personal preference plays its part. Given that I like a dipping sauce quite spicy, quite vinegary, quite salty but not too sweet, the proportions I have given in the recipe are what I found to be to my liking. I will definitely be making this again many times in the future and I would feel liberated to adjust the composition of the dipping sauce according to whim.
Hweh (회), Korean Raw Fish with "Chojang"
Ingredients (dipping sauce quantities make 2-3 servings)
Bream fillet, skinned and pin-boned, quantity as required
1 small garlic clove
¼ tsp caster sugar
2 tsp Gochujang
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp light soy sauce
Sesame seeds, toasted (optional), to garnish the chojang
Daikon radish (mouli), thinly shredded (ideally with a mandolin), to serve
Red chilli, deseeded and very thinly sliced, to garnish
Lime slices, to garnish
For the Chojang, coarsely chop the garlic, sprinkle over the sugar then using the side and blade of a knife, scrape to a paste. Put this in a bowl and combine with the Gochujang, vinegar and soy sauce. Stir well and leave in the fridge if not using immediately.
Finely slice the fish at an angle across the grain. Arrange on a plate with the Daikon radish shreds and garnish with the red chilli and lime slices.
Pour the Chojang into individual dipping bowls putting one on each plate and sprinkle a few (toasted) sesame seeds over the surface of the dipping sauce. Serve immediately.
"Asian Bites", Tom Kime (2008), pp. 143: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Asian-Bites-Flavours-through-Thailand/dp/1405319615
Golbangyi Muchim, Bute St Seafoodie
Cooks' Ingredients Chilli Paste, Waitrose, accessed 18 June 2020
Chung Jung One Gochujang Brown Rice Red Pepper Paste, Asian Online Superstore, accessed 18 June 2020
Bibigo Gochujang Hot Pepper Paste, Japan Centre, accessed 18 June 2020