More Than One Hwe

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Can you believe that this video gets more controversy on YouTube than the live octopus video?

Yes, there is some live octopus in there, but that’s not the controversy. There seems to be a string of Japanese folks or Nipponphiles who are slamming the restaurant for trying to copy Japanese food.

Hold on right there!

This is not Japanese food in this restaurant. The only reason the video’s title is “Sashimi!” is that I didn’t know the Korean word for it at the time.

No, this is Hwe 회(pronounced “whay”).

I adore Japanese food and culture, but eating raw fish is not uniquely Japanese. Sushi actually originates in Southeast Asia, where raw fish was packed with rice and fermented for preservation. This method moved through China and eventually to Japan.

Did it go through Korea along the way? Did Japan really get sushi from Korea? I’m still researching that and would appreciate any enlightenment in that department. There may be traces of this in the southwestern Korean stinky, stinky fermented fish dish, Hong-eo Hwe 홍어회, which is similar to the Thai nampla and the Japanese proto-sushi, nare-zushi. I’m sure the Japanese culture warriors would attack a notion like this as blasphemy. Yet even The Cambridge World History of Food vaguely mentions this connection.

Nonetheless, this fish packed with rice turned into Edo-style sushi. Then the fermentation was replaced by just adding vinegar to rice, creating modern sushi (sushi means “vinegar rice,” and the Korean word chobap 초밥 means the same thing). More great sushi history is here.

Korea is a fishing nation. Fishermen naturally ate their catch on the boat without starting a dangerous fire to cook it. I’d even venture to say that the Korean fishermen were a bit more adventurous. Live octopus isn’t on many Japanese menus.

Korean Hwe, like its Japanese counterpart, is sliced raw fish. The similarities end there. The Hwe is served on top of vegetables or cellophane noodles and a dipping sauce of gochujang and vinegar, called chojang 초장. More vegetables, seaweed, grilled fish, and side dishes accompany the Hwe. Soy sauce and wasabi is usually on the table as a courtesy, but the Korean way is to dip the fish in chojang and eat it with some of the fresh vegetables, or put the fish in a lettuce wrap.

At the end of a good Hwe meal, the bones and remains of the fish are made into a spicy soup, Mae-unTang 매운탕, usually cooked at the table.

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And that, good friends, is how Hwe is not Sashimi. It is a distinctly Korean dish.

Now, the food porn:

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16 thoughts on “More Than One Hwe”

  1. You are very correct about Japanese Sashimi being introduced to Japan from China. It was a Japanese monk who studied in a temple in China and later introduced this raw fish food to Japan. One Japanese guy started selling this sushi for the first time on the street on the wagon. Customers just stood around this wagon and ate sushi with their hands. Because of this origination, traditional sushi restaurant in Japan had only sushi bar without any tables or chairs.

    I don’t know if Japanese sushi got influenced by Korea but I have to say that,although Korean “Hui” and Japanese “Sashimi” are different in many ways, Korean “Hui” has been influenced by Japanese Sashimi culture.(I am Korean)

    I don’t quite understand why Japanese folks on YouTube think this restaurant is trying to copy Japanese Sashimi.
    There are many Japanese restaurants in Japan serving Kimchi or other Korean dishes but not many Korean people will slam it for the same reason. Japan herself is very well-known for Japanizing (Not Copying)food of other cultures such as curry,crepes,Kimchi,pastry..etc

    Food is a part of culture and it is meant to be evolving !!!
    As long as it tastes good, I would not have any complaint..:-)

    Reply
  2. try typing the word gyu gaku at google and you’ll find info on a large chain of japanese restaurants that serve ‘japanese’ bbq. of course, it’s korean bbq though that part is never conveyed by it’s english menu. they even serve tofu chige. they now have very successful branches here in the states.

    can you imagine? soon, we’ll start seeing american restaurant reviewers telling us some korean restaurant serves tofu chige and that the chige is a korean version of japanese chige. i’ll bet you we’ll start seeing that happen. lol.

    Reply
  3. I read about that somewhere recently. I’m pretty sure (hopeful) that Korean BBQ has established itself firmly in America’s major cities enough to quell any confusion, though. Besides, most Japanese restaurants in America are run by Koreans.

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  4. (try typing the word gyu gaku at google and you’ll find info on a large chain of japanese restaurants that serve ‘japanese’ bbq. of course, it’s korean bbq though that part is never conveyed by it’s english menu.)

    I’ve been to Japan for many times. It’s clearly written in BIG LETTER at restaurants’ billboard: KOREAN YAKINIKU, instead of Japanese Yakiniku. Don’t worry :p

    I watched documentary program at arirang TV one day. Mentioned there that sushi is originated from Korea, tofu is originated from Korea (i thought it’s from China). Miso siru is originated from Korea. Yakitori is originated from Korea.
    Well, some Japanese don’t like to hear that though it MIGHT be true.

    I think it’s all about the sensitive relationship between Korea and Japan :p

    Reply
  5. TO #9 Imoet:

    (responding to a very old post, but gotta say this)
    umm… I DONT think so. i don’t know which imaginary ‘arirang documentary’ you saw, but that’s just absurd. can you give me a link to that “documentary”? yeah,,, you probably can’t. no mainstream Korean would claim any of the above you mentioned. maybe ultra-nationalists, but trust me, definetly NOT mainstream.

    Please, don’t make up stuff to stir a trouble here.

    by the way, i love eating raw fish! be it sashimi or hui

    Reply
  6. you’re making my tongue hard with your inari eater…exquisite woman..stimulating food…marinating some shortribs with Coke etc for a kalbi pig out this pm..

    Reply
  7. There are some differences between hwe and Sashimi, the biggest being that hwe is not only limited to the meat of the fish. Certain Hwe dishes has the chef cut the fish leaving the bone intact so that the consumer can enjoy chewing/biting into the fish. This practice also allowed consumers to gain calcium.
    Small fishes with smaller bones are cut this way and there are also large fishes that are cut this way also. Gizzards are one of the major fishes that has the bone intact.
    As for Japanese people saying that raw fish originated from Japan is so ignorant. Raw fish is found all over the world. Fermented raw fish is also found pretty much in every country with a large fishing community.

    Reply

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