One Bite: fish cakes at JoongBoo Market

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Eomuk bokkeum, the Chicken McNugget of Korean cuisine
  • Mike Sula
  • Eomuk bokkeum, the Chicken McNugget of Korean cuisine

I've recently been forced to admit that one of my greatest pleasures from the banchan bar at JoongBoo Market, aka Chicago Food, is now a guilty pleasure. Eomuk bokkeum, or fried fish cakes, belong to that family of processed fish products in Japanese and Korean cuisine that are most frequently put to use in oden, or odeng, respectively. In Korea, odeng, or eomuk, is often sold from nighttime street-food stalls, and consists of various skewered fish cakes simmering in broth. The closest you can get to this around town is at the Korean Festival on Bryn Mawr in the heat of August, which is too bad because a fish stick in a cup of hot soup along with a shot (or three) of soju are just the things to warm your blood on a night like the one coming up.

You can always make your own with the wide assortment of frozen varieties to be had at H Mart, Mitsuwa, and JoongBoo, which is where I came to learn of their less-than-wholesome composition. They're primarily formed from mechanically separated pollack, cod, corvina, or croaker—the tiny bits that can't be harvested with a knife. That I'm OK with, but I'm less than thrilled with the wheat flour, glucose, salt, MSG, sodium saccharin, and something called D-Zylose that make up the rest. They're the McNugget of the sea.

Even so, I can't get enough of the "roasted" version at JoongBoo's banchan bar. At $4.99 a pound, they're dressed in chile oil and soy sauce and tossed with slivers of carrot and jalapeño. Knowing what's in them maybe I'll try to put up more of a fight, but I can't say how strong I'll be after a few shots of soju.

JoongBoo Market, 3333 N. Kimball, 773-478-5566

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