Made with fish paste, flour and vegetables, Korean fish cake is eomuk but fondly called odeng. In this dish, odeng is cooked in sake, seasoned with soy sauce and tossed with vegetables.
Until over a year ago, I knew nothing about Korean fish cakes. My daughter, Sam, and I were at the night market in Hanoi where she ordered a snack of solids swimming in a thick red sauce that screamed chili at the top of its non-existent lungs.
“What is that?” I asked.
“Fish cakes,” Sam replied. And she told me that fish cakes in hot sauce was a popular snack when she was in college. Cheap, filling and, she assured me, very tasty.
Feeling encouraged but not without trepidation (my tolererance for hot food is not so good), I tried a piece of fish cake that Sam offered. The sauce was really hot but I loved the texture and mouth feel of the fish cake.
More than a year later, stuck at home and worried about food supply, we ordered everything that looked good from a small Korean grocery in the neighborhood. One of the items I chose was a bag of fish cakes.
Korean fish cake is sold in various forms. What we got came in sheets. We keep them in the freezer — you can see ice crystals in the photo above. It’s easy to separate the sheets while frozen and they only need a few minutes to thaw completely.
While thawing the fish cakes, I prepped the vegetables which were really things I found in the fridge — bok choy tips and a tomato. To go with them, an onion and plenty of garlic.
For aroma and depth of flavor — and some crunch too — sesame seeds. Black, brown and white (you can use just one color) which I toasted in an oil-free pan.
The fish cakes having thawed completely, I cut them into irregular triangles.
Instead of using regular cooking oil, I sauteed the garlic in sesame seed oil. Oh, my goodness… the combined aroma was amazing!
The fish cakes were added to the garlic and cooked until the edges started to brown.
Korean fish cakes need liquid to cook in. Water is the most common choice but I decided that my fish cakes were going to cook in sake. When the fish caked looked bloated after the liquid has been absorbed, I drizzled in some soy sauce.
Then, the vegetables were tossed in. A minute later, my stir-fried Korean fish cakes were ready to be enjoyed.
Stir-fried Korean Fish Cakes
- 2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 sheets Korean fish cake cut into bite-size pieces
- ¼ cup sake
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ cup thinly sliced bok choy tips
- 1 large tomato center removed then thinly sliced
- 1 onion peeled and thinly sliced
- sliced scallions to garnish
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds to garnish
- Heat the sesame seed oil and saute the garlic until fragrant.
- Add the fish cakes to the garlic, toss to coat each piece with oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.
- Pour in the sake, stir and cook until the fish cakes are soft and the liquid has been absorbed.
- Drizzle in the soy sauce and sprinkle in the sugar. Stir.
- Add the bok choy tips, tomato and onion. Stir fry for a minute or so or just until the vegetables are done.
- Transfer the stir-fried fish cakes and vegetables to a bowl, garnish with sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve hot.
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