Hongeo-samhap, consisting of hongeo-hoe served with kimchi and bossam
Type Hoe
Place of origin Korea
Region or state Honam
Main ingredients Fermented ocellate spot skate
Cookbook: Hongeo-hoe  Media: Hongeo-hoe
Korean name
Hangul 홍어회
Hanja 洪魚膾
Revised Romanization hongeo-hoe
McCune–Reischauer hongŏ-hoe
IPA [hoŋ.ʌ.ɦwe̞]

Hongeo-hoe[1] (홍어회; 洪魚膾) is a type of fermented fish dish from Korea's Jeolla province.[2] Hongeo-hoe is made from skate and emits a very strong, characteristic ammonia-like odor that has been described as being "reminiscent of an outhouse".[3]


Skates (hongeo) are cartilaginous fish that excrete uric acid through the skin, rather than by urinating as other animals do.[2][4] As they ferment, ammonia is produced which helps preserve the flesh and gives the fish its distinctive, powerful odor.[5]

The natural preservative effect of the fermentation process on skate meat was noted by Korean fishermen as early as the 14th century, during the Goryeo dynasty,[5] long before refrigeration was invented. It was found that skates were the only fish that could be transported over long distances or stored for extended periods without rotting, even in the absence of salt.[2][6]


Originally, the skates used in the production of hongeo-hoe were harvested locally from the waters around Heuksando, an island off the southwestern coast of Korea. In more recent years, a larger proportion has been made with less expensive imported fish, mainly from Chile,[2][6] although skate from Heuksando still retains a reputation for superior quality.[3]

Specific production techniques vary from shop to shop, influenced in part by the local climate. According to the traditional method, after the fish are cleaned and eviscerated, they would be stored either in compost (in cold regions) or in piles of straw (in warmer regions) and left to ferment.[5] In the present day, due to concerns over food safety and product consistency, the use of refrigeration has become more common.[5] Under one modern method, the fish undergo fermentation in a walk-in refrigerator for as much as 15 days at 2.5 °C, and then for approximately 15 more days at 1 °C.[6]

After fermentation, the preserved skates are sliced into small pieces and packed into boxes for shipment.


Hongeo-hoe is typically presented to diners as small slabs, sashimi-style, without being subjected to cooking or further preparation.[2][5][6]

Jeolla natives claim that hongeo-hoe should be consumed plain.[6] However, the dish is often eaten together with bossam and kimchi,[7] a combination known as hongeo samhap.[8] It may also be served with the Korean alcoholic beverage makgeolli,[5] which could help diners cope with the pungency of the fermented dish. [9]

See also


  1. (in Korean) "주요 한식명(200개) 로마자 표기 및 번역(영, 중, 일) 표준안" [Standardized Romanizations and Translations (English, Chinese, and Japanese) of (200) Major Korean Dishes] (PDF). National Institute of Korean Language. 2014-07-30. Retrieved 2017-02-22. Lay summary.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Choe, Sang-Hun (14 June 2014). "Korea's Fish Special: A Delicate Mix of Outhouse and Ammonia". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  3. 1 2 Oberhauser, Steve (5 February 2011). "Skate fish an acquired taste". The Jeju Weekly. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  4. McPherson, Joe (13 July 2008). "Hongeo 홍어 – The Hardest Thing to Swallow in Korea". ZenKimchi. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Sarkar, Prabir K.; Nout, M.J. Robert (2014). Handbook of Indigenous Foods Involving Alkaline Fermentation. CRC Press. ISBN 9781466565302.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Klug, Foster (9 April 2014). "South Koreans crave Asia's smelliest fish". Yahoo! News. AP. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  7. "Fermented skate (홍어)". Korean Food blog. 27 March 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  8. "Explore Korea's Treasures – Gwangju & Jeollanam-do". Visit Korea. Korea Tourism Organization. 11 May 2008. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  9. Cho, Jae-eun (28 October 2011). "Hongeo: Not for the weak of stomach". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
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