Korean cuisine is arguably one of the most delicious and healthy cuisines in the world, capitalizing on their exotic spiced flavors and pickled delights. Koreans generally take a cleaner bill of health because their high consumption of fish and picked vegetables.
One of the most intriguing Korean dishes that is known for its "healing properties" is Mudfish (loach) soup, also known as Chueotang 추어탕. Now, I know you're probably wondering what exactly is a mudfish and why is it in a soup? Here's the low-down on everything you need to know about Chueotang.
History of Chueotang
Chueotang was popularized mainly in the south of South Korea. During the chubun (autumnal equinox) season, the rice paddies are drained after harvest. The cute chubby pond loaches are usually prepping for hibernation during this time and are easy to catch in ditches in the paddy fields.
Since they were easy to hunt, many panhandlers would hunt the pond loaches and make chueotang since they were easily accessible and very common. Also, during the Joseon era, they were legally mandated to sell pond loaches in the city, thus popularizing the dish in that area.
Mudfish vs Loaches
However, by mudfish, we don't want you to mistaken it as the mud skippers that live between water and land. These cute little guys are not indigenous to Korea and, thus, are not the "mudfish" we are talking about.
The "mudfish" is actually called a pond loach. These are bottom feeder pond fish that are extremely prevalent in Japan and Korea. They're popular as aquarium fish since they come in all different colors and clean the bottom of tanks. Though it doesn't necessarily sound appealing to eat, they are very tasty and good for your health.
Why is Chueotang so healthy?
Well, Koreans have found that the mudfish is high in poly-unsaturated fats, making it great for lowering your cholesterol. Many patients suffering from heart and cholesterol problems in Korea are recommended to eat Chueotang for good health.
Not only is Chueotang known for it's healthy properties, it's also known as the "Beauty Soup". It certainly is confusing since a mudfish is far from being considered beautiful. However, the fish is high in calcium, proteins, and vitamins, which Koreans strongly believe that improve your beauty.
Despite the not so pleasant outward appearance of the loach, Koreans (especially in the South) continue to eat the Chueotang, and for a good reason. Not only is the soup good for your health and beauty, it's also DELICIOUS. If you're planning on traveling to Korea, Chueotang must be added to your list of foods to try.
Where can you get Chueotang in the US?
Most Korean restaurants across the US won't always have this delicious delicacy on the menu. Since loaches aren't a common fish in the United States to eat, restauranteurs would have to special order especially if you live in areas not close to water.
However, if you want to brave it in the comfort of your home, we've put together a delicious Mudfish (Loach) Soup (Chueotang) Recipe 추어탕 just for you!
Mudfish (Loach) Soup (Chueotang) Recipe 추어탕
- 300 g loaches
- 400 g water
- 1 onion
- 3 green onion sprigs
- 3 zucchini
- 1 cup coarse salt
- 9 cups water
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp fermented bean paste (or miso)
- perilla powder to taste
- 1 tbsp red pepper paste (gochujang)
- 2 tbsp fermented bean paste (miso)
- 2 tbsp red pepper powder
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp ginger juice
- 2 tbsp chopped garlic
- black pepper to taste
- Place loaches in a plastic bag. Seal the bag and leave for 15 minutes. Afterward, rinse thoroughly.
- Pour enough water to cover the loaches in a stock pot and start to boil. Add onions and garlic. Place lid and bring to a rolling boil. Simmer for about 45 minutes - 1 hour or more to get the best flavor.
- Blend the seasoning ingredients together to make a sauce.
- Add the sauce into the broth and add the remaining water into the stock pot.
- Add remaining vegetables and ingredients and boil for 15 minutes.
- Add perilla powder to taste for extra flavor and boil for another 10 minutes.