As a kid, I would rarely eat fish, seafood, or anything too spicy. The only thing from the sea that didn’t gross me out was deep fried shrimp or cod. I never cared to develop my palate until we moved to South Korea and I was, thankfully, forced to.
South Korea is a peninsula, so there is a lot of fish, seafood, and seaweed consumed. The first city we lived in was near the sea. Pretty much every meal had some sort of fish offered as the main or a side dish. One of the wonderful things about Korean cuisine is that there are several side dishes available at every meal. The unfortunate thing, at the time, was that there seemed to be fish or seafood bits or oil in nearly every one of them. And if there wasn’t, they were super spicy.
During the first couple of months in South Korea I was overwhelmed with the lack of food options for my picky self. I tried a bunch of things but it all tasted fishy to me. So I basically lived off of buns from a bakery, chocolate bars, sticky rice, and eggs (at home for breakfast). While this diet may sound delicious to most people (!) there were a few issues.
One afternoon my boss came over to greet me in the lobby of the hagwon (after school academy). She also pinched my stomach and remarked on how I was getting fat. Ouch.
On another day I saw a large rat run through my favorite bakery. I mentioned it to some of my students and they all agreed that the bakery I had been shopping at was not so clean. Yum.
Lastly, it was just gross eating those things for so long. There was a once a week trip to McDonald’s too, but, seriously, that’s hardly an improvement.
So I started ordering actual meals and eating bites of other people’s food. I started to really love kimchi (fermented cabbage in red pepper sauce) and rice. I started eating kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew) and doenjang jjigae (fermented soybean paste stew). I realized that bulgogi (sweet marinated beef) tasted like meat and not fish and ate that too. I learned to love spicy food and to eat things that had fish oil, seafood bits, and oyster flavor in them. I finally had a bunch to eat. Life greatly improved!
However, I never ate full on fish until recently. I reduced the amount of meat I consume a few months ago. I now eat either chicken or beef once a week. One day I was looking for new recipes and saw several that were fish dishes. Well, okay. So I decided to start eating fish. Thankfully my husband is a great cook and knew how to prepare it so that it’d be easy for me to enjoy it. Lots of butter. Haha. I’ve had maybe six or seven kinds of fish in the last couple of months and only disliked one (swai). One of our favorite meals is fish, mashed potatoes, and a steamed veggie.
One of these days I need to move on to salmon and some of the stronger flavored fish. And sushi. Oh em gee, raw fish makes me cringe. Even so, I’m happy with the culinary progress I’m making and am loving the addition of fish to my diet. It seems so silly that I never ate it before.