If you’re going to kill it, you might as well use all of it!
I may very well one day evolve into the vegetarian I was meant to be, but for now I eat meat. Flesh of all sorts. And I strongly feel that if you’re going to kill an animal you should use the whole beast. Sure, you’re not always in the mood for the lung and bull testicle bits in your phở (unless you ordered it that way), but you gotta admit there is culinary good sense/cents in the use-it-all model.
I admire the Korean (as well as the Japanese, Chinese, Cajun) gung-ho approach in using the whole beast, from intestines to tail to butt, leaving no tasty morsel behind (ha-ha, get it, behind?). Blood sausage, found all over the globe and delicious in all its variations––Cajuns stuff their boudain rouge with rice and Koreans make their soondae (순대) with a bit of sweet potato noodle and sweet rice––exemplifies this ethic, fully. Anyone can fry up some liver in butter, but you really raise the ante when you can make something sublime out of pig’s blood. Isn’t it good to know we are not all that disparate after all, that we stand on common ground when it comes to our collective good eats?
I have fond memories of my mom chomping on fish heads, especially loving to suck on those fish eyeballs. That fish would be stripped for all it was worth! Nothing leftover with my mom and dad both at the table. I hadn’t developed a taste for fish heads at the time so I kept myself busy with the tail.
Those Korean dinners, made on our family’s tight budget, were a reflection of the immigrant’s understanding that alternate parts (of an animal) can offer up a sit-at-the-table-worthy meal. So when I dug up the lone fish head leftover from our Chuseok dinner, like an archeologist at a quarry, I knew what I had to do: Put ‘er in the pot for stock!
This is how we do it…
Fish Head Stock
fish heads, cooked or raw
garlic cloves, crushed
1. Put your fish heads in a pot with ginger, garlic, onion and water. For one fish head I used: about 2 cups of water, a quarter of an onion, 2 garlic cloves, and one chunk of ginger. You can feel free to adjust according to how many fish heads you’ll use.
2. When you’ve reached a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes for cooked heads, 30 minutes for raw. Strain before use. Season with a little salt if you wish.*
* I used this stock for a miso and greens soup so I was stingy with the salt, knowing that the miso would be salty enough.