If you love seafood and spicy stews, I’m sure you’ll absolutely love this one, called maeuntang in Korean and spicy fish stew (or soup) in English. It can be made with pretty much any type of fish but most importantly the fish should be fresh! In this recipe and video I use black sea bass, or nongeo in Korean, so this dish would specifically be called nongeo-maeuntang.
On a recent trip to Montauk, Long Island I was lucky to get fresh-caught black sea bass right off the dock, as soon as the fisherman brought it in. I know a lot of you won’t be able to find fish that fresh, so in your local fish market choose a fish with clear eyes and a firm body. Make sure it isn’t smelly at all and has red gills on the inside. You may have to open the fish head a bit to check the color of the gills. If they’re brownish, don’t pick that fish. White fleshed fish is best for making maeuntang, so flounder, fluke, yellow corvina, and red snapper will all work well, but any kind of fish will be good, as long as it’s fresh.
Maeuntang is one of Koreans’ most-loved seafood dishes. Most Korean households have all these seasonings on hand, so it’s a great way to share a delicious, fresh fish with friends and family. It’s easy to make and the savory, spicy stew sits in the middle of the table and everyone can enjoy it together.
Ingredients (serves 3 to 4)
- 2½ pounds cleaned whole fish (black sea bass, cod, pollock, flounder, fluke), cut into 2 inch pieces
- 8 cups water
- 1 pound Korean radish (or daikon) sliced into ⅛ inch thin bite sized pieces
- 7-8 large dried anchovies, with heads and guts removed and placed in a stock pouch (or soup strainer, or tied up in cheesecloth)
- 1 dae-pa (or 4 to 5 green onions), sliced diagonally
- 1 large green chili pepper, sliced
- 1 red chili pepper, optional but if you use, sliced diagonally
- 4-5 sprigs of chrysanthemum greens (substitute with a few basil sprigs)
For the seasoning paste:
- ½ cup hot pepper flakes
- 10 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons Korean fermented bean paste (doenjang)
- 1 tablespoon Korean hot pepper paste (gochujang)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons mirim (or soju)
Make seasoning paste:
- Combine the seasoning paste ingredients in a bowl.
- Mix it well with a spoon. Set aside.
- Combine the radish, dried anchovies, and 8 cups of water in a large pot.
- Cover and cook for 20 minutes over medium high heat until the radish turns a little soft.
- Add the fish and about half of the seasoning paste.
- Cover and cook for another 20 minutes over medium high heat until the fish is fully cooked.
- Remove the anchovy pouch and add green chili pepper and green onion. Taste the soup and add more paste if you want it spicier and saltier.
- Gently stir the stew a few times with a wooden spoon and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and add the chrysanthemum greens and red chili peppers.
- Serve with rice, kimchi, and a few other side dishes, if you have them.
- You can put the stew in the middle of the table, with a ladle. Provide bowls for each person and ladle some of the stew into each bowl.
- Provide an empty bowl for bones. As people eat the fish they can discard the bones there.