[Hallyupedia] Eomuk (Odeng)

연합뉴스 / 2022-01-23 07:00:32
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by Ra Hwak Jin / An Hayeon

[ENG] Ground fish flesh, bones, salt, and starch and made into various shapes



▲ This photo, provided by Busam Eomuk Development Corporations, shows various shapes of Eomuk. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


Eomuk (fish cakes) refers to food steamed or fried in oil by grinding the flesh and bones of fish and adding salt and starch. It is commonly referred to as Odeng, which is a substandard language, but according to the National Institute of Korean Language, “Eomuk,” the standard language, is recommended to be used. Since broadcasting stations have long spoken and used "Eomuk," the perception of "Odeng = Eomuk" is quite established among the general public. However, in everyday life, Odeng is still a familiar expression, and some even say, "If you say Eomuk, it doesn’t sound right.”

Odeng is a word originating from Japanese food. Originally in Japan, Odeng is a dish boiled with various ingredients such as Eomuk, radish, konjac, and boiled eggs after seasoning the soup with soy sauce, and it can be said that Eomuk (Kamaboko), one of the components, has been changed to Odeng in Korea. Odeng dishes in Japan are called Odeng soup or Eomuk soup in Korea.

According to the Encyclopedia of Korean Culture of the Academy of Korean Studies, food such as Japanese Eomuk does not appear in Korean traditional dishes. Japanese-style fish cakes began to prevail after Korea’s enlightenment period when the Japanese came to the land and it became a food enjoyed by many people. Crab sticks are also an application of Eomuk.  


▲ This photo shows an Eomuk sellet at Seomun Market in Daegu. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Eomuk is one of Korea's representative street foods today. Usually, at small food carts in front of the school, the Odeng on skewers are seasoned with soy sauce, cooked in soup flavored with radish and customers take out one by one and eat it. Usually, people dip it in soy sauce. These stalls often sell tteokbokki (spicy rice cake) together. In the tteokbokki, Eomuk is used as the second main ingredient after tteok (rice cake.)


▲ This photo shows various shapes of Busan Eomuk. 

◇ ‘Busan’ the city of Eomuk

Eomuk is consumed nationwide, but it can be said that Busan is the home of Korean fish cakes.

It is said that a fish cake company was established in Busan, a city close to Japan, in the period of Japanese colonialism. Koreans who first saw the Odeng soup, made by putting fish cakes and radish, created the first Eomuk store “Donggwangsa,” in the Kkangtong Market in Bupyeong-dong.

Since the 1950s, famous fish cake companies that are still famous nationwide have emerged in Busan.

Today, Eomuk companies in Busan are making various attempts, such as diversifying fish cake types by adding various ingredients such as cheese and vegetables or making fish cake bakeries.

In Busan, there is an Eomuk street in Bupyeong-dong, where more than 30 fish cake shops are concentrated, and the Busan Fish Products Industry Cooperative also attaches a "Busan Eomuk" certification mark to fish cakes produced by companies with factories in Busan.

▲ This photo, provided by Sajo Daerim, shows a picture of Eomuk labeled as "Spicy Odeng skewers." 

◇ Why not Odeng?? Taking issues in broadcasting deliberation

In 2004, the mixed two-member funky modern rock band "Mr. Funky" was judged suitable for broadcasting after the title song "Tteokbokki and Odeng" was judged inappropriate in the first deliberation of broadcasters such as KBS and SBS. This was because Odeng was Japanese.

An official from MBC's deliberation department, who also ruled ineligible in the first deliberation, explained at the time, "We do understand the singers’ because Odeng is a Japanese word that is used more than Korean. However, if the deliberation is passed, there’s a risk that the Japanese spoken in Korean will overflow.”

Unlike the controversy over the name, Eomuk is widely recognized as a Korean food today. According to a survey conducted by the Korea Food Promotion Institute in October last year, 63.7% of the respondents answered yes when asked if fish cake soup was Korean food, with more positive answers than seasoned chicken (54.9%) and patbingsu (53.7%).

The scene where Korean politicians eat a bite of Eomuk skewers at stalls often appears when they visit the market.


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