Baker’s Hours

March 23, 2009

The Mystery of the Monk Fish Soup


I mentioned in a previous entry that I had come across the Migawon booth at the Honolulu Festival, and wanted to try the food at the restaurant. So yesterday, I gave my friend and fellow foodie, Melissa, a call, and we head over to give it a try. We got there at 5:30, and the place was almost empty, but quickly filled as the evening progressed. It’s a Korean Yakiniku restaurant, so aside from ordering prepared food from the menu, you can order raw meats and vegetables to cook at grills built in the middle of the table. I enjoy Yakiniku on occasion, but I wasn’t there to taste my cooking, I wanted to taste their cooking. 

Looking through the menu, this was not your standard Americanize Korean restaurant. The Snail Soup had a picture of what looked like a bowl of tar next to it, and the Oyster Jun, although sounding interesting, looked far from appetizing. I eventually decided on the Monk Fish soup (shown above). Spicy of course. 

squirtThe soup was brought to me in a searing hot cast iron bowl. The soup was literally boiling when the server placed it on the table in front of me. It was almost ten minutes before the soup cooled down enough to where I could actually taste the broth without risk of burning my tongue. I was, however, able to pick bits of tofu and dikon to munch on while the broth cooled. But, then I pulled a little nugget from the bowl.

Not quite sure what it was, I tried it anyway. It was hard, almost like shoe leather (Not that I’ve gnawed on shoe leather before, or any other form of footwear for that matter.) I had to really apply pressure as I tried to bite through it. Then, it popped squirting a salty liquid into my mouth. It was then I gave up on it, and put it aside. As I continued picking through my soup, I pulled out five more of these little things, failing to successfully eat them, getting a squirt of salty liquid in my mouth each time. What the hell were these things?

Of course, the easiest thing to do would have been to ask one of the employees, but no… Geeks that we are, Melissa and I posted pictures on Twitter, and asked if anyone knew what they were. Aside from the usual, “ewww gross” comments, we finally got out answer from @Melody. They were Sea Squirts. Appropriately named considering my first exposure to them. However, I couldn’t quite figure out what, if any, they added to the soup in terms of flavor? After a quick google search, I found that according to Food in the Ancient World A-Z, sea squirts as an ingredient has been used since the times of the ancient Greeks. They have been referenced in Homer’s Iliad, The History of Animals by Aristotle, and Xenocrates even offered up this bit of advice on cooking them:

  “It is cut and rinsed and seasoned with Cyrenaic silpium and rue and brine and vinegar, or fresh mint in vinegar and sweet wine.”

Yum, doesn’t that just make your mouth water? Unfortunately, archeologists say that Cyrenaic silpium is extinct, so guess we can’t test out this recipe… Aw Shucks. Sea Squrts aside, I really enjoyed the soup. It was super spicy. As a matter of fact, one of my tweets from the restaurant read:


Melissa asked me if I would order it again, and without a second thought I said yes, but, I think I’ll leave the sea squirts on the side next time. To see more photos taken at Migawon, check out my album here.


Song stuck in my head at the time of this post: Red Neck Woman by Gretchen Wilson



  1. LOL! This whole entry made me guffaw. I really appreciated that they let us sit as long as we wanted, although I guess that had something to do with their being too short handed to bring us the bill. Next time, we need to bring a webcam so we can unlock the mysteries of the menu.

    Comment by Melissa — March 23, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

  2. Sorry…but I have to say it. Gross! You guys are so brave to try such exotic food. Did your stomach survive?

    Comment by Shawn aka hulamom — March 23, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

  3. Well, I didn’t wake up until 3 pm today, but I think that is attributed more to being over worked than the sea squirts.

    Comment by NctrnlBst — March 23, 2009 @ 8:29 pm

  4. Snail Soup and Oyster Jun next time!

    Comment by NctrnlBst — March 23, 2009 @ 8:29 pm

  5. My stomach didn’t survive the spicy–albeit “normal” –buckwheat noodles. So there!

    Comment by Melissa — March 23, 2009 @ 9:31 pm

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