Recipes for Ramadan: Amina Elshafei’s Spicy Korean Seafood Stew (Haemultang) | Australian food and drink

HAemultang is a deliciously healthy Korean soup made from a combination of shellfish and fish, simmered in a flavorful broth. Often it is cooked in a heavy stone pot that retains its heat at the table; but sometimes it is served bubbling over a portable stove, especially when there is a crowd to be fed.

This already wonderful dish is even more special to me as it evokes sentimental memories – both of the home I grew up in and trips to my mother’s home country.

My mother is Korean and my father is Egyptian. They met in Riyadh in the 1970s when they were both working as expats in Saudi Arabia, my mother as a nurse and my father as an accountant. They lived in an intermarriage, which they thought was quite common at the time. Saudi Arabia opened up to the outside world and many expats and cultures mixed.

Recipes for Ramadan

With immigrant and expat workers, there are an estimated 100,000 Muslims in South Korea. The majority live in Seoul, where my mother grew up and my grandmother still lives, but there are also a few mosques around the country. Since 2004, the State Department has even held an annual iftar during Ramadan.

But 40 years ago, when my mother was growing up, Islam didn’t really exist in Korea. She learned a lot about it, lived in Saudi Arabia and met my father and she converted.

It is a great privilege for me to have two different backgrounds. It means visiting extended family in both countries and inheriting two very different cuisines. I think it was also enriching for my parents. Dad does a lot of interfaith work.

There is no set recipe for haemultang in Korea, although the broth is generally made with gochujang (fermented chilli paste), gochugaru (dried chilli flakes or powder), and a fragrant seafood, anchovy, or beef broth.

Amina Elshafei
Amina Elshafei in the kitchen. Photo: Amina Elshafei

When my mom made her version, she often used blue swimmer crab, shrimp, and other white-fleshed fish fillets fresh from the local fish store.

There is no requirement for the type of seafood used. It may vary depending on what you personally like or what’s available – although a selection of shellfish is always recommended, as the shellfish will intensify the broth’s flavor as it cooks.

When I traveled to South Korea in 2014, I visited Busan, the seafood capital, and had a ridiculously good haemultang that reignited my love for it. Then my husband and I traveled to Seoul in 2016 for our honeymoon. Our first dinner was Hämultang! Both versions contained exotic shellfish such as abalone and sea snails.

My version of Haemultang is inspired by my Busan experience. I find that the combination of crab, seeds, shrimp, clams and a firm white meat fish like ling makes a fabulous broth.

Head to your local Korean grocer to get your hands on gochujang (the fermented chili paste) and gochugaru (the dried chili flakes or powder) — and if you’re not keen on a very spicy broth, use a little less of these ingredients . Chrysanthemum leaves are used extensively in Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese cuisines, and can be found in pretty much every Asian grocery store.

And remember, there are no real rules. Take the opportunity to travel to your local fish market, ask them what’s good, and explore your local fish varieties. You can’t go wrong, and you might be trying new and delicious seafood for the first time.

Amina’s Haemultang (spicy seafood stew)

1L good quality broth (seafood, dashi, anchovies, or vegetable broth will do)
2 blue swimmer crabs
cleaned and cut in half
1 dozen clams
debarked and cleaned
16 shells or kernels
8 king or large banana prawns
very calm
500 g ling fillet
, (or similar firm white fillet) boned and skinned
250 g firm tofu
, Cut into blocks about 1cm x 3cm x 3cm
¼ medium onion
, thinly sliced
½ tsp chopped ginger
¾ tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp coarse gochugaru (dried chili flakes or powder)
1 ½ tbsp gochujang (fermented chilli paste)
1 tbsp all-rounder soy sauce
1 tbsp finely chopped spring onions
Small bunch of chrysanthemum (crown daisy) leaves.
200 g enoki mushrooms
cut off at the base
Cooked medium grain rice for serving

Mix the spice ingredients together until well blended and set aside.

In a semi-shallow stone/earthen saucepan (use one with a lid), bring your choice of broth to a boil. While you wait for the broth to boil, make sure any prepared seafood is dried off with a paper towel. Cut the ling fillet into 3 cm cubes.

Once the broth is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer. Carefully arrange tofu, sliced ​​onions, fish fillets, and remaining seafood, then increase heat to high and cover. Cook for three to five minutes until the seafood is just cooked through. Make sure any clams and vongoles or kernels have opened – if there are any that haven’t opened, discard them.

Arrange chrysanthemum leaves and enoki mushrooms in the center of the haemultang just before serving. Serve immediately with individual servings of hot rice.

  • Amina Elshafei is a pediatric nurse, wife, mother and passionate cook who loves to travel and discover other cultures. A two-time MasterChef nominee, her cookbook, Amina’s Home Cooking, pays homage to the Egyptian and Korean food she grew up with.

  • You can find this recipe and other Australian Muslim recipes and stories on the Recipes for Ramadan website; and follow the project on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

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