As one of my favorite foods as a child, teenager and well, now, ‘oh-deng’ aka fried fish cakes
are probably one of the most unhealthiest foods in Asian cuisine — that
is, unless you make them yourself with quality ingredients. Oh-deng is fundamentally like crabs cakes — mashed up fish and flour with some oil and maybe some veggies then fried. However, they aren’t
re-battered with breadcrumbs before dunking them in a big pot of hot
oil, nor are they usually prepared at home.
Oh-deng comes in various shapes and sizes and is stir-fried as
banchan (side dishes) or put in a soup.
Most Asians grocery stores have a whole freezer and refrigerator section
stocked with these deliciously MSG laden concoctions. Some are even
labeled “healthy” due to their addition of carrots, onions and peas.
However, most of them have a long list of preservatives and flavor
enhancers in them. To add insult to injury, I learned about the pollock
fishing industry from an old colleague who watched a documentary
portraying the poor hygiene on these fishing vessels and how these fish are
separated into “pass” and “fail” categories and the smelly ones are used in a lot of Asian fish cakes. (FYI- imitation crab meat is made like oh-deng: pollack, bleached white flour, red food coloring,
artificial crab flavor and most times, flavor enhancers like MSG.)
Then one day, my prayers were answered! Dave (a former acupuncturist) of Dave’s Gourmet Korean
Food sells ‘tempeh‘ – fermented black bean and brown rice somehow cooked
into the exact appearance and close to exact texture of oh-deng!
Needless to say, I was ecstatic had to confirm with him that there is no fish, no white flour and no msg in his creation. He sells it mild, spicy or with seaweed as banchan but I’m used it for all the other dishes I mentioned above. 😀
Happy oh deng!