Have you ever eaten a Korean dish? The Koreans take a very unique approach to food, for them food is much more than something to fill the belly – it provides taste, medicine, and a connection to the country.
A lot of you will probably be going “yuck” as you read through this top ten list of unusual dishes from Korea but just think if you had been born in Korea you would probably be eating these meals on a regular basis and think it be quite normal.
10. Dakbal – Chicken Feet
Chicken feet are probably one of the least unusual entries on this list considering that most countries with a Chinese restaurant can get Chinese-style chicken feet. The texture of this dish is very unusual to western palettes – it is sinewy and chewy. Once you get past the idea that you are eating feet, this dish is truly delectable.
9. Gejang – Raw Crabs
These delightful little crabs are not cooked before consumption; instead they are seasoned with various sauces and eaten raw. Interestingly another raw seafood dish of baby crabs is soft enough that you also eat the shells which are not unlike a slightly harder version of an M&M shell. These are very popular in Korea and you will see bundles of these crabs tied together in chains at most fish markets.
8. Haemultang – Live Seafood Soup
While the idea of live seafood soup sounds rather awful, it isn’t as bad as you think. The seafood is all raw when taken to the table but it is cooked in a very hot soup prior to consumption. The soup contains gochujang (hot pepper paste) and is spicy, sweet, and full of flavor from the amazing array of vegetables and herbs that are added. This delicious soup is extremely popular in Korea.
7. Sundae – Boiled Intestine Sausage
Other than the name, Korean sundae has no relation to western sundaes. Sundae is a cow or pig’s intestine stuffed like a sausage with various ingredients. They are a type of blood sausage and can be stuffed with seafood to give you a squid sundae or a dried pollock sundae. Typically the dish is boiled or steamed. Sundae is a very popular street food in both South and North Korea.
6. Dak Dong Jib – Chicken Gizzard
A gizzard is part of an animal’s digestive tract which functions to grind down food. It is made of thick muscular walls. Dak Dong Jib is often wrongly referred to as chicken rectum but this is not accurate. It is actually a form of sundae and is very popular in North Korea. Because it is such a heavy dish it is normally served as a drinking side dish as it helps to absorb alcohol. While it is very common in North Korea, you have to hunt a little harder in South Korea to find it.
5. Gopchang – Barbecued Intestines
Gopchang is similar to sundae except that the intestines of a pig are grilled without any stuffing. The texture is very chewy and while the dish is often cooked and served alone, it can also be used as an ingredient in other dishes such as stews. Gopchang really is incredibly delicious and it is usually very fresh so you can be sure of a great taste. This dish is usually served with dipping sauces.
4. Beondegi – Silkworm Larvae
Beondegi is another Korean street food. It comprises of steamed or boiled silkworm pupae which are seasoned. As well as being a popular snack on the streets, Beondegi is often served with alcohol. When you find a vendor selling silkworm pupae you can be fairly sure that roast crickets are also not too far away.
3. Bosintang – Dog Stew
Canine meat is surprisingly common in many Asian countries and Korea is no exception, with dog meat being the fourth most common meat eaten. A special breed of dog is preferred for consumption and there is a different word for dogs fit for eating and dogs fit for pets. Many Koreans are opposed to the consumption of dog meat for similar reasons to Westerners but it is quite legal and most restaurants purchase their meat from trusted dog farms.
Bosintang is a stew that is usually eaten on the three hottest days of the year in order to keep strength up.
2. Gaebul – Live Spoon Worms
Spoon worms are marine animals that bear an uncanny resemblance to a certain part of the male anatomy that I won’t mention here. When consumed they are cut into bite sized pieces which continue to move on the plate. Despite the somewhat alien appearance of these sea worms, gaebul is meant to be very delicious and certainly safer to eat than the raw octopus.
1. Sannakji – Live Octopus
Number one on the list is live octopus. The octopus is taken fresh from the water, quickly gutted and expertly chopped into many pieces. You then eat it while it continues to wriggle on the plate. This particular dish is a little risky to eat as the suckers continue to function even after being chopped up and so must be chewed very thoroughly or they will latch on to the throat. Numerous deaths have been caused while eating octopus.
If you have ever tried any of the above Korean dishes tell us about it in the comments section below.