Dissecting the “Strange Foods” of Korea! Are you Brave Enough? (Language Vine)

A version of this blog can be found on Language Vine

Dissecting the “Strange Foods” of Korea! Are you brave enough?

All foreigners in Korea have a certain level of respect for Korean food, and everyone I know can find things that they like to eat. Examples are barbecue dishes like galbi and samgyeopsal, and simple snacks like kimbap. But not everyone enjoys the strange food, and some of the cuisine in Korea will almost certainly appear a little weird to a foreigner at first glance.

Thankfully I have an open mind, and have been rewarded with some delicious dining because I was adventurous. Put it in front of me and most likely I’ll try it… at least once. Not being intimidated, and instead diving in to eat what some foreigners consider the scary food in Korea, has led to some of the most delicious, fun and exciting dining experiences I have had.

San-nak-ji is one of the most fun foods in Korea. Traditionally, the baby octopus was wrapped around chopsticks, and the entire creature was eaten raw. Now, they will chop up the dangly bits, discarding the head, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve on a dish. Even though they are dead, the pieces are STILL MOVING.

Gaebul is a large, pink sea worm, also served raw. Some foreigners affectionately refer to it using the name of a very important part of the male anatomy, followed by the word fish.

Both offer a subtle, fresh from the sea flavor that is not overly fishy, instead tasting predominantly like what you dip them in, such as strong Korean oils and chili sauces.

Jokbal is marinated and boiled pigs’ feet. A lot of cultures enjoy the trotter, but jokbal is a Korean experience because of the preparation. It’s cooked with leeks, garlic, ginger and rice wine. Dip the fatty pork bits in ssamjang, maybe wrap it up in sangchu, and enjoy.

It is true that even some Koreans think of this food as strange. Not all Koreans want to join me for gop chang (grilled small intestine) and the raw organs that are served alongside as banchan side dishes. And I can’t always find volunteers to partake in gaebul and san-nak-ji.

But as a whole, I think most Koreans instead see this traditional food as a way of life, and not strange at all. And if you can adopt this mentality during your stay in Korea, amazing culinary doors will open up.


~ by ripcitytoseoul on October 2, 2010.

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