Every country has a list of exotic food that they eat and Korea is no exception to this. Think kimchi was the weirdest thing you ate from Korea? Well, this article will definitely prove you wrong!
Here we go, a list of the most exotic Korean food you can try on your next trip to Korea, if you dare, of course!
1. Live Spoon Worms – Gaebul (개불)
Spoon worm is a type of marine animal that can be commonly found in Korean markets. The spoon worm has a phallic-like appearance and is even rumored to have aphrodisiac properties for men (stimulates sexual desire), hence it has earned its nickname, “penis fish”. Koreans usually eat it raw and alive. The gaebul is cut into bite-sized pieces and continues to wriggle on the plate before it is eaten. Apparently it tastes like saltwater.
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2. Live Octopus – Sannakji (산낙지)
The live octopus, is one of the most famous and exotic Korean food among foreigners. If you don’t believe me just go on Youtube and you will find so many videos of foreigners trying and sharing their experiences with Squidward Tentacles!
The tentacles 다리 of the octopus 낙지 is chopped into bite-sized pieces, seasoned and served while it is still squirming together with dipping sauces. However, don’t forget to chew the octopus as there have been cases (about six times a year) where the octopus has used its powerful suckers to grasp onto the diner’s esophagus, thus choking them to death.
3. Raw Crabs – Gejang (게장)
The literal meaning of gejang is “crab condiment”. Gejang is made by marinating fresh crabs in soy sauce (ganjang) or by seasoning fresh crabs with chili pepper powder sauce (yangnyeom gejang). Back in the days, a salty soy sauce 간장 was used as a method of preserving the crabs for a long period of time 오랫동안.
Although this method is not needed anymore, thanks to our modern conveniences, this dish is still loved for its taste. There is even an entire street in Sinsa-dong 신사동 neighborhood, Seoul 서울 that is dedicated to this delicious crabs.
4. Mudfish Soup -Chueotang (추어탕)
Chueotang is another exotic Korean food often praised for its health benefits. It is often served to patients with obesity and high blood pressure problems as it contains unsaturated fats which aids in reducing cholesterol levels. It also contains proteins 단백질, calcium 칼슘 and vitamins 비타민 and is said to be good for the skin 피부.
Chueotang is made by crushing the entire mudfish (even the bones 뼈) and making it into a broth mixed with spring onions 양파, leeks 파, soybean paste 된장 and red pepper paste 고추장.
5. Blowfish Soup – Bokguk (복국)
The more well-known cousin of the Bokguk is a Japanese dish called Fugu. I am referring to the highly deadly and neurotoxic pufferfish for which the Japanese chefs need a certified license to be able to cook and sell it. And this is why the Fugu in Japan is on the pricey side.
Korea’s blowfish 복어 is pretty similar though the rules and regulations for preparing and selling this delicacy are much more easier. The price is also much affordable compared to the Fugu.
The most usual way of cooking the exotic bokguk is to make broth from the blowfish meat, red pepper and herbs. The texture of the meat is light and puffy and it feels as if someone is eating cotton candy. Rumor 소문 has it that some people even ask for a little poison to be left inside the soup to get high. I am not sure if its a genuine effect or placebo effect.
6. Silkworm Larvae – Beondegi 번데기
This snack is so popular in Korea that you can even get it from the street vendors. The silkworm is first seasoned then it is either boiled or steamed. Beondaegi has a soft and crunchy texture and it is usually served in paper cups on the streets or bowls at restaurants.
7. Blood sausage- Soondae 순대
The British and the Irish has have black pudding, the Taiwanese have pig’s blood cake and the Koreans have the exotic blood sausage. Cellophane noodles, glutinous rice 찹쌀 and pig’s blood 돼지피 are the main ingredients that make up the blood sausages.
Other ingredients used are perilla leaves, barley and all these ingredients are stuffed into the intestinal casings before cooking. Soondae can be found almost anywhere, on the streets or in the markets. Soondae might be exotic but it taste pretty mild and is often served with some spicy sauce.
8. Fermented Skate – Hongeo 홍어
I know what you are thinking, it doesn’t look weird and looks harmless! But this is that one dish that makes even the local people want to gag when they first smell it. The smell is due to the uric secreted by the skate fish 홍어 (from the family of rays) from its skin. So when the skate is fermented, the uric acid breaks down into ammonia which is the reason for your gag!
The smell is so strong that it is recommended to breathe in through your mouth and breathe out through your nose when eating. Hongeo is said to taste the best when it is paired with kimchi 김치, bossam 보쌈 or makgeolli 막걸리 (rice wine) to help the diners bare with the pungent smell.
Can’t imagine how it smells? Just leave your dirty and sweaty socks in a closed bag for a few days, then take a whiff.
9. Dog Stew- Boshintang 보신탕
Boshintang literally means “invigorating soup” and is said to be a good source of protein. It is traditionally eaten on the three hottest days on the lunar calendar, known as the “dog days”.
Dog meat is the main ingredient used to cook the broth along with spring onions 쪽파, gochujang 고추장 (red pepper paste) and doenjang 된장 (soybean paste). The taste 그 맛 is said to be like roast beef with a little more grease and fat.
The practice of eating the boshintang used to be more common in the past. In recent years, the number of the exotic boshintang restaurant has decreased as there is a drop in the demand for this dog meat due to the awareness towards the suffering of dogs. People now replace dog meat with chicken or beef 소고기.
Despite being technically illegal, the dish still can be found in certain restaurant in Korea. Despite being technically illegal, the dish still can be found in certain restaurant in Korea. Personally 개인적으로, I can’t get over the horror of eating a cute dog for lunch or dinner. I would never eat it.
Have you heard or tried any of these weird and exotic Korean food? And let us know which want do you want to try and which one you would never dare to try!
Going to Korea but don’t know where to visit? Click out our article on Jeju Island 제주도, a.k.a the Hawaii of Korea!