5) Sea Penis
I don’t even know what the proper name for this thing is, but I know what it looks like. It tastes salty, usually thanks to the sauces it’s drenched in, and its texture is very chewy, like gristle.
4) Chicken Anus
It’s Korean name is dahk-ddong-jib, which literally translates to “ass of a chicken.” It’s served stir-fried with sesame oil and chilies. But it’s not as gross as it sounds. We eat dahk-ddong-jib in the United States too. We just call it the gizzard.
3) Raw Abalone, Raw Eel
The Korean philosophy about seafood is that it’s not fresh unless it’s freshly killed. Raw seafood is called hoe (“hway”), and almost all seafood restaurants have holding tanks where you can meet your meat before you eat. Raw abalone looks like slimy mushrooms. It tasted like soap. Mushy soap. But raw eel is a whole ‘nother story. Skinned alive, then served right up, it’s often still bleeding when it lands on your plate, usually atop a delightful bed of greens. What’s it like? A bony texture similar to anchovies but without much flavor at all.
2) Silkworm Larvae
You can smell them from across the street, simmering away in giant vats at street venders’ booths. Imagine the worst smell you can possibly think of, and you’re not even close. The pupa are supposedly popular with children and at beer bars, and they’re even sold in cans next to the tuna in grocery stores. I could never bring myself to eat one, but friends report that they taste about the same as they smell.
1) Live Baby Octopus
San nak ji is a dish consisting of a small, live octopus served raw, usually dipped in sesame oil. It can be eaten two ways: whole, or chopped up. But even after being chopped, the tentacles still wriggle about on the plate, gripping to the rim as you pick them up with chopsticks. Some online outlets report that six people a year die in Korea from choking after the tentacles suction onto their esophaguses. The taste? Kinda bitter with a gristle-y, mucousy texture. Like much of Korea’s raw food, san nak ji has very little flavor. But it’s not really about the flavor, is it? Like deer antlers, it’s reportedly “good for stamina.”
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