Korea's most unusual dishes

Beverly Snodgrass

Unless you are an ardent fan of Fear Factor, have a “stomach of steel”, or are simply just game to try  exotic food, some of these unusual Korean dishes might just send you running to the door – before getting anywhere near your mouth.


An ice cream sundae is always a welcome, refreshing snack for us. If, however, you happen to be on holiday in Korea, a “sundae” is something different altogether. Sundaes in Korea often refer to Korean “blood sausages”, a common street food. Filled with pork blood, vermicelli and other spices, this is covered with a boiled pig or cow intestine.


 
Walking through a Korean market, or park, you’ll notice locals munching on an interesting snack in a cup, with a toothpick. Upon closer inspection, you may find this to be beondegi, a steamed or boiled seasoned silkworm larvae. A word to the wise - if you’re game to try it, prepare for an explosive first bite!

 


They say every meal is a gastronomic adventure, but this one’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. Sannakji, otherwise known as live octopus, is savoured in variouos ways - one way is to eat the tentacles freshly sliced off a live octopus or squid. The tentacles and suction cups stay active for 20 to 30 minutes, so even though it is technically dead when severed, it still sticks to your tongue and throat, often causing choking. Another way to down this delicacy is to simply eat a live baby octopus, head, tentacles and all…just remember to chew well.



If eating live octopus just isn’t your thing, then maybe try your tongue at gaebul instead – live spoon worms, more commonly known as the penis fish. Cut into more manageable bite-sized pieces, these worms are said to be very tasty and certainly safer than a meal of baby octopus.

 



Remember stinky tofu? How about taking it one step further with fermented skate fish, or hongeo? Skate, unlike other fish, urinates through its skin. When fermented, remnant uric acid present on its skin is amplified, making the fish reek of ammonia. The stench isn’t easy to get over, and even locals who’ve braved the meal say they’ll only ever do it once.

 


For fans of innard, dak dong jib (chicken gizzard) and dakbal (chicken feet) would be all too familiar dishes. Easily found on the streets of South Korea, they’re usually eaten with alcohol, which complements the taste.

So if you are planning a holiday to Korea, remember to check out some of these exotic foods – if you can’t bring yourself to stomach any of them, then you could just let your camera do the talking by taking photos or videos of other brave diners.


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