Korean Eats Part 1: Bizarre Foods

So when we travel, we always want to find the most interesting, delicious, famous and amazingly bizarre foods to eat that you can't get anywhere else but in that country. I thought it would be a great blog entry to get some feedback as well. To fully experience Korea, you must try at least 3/4 of this list.

Not a specific order...but I'll start from things that I couldn't bring myself to eat:

1) Boshintang (보신탕) 補身湯 (I included Chinese for our Chinese/Taiwanese/HK visitors^^)

This is the dog meat soup I could never bring myself to eat. I cannot eat anything that I might keep as a pet. If you're interested, and it's on your bucket list please feel free to try it. It's supposed to be good for you when you're sick, in the hottest days of summer and for stamina. Whatever that means... Oh and I couldn't bring myself to put a picture of it. Sorry...

2) Beondegi (번데기)

This is the "chrysalis" or the larva stage of the silkworm. They boil it and street vendors sell this as a cheap snack. Kids love it. They serve it in little paper cups and you poke them with toothpicks to eat. I couldn't even get near the stand because the smell is so strong. For those with strong stomachs...

3) Hongeo (홍어) "Fermented Skate Fish"

This is a South Korean delicacy that even many Koreans can not eat. It is a fermented skate fish that smells like a bathroom that hasn't been cleaned in a year. Skate fish naturally pee through their skin so it's filled with uric acid. This makes the fish very ammonia-y and since it has lots of cartilage the texture of this fish is not so great either. It's like a crunchy, stinky, icky experience. I would recommend trying this just so you can say you did it. I survived. They should make T-Shirts... anyway...they serve this stuff sometimes with REALLY old Kimchi. I mean as if eating this gross stinky crunchy fish wasn't bad enough, imagine a piece of kimchi that's so old the stem of the cabbage almost looks transparent. It's really really sour and tastes old. So when I was forced to eat this, the old man wrapped a piece of this delectable delight with this really old kimchi. Then was supposed to drink soju first and this nice disgusting piece of amazing culture was supposed to be my drinking food. All in all...great cultural experience. By the way, if any of you have stories, I'd love to hear yours. Oh when I woke up the next day my house smelled like it because all of my clothes...all of the layers...down to the undergarments...smelled...like...this...foul...fish.

4) Ggeopdaegi (껍대기-) Grilled Pig Skin

It's exactly how it sounds. They take the pig skin and grill it over the fire with the rest of their meet. It usually causes many table fires because there is so much oil coming from it falling onto the hot coals. It also usually pops everywhere and I would never it it. It's got a gross texture and hair on it. The Koreans really like it...maybe you should try it too?

5) Chueotang (추어탕) Ground Mudfish Soup

The city I've been living/working in for the last 5 years is very famous for this food. It looks gross and after watching Andrew Zimmern describe how it feels in his mouth I couldn't bring myself to go out and order this. The mudfish is very slimy because it doesn't live in fresh water. I'm told it tastes like it doesn't live in fresh water...

6) Gaebul and Monggae (개불/멍게) Raw Sea Worm/Sea Squirt

One looks like a male body part, the other one looks like a heart. Both of them taste questionable. I've had a bit of both and I didn't really like them. They are both eaten raw with raw fish and stuff. Usually when you go to one of those fish markets and buy a fish for some ridiculous amount of money, they give you "service" or like free stuff. Some of the free stuff they give you  is like this stuff. Sea squirt and sea worms...stuff people wouldn't normally pay money for. :P

7) Gopjang gui(곱창 구이) Grilled Pork or Cow Intestines

Some restaurants serve this and it tastes alright. I'm very big on the textures of food so I don't really like it much. It's too chewy and soft for my liking. I've had some where it still smells funny. I don't like that...I'm sure it's not that good for you either. It's something you wouldn't really have outside of Korea really...so I say try it. It's not that bad. If you find a good restaurant, even better!

8) Sannakji (산낙지)

Live raw octopus. 'nuff said no? Whenever I see this, I think of Oldboy and that scene where the guy shoves the whole thing in his mouth and it's all stuck to his face and stuff. Usually at restaurants they don't serve it like that. They serve it cut up on a dish covered in sesame oil (to help it go down better and not stick to your insides). Chew thoroughly. I've had this on many occasions. I never eat more than one or two pieces but it's amusing to watch new people eat it. It's fun to poke at the dish because they squirm and wiggle. You can put it in a dish filled with chili sauce and it'll cover itself in sauce ready for you to eat it. Oh just recently this summer I went to the West Sea and there were some guys fishing and eating some of their catch. I took a picture of them and they invited us to go over and have a bite. In their buckets there were many of these small live octopus. One of the men offered one to my Korean friend who took it. So you know that Oldboy scene with the tentacles all over the face? Yeah...that happened to my friend. Unfortunately I was in too much shock to take a picture. They just stick the whole thing in their mouth and chew without killing it first. It's really kind of gross. I kindly declined...and my friend explained that I was American and off the hook.

9) Soondae (순대)

This is the blood sausage with vermicelli noodles. I still can't really bring myself to eat this. They have various styles of this. You can have it at the street stands served with 떡볶이 (Spicy Rice Cake) or you can have it in a squid (오징오 순대) or in a soup (순대국). Those are the most common ways to serve it, but I can't handle it in any shape or form. I like the Taiwanese pork blood and rice on a stick with all the peanut powder, chili sauce and cilantro but this stuff...I've eaten it but I would never say, "HEY! Let's go eat some!" voluntarily.

10) Dalkbal/Jokbal (닭발/족발) Chicken Feet/Pork Feet

Chinese people eat chicken feet and pork feet so this doesn't really scare me much. I can eat this. I like to eat the chicken feet sometimes because I can spit out all the bones and feel like a barbarian. I don't do it very often...>.< I also enjoy the Chinese way of eating these 2 things better. If you get a chance you should try out both. Tell me which one you think is better. (I won't get offended...much)

11) Cheonggukjang (청국장) 淸麴醬

This is fermented soybean soup. I can't eat it. I can't be in the same room with someone eating it. I can't be in  a restaurant that serves this because it is so strong. Everyone says it tastes great if you can get over the smell. Too bad smells are so important for me...I can't eat it. It smells like someone put on some boots and decided to walk for 5 hours in the sweltering heat. By the time they finally got home and took off their shoes, their socks would be soaked with sweat. Well imagine that smell...coming from your dinner bowl! How people stomach it...I don't know!

12) Gejang (게장) Raw marinated crabs

Ok...so I had finished the post but I totally forgot about this really really gross and bizarre food I had here. It's really popular here. There are two different flavors. The spicy red pepper paste flavor and the soy sauce one. I've only had the soy sauce one but that was so gross I took a bite and could only drink soup for the rest of the night. Imagine salty jello. That's what this tastes and feels like. You're supposed to suck out the raw meat (that hasn't solidified because it's not cooked) and it's just this gross slimy substance. It made me feel like I was eating alien brain or something. Seriously not pleasant at all.

MORE TO COME!!! Korean Eats Part 2 and some more bizarre foods! Readers...please tell me what your experiences with Korean food were!!



  1. I get that many foreigners would have hard time understanding Korean food culture..But you should really try it before saying anything about them. For example, soondae doesn't even taste like anything but boiled noodle. For raw octopus, people rarely eat them just alive. Normally their tentacles are cut off to be served, and they move only because of the nerve reaction. Gejang just taste like cartilage or tendons you put in pho. Most of all, Boshintang is made up of dogs raised to be eaten, just like cows. They just don't take your poodle and eat it. Also, boshintang is not that popular among young adults these days, only really old adults occasionally eat it. Considering there are some people raising cow as a pet and even serve cow if you are in india, maybe we shouldn't eat cows at all too. What i'm saying is that you need more personal experience of these foods, not just the "Tastes heard from someone". There are too many "I can't eat it" and that's not that great of a description of the food.