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4 Weird Foods To Try In South Korea

You’re on your way to a new country, and you have no idea what to eat. What would you like to try when you arrive? You’ll be pleased to know there are endless possibilities in South Korea that don’t begin and end with rice, here are four weird foods to try in South Korea that might fit the bill.

These strange dishes will give you a new perspective on Korean food whilst tasting some of the oddest and surprising foods South Korea has to offer.

Hongeo (Fermented Skate)

Hongeo (홍어)

This is a seafood that will challenge even the most extreme of eaters. If you ever come across Hongeo, you will know instantly. The extremely pungent odor, which many liken to the stink of ammonia, makes this one of Korea’s true delicacies. The smell is so strong and off putting that you will have a hard time even finding a restaurant that serves this dish.

Many Koreans that have had the courage to try Hongeo vow never to eat it again, the smell is that strong. Hold your nose, shove it in mouth, and pray that you don’t have a gag reflex…. if you’re brave enough to try this Korean delicacy that is!

Sannakji (Live Octopus)

Sannakji (산낙지)

Raw octopus is a Korean delicacy that doesn’t seem too scary. It’s kind of like sushi, right? How about if it’s still alive? One variation of sannakji is to take a live octopus or squid and slice it up. Although it’s technically dead, the tentacles are still squirming, making it appear to be alive. Once you put it in your mouth, you can feel the suction cups grasping onto your teeth and tongue. The other variation of this dish is to take a baby octopus whole, no slicing and killing, and put straight into your mouth. Nothing else. It’s that simple. Eating a live octopus in Korea is probably the pinnacle of Korean food for the brave.

We’re used to seeing calamari on seafood menus, but sannakji, the Korean delicacy cooked with live octopus, makes calamari look tame. According to Food & Wine, it is immediately sliced and served, and is still moving as it is swallowed. Therefore, sannakji is often referred to as “wriggling octopus.” Clearly, this is not the food for those with a weak stomach.

Consider the tentacles and then the suckers on those tentacles if you believe that sannakji is a delicious name. According to Insider, a handful of people have choked to death after eating sannakji because the suckers adhered to the inside of their throats.

However, if properly prepared, this risky meal is edible. Insider described the procedure, adding that the tentacles’ mucous is first removed. The chef then chops the tentacles into tiny pieces to prevent them from obstructing guests’ airways. This preparation minimises the choking threat of the meal, and the sannakji is now ready to be served.

Jovial (Pigs Trotters

Jokbal (족발)

Mmmm…looks like another type of Korean barbeque. But While jokbal is another type of meat, it’s not what you might expect. Jokbal is quite literally pig feet. Just like the other Korean meats, jokbal is a food that usually accompanies alcohol, often late at night. To eat, jokbal is wrapped in sangchu, with a bit of ssamjang and garlic, like other barbecued meats in Korea.

This dish is actually quite tasty and is wildly popular with the general Korean public. Now you won’t be surprised if you walk into a restaurant and see a pig foot lying on the chopping board.

Blondegi (Silkworm Larvae)

Beondegi (번데기)

This is by far one of the visually strangest foods Korea has to offer. Mostly sold in markets or by vendors in parks, this dish is eaten quickly and on the go – like a hot dog you’d eat from a cart in New York City. Instead of a familiar hot dog, though, Beondegi is steamed silkworm larvae. Koreans grab a cup of the steamed larvae (complete with the juices that come out during the steaming process) and walk around the park enjoying the view, eating the silk worms with a toothpick.

The taste is nothing special, nor is it particularly revolting (thought the smell takes some getting used to), but the actual feel of a silkworm larvae in your mouth, complete with the explosion that comes with the first bite, is what makes this Korean food so hard to swallow.

South Korea has quite a culinary landscape, and these 4 strange foods are only a small sample of the country’s delicious, but alternative offerings.

South Korea’s culinary diversity is in large part due to the country’s history as a trading ground for the Japanese, Chinese and Korean peoples, each of whom have contributed dishes to the country’s cuisine. You can eat at some great places or get food for next to nothing. Did we miss any great food spots? Let us know.

James Yeong
James Yeong

Once a quaint dweller of the English countryside, James is now a vibrant voice narrating his adventures in the bustling heart of South Korea. Since relocating to Seoul in 2019, James has immersed himself in the dynamic tapestry of Korean culture, from the serene temples tucked away in mountainous terrains to the neon-lit streets of modern cities.

This blog has become a haven for those seeking an outsider's yet intimate perspective on South Korea, often shedding light on hidden gems and local favourites rather than just the typical tourist hotspots. With a keen eye for detail and a writing style dripping with wit and warmth, James has managed to amass a devoted readership from all corners of the globe.

Whether you're planning a trip to the Seoul, the surrounding cities or just vicariously traveling from the comfort of your couch, Jame's tales of exploration and discovery are sure to ignite a passion for the Land of the Morning Calm.

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