Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Break from Reality: Weird Things Koreans Eat

Note:  I can't fix the font sizes. I don't know what's wrong.  I apologize if it makes your eyes cross.

 The drama continued today with Julia making Ian's life very difficult.  He went to work a half an hour early to do more prep.  Julia chose not to look at the material that Ian gave her yesterday until this afternoon.  So, she was giving him suggestions (read: demands) on his worksheets (that he put hours into and gave her ample time to look at) minutes before his classes started.  She also changed her mind about many of the lesson plans and worksheets she okay'd yesterday.

But, Ian seemed like he was in a better mood when I talked to him on the phone tonight.  Maybe she laid off toward the end of the day.

But, instead of dwelling on this business and telling you how inadequate and dehumanized we feel and how I can't stop thinking about all the sacrifices we made in the name of travel and experiences that might not happen, I thought I'd break from real life for a few minutes and show you some strange things that Korean people find delicious and nutritious.  I know we've briefly discussed these before, but here's another list for your reading pleasure (or gagging).

Beondegi (번데기)
Beondegi are boiled silkworm pupa that are seasoned and eaten as a snack.  Every mart has cans of them in stock (often in impressive numbers) and you can by them from a vendor stirring a big pot of them at any decent size outdoor market.  Nothing smells quite like them.  It's the only smell in Korea that still affects me (read: makes me want to vomit).

Dotorimuk (도 토리묵 )
This is one thing that Ian and I have actually tried.  I think Chun wha served it to us, but I can't remember when or where.  Maybe Chuseok?  Anyway, it's a starch jelly made from acorns (served in very geometrical chunks that make it look a bit like opaque brown jello).  It tastes a bit like tree, but the texture was too much to get over at the time.  Very slippery.  I wonder how we'd feel if we tried it again, now that we are more accustomed to Korean food.

San Ojingeo or San Nakji (산 오징어 or 산 낙지)
This one is pretty well known.  It's live squid or octopus (respectively).  It can be served chopped up (the tentacles still move) or whole.  There's a pretty gut wrenching scene in Old Boy featuring this cuisine here.  Considering research has shown that octopi have a consciousness similar to dogs and dolphins, it's not one something I like to think about.

Bosintang (보신탕)
Speaking of dogs, bosintang is a soup made from dog meat, vegetables and spices.  A heavy dose of spices, at that, to mask the pungent odor.  Manufacturing and/or selling dog meat has been illegal since 1984, but the practice continues.  People in this part of Asia have been eating dog meat for centuries, tying the practice to increased strength and virility.  The dish is most popular in the hottest month of summer, August (the "dog days," if you will).  Many foreigners are sold the idea of dog farms and slaughtering practices similar to that of pigs and cattle, but in reality, that's not so.  Many dogs slaughtered for their meat are kept in horrid conditions (or taken from the street) and then tortured to "release the adrenaline" so that the eater can ingest this "power."  I've read that the torturing practices have roots in the Korean War.  Any kind of dog can be slaughtered, despite common misconceptions that certain dogs are bred for it.  That said, may Korean people abstain from eating dog meat and protest the practice, as well.

There are plenty of other strange things to consume in Korea, dried squid, Army Base soup (complete with American cheese, ramen noodles, spam and hot dogs), burgers with rice patties instead of buns, and pastries with odd combinations like sugar and garlic (which, is a flavor duo I've grown accustomed to).

Sweet (or bizarre) culinary dreams. Good night!


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Sorry Mama, but, like you said, it had to be done.