5 Crazy, Weird, Bizarre Korean Foods for the Brave

Korean food is becoming popular world wide, and galbi, bibimbap, and kimchi jjigae have become terms known by Korean food connoisseurs and casual fans alike. One of the reasons Korean food has been successful is that it is generally well suited for taste buds all across the globe and there’s a wide variety of dishes making it easy for people to find something they like.

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But Korean food is more than just bibimbap and kimchi. There’s a whole range of dishes that most non-Koreans have never even heard about. This is Korean food for the brave. Whether it be because of taste, smell, texture, or spiciness, these bizarre Korean dishes are on the extreme end of the spectrum, so much that even some Koreans won’t eat them.

Here’s a list of 5 of the strangest Korean dishes.  Read on to see if you’re brave enough to try them.

Beongdegi (번데기)

(photo credit: http://maskfighter23.blogspot.com/)
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, it’s 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.

 

Tip 1: Find these in markets and large parks in Korea. They can also be found in Korean supermarkets around the world.
Tip 2: Korean supermarkets in America will sell these in cans, but they are labeled as fish bait.

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.

Tip: If you’re living in Korea, these are delivered nation-wide, usually 24 hours a day.

Chicken Feet – Dalkbal (닭발)

Korea does chicken really well, but this chicken dish probably won’t be seen on the cooking network in the near future. Why is dalkbal a Korean food for the brave? Well, dalkbal is a whole chicken foot, bones and all. Once it’s in your mouth, scrape off the little bit of meat that is on the bone with your teeth. If the talon scraping doesn’t scare you, there’s another reason you should be afraid. Dalkbal is known to be one of the spiciest dishes in Korea. The combination of a chicken foot in your mouth and mind numbing spiciness requires a certain level of bravery for even the most experienced Korean food connoisseurs.

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.

Fermented Skate – Hongeo (홍어)
This is another 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!

Do you know any other Korean foods that require a bit of courage? Share with us in the comment section.

About Keith

Keith Kim is a Korean-American living in Seoul, Korea. He likes espresso shots, photography art and he loves his Playstation 3. He started seoulistic.com as a hobby site, and is now in the process of turning it into a full-time business. Wish him luck! Check out his blog for an uncensored view on entrepreneurship, dating and life in Korea.Personal Blog: gyopokeith.com Facebook: facebook.com/gyopokeithkim Twitter: @gyopokeith Youtube: "Gyopokeithe-mail me anytime at: gyopokeith [at] gmail.com

49 comments

  1. The chicken feet is not scary at all. It’s a delicacy in chinese culture too.
    I love it.

    Now.. the octopus is a different story….. I don’t think I can eat that.

  2. Matt

    I don’t like the title…calling things that are popular in other cultures ‘crazy, weird and bizarre’ is a little bit condescending. Chicken feet are popular in China…and pigs feet are eaten all over the world!

    • Anonymous Jewish Pedophile

      You’re using the Chinese as a barometer? Dumbass, low-IQ American animal.

  3. Damaris

    It’s very interesting to see what other country eat. The pigs feet and Chicken feet are very common things to eat in Puerto Rico which is were I come from. I’m willing to try the sting ray but the octopus and silk worm are a maybe for me lol.

  4. Octopus is a lot of fun to eat. It’s dead, but moving :)

  5. Camille

    chicken feet are also common in our country, i’ts a popular Filipino street food and usually called “adidas”!..sure you’ve guessed easily why is it named like that :)

  6. I’m guessing adidas is not the traditional name lol 😀

  7. ASweets

    Well that’s interesting but I’m gonna pass on all of the above lol.

  8. Tried em all. They were all pretty good, except beondegi. That stuff is effing gross.

  9. Oh it aiint too bad. Just gotta get used to the popping :)

  10. Marishka

    I tried only 번데기, but would like to taste the others^^

  11. Edric Ting

    Anyone tried dog meat yet? I heard it’s good… but cruel it sounds…

  12. John

    Toughest part about eating the stingray is that it looks like it’s smiling at you.

  13. Chicken feet is quite a common dish in my country (I’m from Indonesia), although not everyone willing to eat it. And, silkworm larve also be eaten in some of our regions. I admit they’re not for everyone though, (not for me either). But that live octopus! God! I will never ever eat it!!

    • Octopus isn’t that bad! Just get the cut up version :)

  14. JonB

    Pigs feet? Pretty common in the grocery stores back home. In the South, anyway. Never have cared for it much myself.

    I really don’t like fish or seafood, but I’m tempted to try the octopus. Apart from the wriggling, how’s the taste?

  15. Envy

    I have eaten 홍어 and loved it. But, you are right that it is weird and many of my korean colleagues are surprised that I (foreigner) like it :)

  16. myra

    In the Philippines, we have chicken blood..very tasty! I wanna try the live octopus!

  17. Chicken blood? Can you get a lot of blood from a chicken???

  18. Yuri

    lol chicken feet and pig feet bring back alot of childhood memories of when my dad & uncles would try to get me to try them and the sting ray I remember seeing people eat them in soup’s around the beaches in Mexico. (I’m Mexican by the way)

  19. Liam

    I’ve eaten all of these foods many times over and I’m able to give some advice if needed. The live squid doesn’t taste unlike sushi, in fact it doesn’t taste bad at all if you’ve a liking for raw fish. But the texture is a tough go for some people. In addition to that, you need to chew it THOROUGHLY because the tentacle suckers are still working just fine and will stick to your throat on the way down if not crushed first. Several deaths a year result from improperly chewed live octopus. This might sound funny, but beware an unknawed eight-legger. They’re killers!

    The worst of what is listed above if Bundeogi. Hands down. It smells worse that it tastes, but that’s no silver lining. Trust me. It’s a fowl food, disliked amongst almost everyone. And the few folks who claim to like it, are in fact just saying they can stomach it, and there’s a big difference there. I can stomach it too …. but it’s wretched. Straight up.

  20. Peggy

    I’m fine with any of those except for the 번데기… I don’t know why, but I can’t stomach the thought of eating anything involving “worm” in its name…
    And that is why I hate gummy worms xP

  21. Better brush your teeth after eating any of those dishes 😀
    Recommended for a romantic meal? lol.

  22. Joan

    번데기 먹고 봤어요. 괜찮은데요 ^^ 우리 나라에 닭발이 있지만 아직 안 먹고봤어요. 한국 닭발이 맛있겠어요. will try it and live octopus next time I visit Korea. Thanks for this post!

  23. Timothy

    Silkworm larvae is fine. The first time I tried it I only had two or three from a street vendor and thought they were pretty bad, but not disgusting. So I tried them twice more at friends’, just steamed or boiled. By the end I was eating them by the spoonful. I likened it to what it would be like if you could make popcorn soup. A sort of squishy popcorn soup.

  24. Sherry

    I tried the silkworm cocoons in Vietnam, I ate around 10 of them, they wernt that bad apart from the skin which didnt break up.
    I also Tried dog meat in Cambodia, as I only eat chicken I found this a bit harder to eat. I had barbaqued dog rib and a bit of leg meat, it was okay until I ate a charred bit which had so much flavour I couldnt take anymore. However the locals in Vietnam told me the best dog meat to eat is boiled, the flavour isnt as strong and its soft and good to eat. A lot of people I spoke to said that dog was their favorite food, Im guessing this will be the same as Korea =)

  25. kat

    Chicken feet is quiet common in our country too (Philippines) haha lol but I don’t really like it, mainly bec of having the mentality that who knows where that chicken have stepped on while it’s alive XD lol
    and chicken blood, yes. It’s called ‘betamax’, one of the local streetfood :) it’s basically a grilled blood, and it might sound revolting, but it actually tastes a bit sweet and really soft with a little burnt taste (depending on how it’s grilled). It looks like this http://www.blogalag.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/02/12/20080211betamax5x.jpg :)

    Oh another weird local delicacy is called Isaw (barbequed chicken / pig intestines — I prefer chicken. lol) The intestines are cleaned, turned inside out, and cleaned again, repeating the process several times. They are then either boiled, then grilled, or immediately grilled on sticks. It’s quite popular, and you can choose variety of dips, sweet, sweet and spicy, etc! :) http://www.flickr.com/photos/imgianamp/6126650154/

    and yeah, when I get to Korea, I’d definitely try variety of food! (but maybe I’ll try to stay away from the silkworms and stingray XD ) haha I can’t wait!

  26. Filippo

    Apart the first I can try the others XD
    Suggestion for good restaurants in Seul ?
    Look also to this horror of the italian cousine cheese with living worms :
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfzPzPkSX3s&feature=related

  27. I am going to try all.. but I am going to feel sorry for the live octopus:( lol

  28. Tilly

    I’ve always been extremely intrigued by the live octopus. Definitely something I want to try!! The rest, I’m not so sure… :)

  29. When I was in Korea I ate sliced live octopus at Yagalchi market in Busan. That was awesome 😀 especially for guy from Poland. Unusual meal hah!

  30. may

    ewwww bailey and jacob im not a bully

  31. bailey.lateo

    I cant wait to have that for dinner tonight

  32. debrat

    While the list is interesting, I’ve noticed since I began watching dramas a few years ago that Korean food and American southern foods are quite similar. Having grown up in Arkansas, we often, and still do, ate pigs feet. We boild them and roast them and I especially like them pickled. We also eat chicken feet…as a matter of fact just picked some up at the farmers market. I’ve also noticed from watching the dramas that Koreans eat a lot of pork neck bones. There is a scene in a drama where there are eating them and my sister and I marvelled and discussed going on a food tour of Korea….we’d feel right at home. Was watching a scene in the reality show, “2 Days 1 Night” where they went to pick “turnip leaves”……known to us southerners as “turnip greens!” I would feel right at home eating lots of Korean food!

  33. Karina

    Jokbal is one of the foods I really want to try in the k drama I do I do it like instantly became something to try. it actually looks really delicious when its cut up so that’s why I really want to try it. I wouldn’t try pigs feet in America though

  34. sogand

    oh this is really bad
    never have this food^^
    thanks for this news~~~
    i cant even smell this food and korean peaple it this food???

  35. Yeol

    Chicken feet is also a famous streetfood here in Philippines ^^
    But the fermented stingray and that ALIVE octopus is just a NO✖️
    I don’t have enough courage to eat that.

  36. Paul S. McAlduff

    Fermented Stingray – Hongeo (홍어) is very common down in the city of Kwangju.

  37. Tina

    You forgot to mention soondae and haejangguk! Blood sausage and blood soup are sure to be considered “bizarre”. :)

  38. Those poor octopi. I get the whole “you have to kill em to eat em” but the proximity of death / the freshness of death is so, so sad, especially when it’s the teeth doing the killing. Don’t they look at you with their sad little beady octopus eyes before inserting them in your mouth? Do the tentacles cover your face as they make their last attempt at survival? I’m being (kinda) facetious, but seriously, I guess this isn’t considered animal cruelty at all, eh? I am coming from a very, very vegetarian, vegan, pro-animal, no animal suffering POV. Don’t kill me. Just asking.