5 Crazy, Weird, Bizarre Korean Foods for the Brave – Seoulistic

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.

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.

Keith Kim is a Korean-American who has been living in Korea for almost a decade. Being in a unique position as both a Korean and a non-Korean, he's put all his experience and knowledge for surviving in Korea in Survival Korean . Read it to learn how you can survive in Korea. Follow him on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.


  1. bailey.lateo says:

    I cant wait to have that for dinner tonight

  2. debrat says:

    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!

  3. Karina says:

    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

  4. sogand says:

    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???

  5. Yeol says:

    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.

  6. Paul S. McAlduff says:

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

  7. Tina says:

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

  8. Milly says:

    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.

  9. korean foodie says:

    While the list is great, some corrections are in order! Jokbal is not pig feet as a whole but rather the meat and cartilage off of them. Also, it’s silk worm casing without the larvae themselves! That is, you eat theleft over casing after a molt, not the actual larvae! Otherwise, great list!

  10. cá cơm says:

    I had a chance to try fermented crabs with soysauce, it’s also nice.

  11. Its beautiful to read your blog. Your contents are awesome

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