Food in South Korea: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Food in South Korea can be seriously weird. This is not an opinion piece, this is fact. My boss just told me a new Octopus restaurant opened in Munsan today. No, it’s not a seafood restaurant, it’s an OCTOPUS restaurant, as all they serve is various types of Octopus. And if you didn’t already know this, Octopus is served to you alive, wriggling and sliming on a bed of leaves. Instead of a big ink squirting, monster that you may be able to contemplate gobbling up, why not opt for a plate of baby octopus salad… a collection of cute, baby eight-legged morsels of fun.

A popular snack in Korea, especially for hikers who are in need of some protein in a hurry, is to eat some silkworm larvae. That’s right…silkworn LARVAE served to you right off the street. Even as you walk by the street vendor this rancid waft of boiled bugs fills the air and you have to try not to gag at the sight and smell of them. Scorpion, eyeballs and yak’s penis are naught in comparison to these nasty little things. When in comes to weird food in South Korea, this is definitely one of most foul smelling!

If creepy little bugs aren’t your style, you could try taste some dried squid, probably the most popular Korean Food out there! My students won’t stop eating it in class….no matter how much I beg. It is available in every 7-11, supermarket and roadside stall you see. It is a popular snack as it is an excellent source of Selenium, (anti cancer element), Riboflavin (eliminate Anemia and Migraine headaches), and Vitamin B12 (reduce chronic fatigue syndrome). A fine replacement for a Cadburys Dairy Milk or a nice banana don’t you think?!

When I was in Busan over Chuseok, I came across something in the fish market and had no idea what it was. All I knew was that it looked absolutely gross, and if you look at it you too, surely, would find the thought of swallowing it enough to make you sick. Over the last few weeks I have seen it everywhere, in all the seafood restaurants and in big, fish tanks outside stores. It is known as ‘sea cucumber’ or ‘sea slugs’. In restaurants, they chop up the slug, still alive, into pieces that you can dip into red pepper sauce… while it is still wriggling a bit. Quite similar to the Octopus dishes, I guess. Whatever you’re into!

Saving the best for last, the dish Korea is known for, and that had caused much controversy is…dog meat, which is considered a culinary delicacy here. I’m not going to exaggerate and say that it’s ‘readily available in all restaurants’ as it’s not. But it is here and you could probably get it in any Korean town or city if you really wanted it. My boss and his wife have both tried it , never to have eaten it again. Or so they say anyway! They don’t just get any dog off the street or someones pet and cook it up..they have pupose built dog breeding centres, to provide restaurants with the meat, which actually makes it even worse. It’s really awful to think of eating dog, man’s best freind. Woof Woof. 🙁


0 thoughts on “Food in South Korea: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”

  1. intrepidtraveller

    Yeah the dog is pretty disturbing alright. I lime to think im quite adventurous and love trying food in whatever country I go to but the silk worm larvae made me sick and there was no way I was going near the dog meat soup!!

  2. intrepidtraveller

    haha well some of the above are far from appetizing it must be said. Another thing I came across regularly in Korea was shabu shabu..which is a mongolian stew I think. What I hated the most about it was the way it was cooked on the table right in front of you with these HUGE Ox tail and other bones floating away in the stew. It was impossible to actually eat anything as it was full of these huge chunks of bone. Im no veggie but there sure are some things that I can’t bring myself to eat!!

  3. oh good lord…I have to admit that I skimmed through this real fast, b/c I’m too afraid to read and look more ! Yes, I’m that chicken…

  4. intrepidtraveller

    It seems a lot of my students have eaten job. It really surprised me…at least half of them have tried it but Im guessing not my choice but because their parents fed it to them and they didnt question them. A few foreigners living here for a year or two have also tried it. I just could never bring myself to eat it. A lot of the time the skin is left on and it is boiled in a soup…imagine eating dog skin…GROSSS.

  5. oh hello im korean who’s been living in this country over 20 yrs. and i’ve tried none of them! eww.. about dog meat, when i was seriously ill, one of my relatives suggested me to have it (of course i refused. i cant even think of it!) it is considered really bad esp in our generation. i havent met anyone who’s ever tried it. lol i dont think i can be a friend of them..
    well i like sushi, but it is different from live octopus, cos at least they dont move.

  6. intrepidtraveller

    They give Silk worm larvae for free in a lot of restaurants as a started…talk about putting you off your meal!!

  7. intrepidtraveller

    Haha Josh you can’t pick and choose what dogs to eat!! MAD MAN! lol.

    As for the squid and Octopus, ya you’re right…they are in everything. If I actually ate seafood I’ld be in heaven I guess but sadly I don’t thus often feel in hell haha.

  8. I’ve tried the Silk worm Larvae while I was in Gyeongju. It wasn’t that bad actually. It tastes a bit bitter.

    Octopus and squid are served with almost everything here. I remember going to a fancy italian restaurant and ordered Fettucini Pasta..yet I had baby octopus and clams/oysters in it as well. Wasn’t bad but I kinda miss normal pasta.

    Was going to eat dog when a CSer came who was on a food pilgrimage to Korea. He absolutely loves Korean food. He’s a good cook too. However I backed out after reading up on HOW they get the dogs and then grew a conscience. I wouldn’t mind so much if they cooked up those smaller annoying dogs.

  9. intrepidtraveller

    I know right? Yuck, deffo not my ideal dinner that’s for sure!!

  10. intrepidtraveller

    Haha yea I told my vegetarian friend at home she would never survive here either. The concept of ‘vegetarianism’ hasn’t reached Korea yet!!

  11. My friend is living in Korea right now and he has shown me videos of him eating live seafood. So gross! All of these dishes make me want to vomit. I don’t eat mammals because they are so close to humans it freaks me out. I have trouble eating chicken if there are bones in it, I would never make it in Korea!

  12. intrepidtraveller

    Haha Did it taste any good? Ick I really don’t think I could swallow it!

  13. As a child, I occasionally ate Bbeondegi (Korean name of silk worm larvae).
    I teased my mother for it back then because I liked it.
    But nowadays, I can’t easily find Bbeondegi.
    I haven’t seen it in recent years.

  14. intrepidtraveller

    Haha you will have to come to Korea so and see what you think of the calamari here Pozh!!!!

  15. intrepidtraveller

    I knew ya wouldn’t like this post Kel…I’m no veggie but this food is just WRONG, would nearly put me off eating meat that’s for sure.

  16. GAHHH! Ok… the dog meat – sick, sick, sick. That picture hurts my heart 🙁

    To me any sort of meat is cruel… but oh god… not my frickin PETS!!!!!!!!!


  17. intrepidtraveller

    Hey Andri! What kind of weird food do they have in Ice-land? 🙂 Korean food would make any other food look delicious!

  18. intrepidtraveller

    I wouldn’t eat dog either .No way! Lots of people here say..”When in Rome…” but I draw the line here…now am I tasting that.
    Did you eat Guinea Pig? Poor little Guinea Pigs.

  19. Ohh, i would have no respect for you if you eat dog!

    When i was in Ecuador, locals were trying to get me eat Guinea pig, i was like ‘That’s a pet for a little girl’

    Girl comes home from skool, ‘Where’s Sammy, Sammy’s missing!’
    Mother: sut up and eat yer dinner.

    A mate of mine tole me how he say about 50 Guiea Pigs in a Kitchen, all running around, the cook would grab on and cook it. I didn’t believe it, until i went on a lost trail treck in Peru.

    There was Guinea Pigs flyng all over the kitchen of a restaurant, i have video of it too!!!

    I would rather starve, thank you.

  20. intrepidtraveller

    I’ld agree with you there Brooke, some of their breads are pretty good esp in ‘Paris Baguette’…but some of them are real weird too..I think they use different ingredients than we would usually use.

    I totally forgot to write about ‘Dog meat’ so am gonna do a quick edit and add that now!

  21. I’m an avid bakery consumer. Some of the bread there is pretty good. They have a decent french loaf and the pastries rival Krispie Kreme donuts. Peanut butter and jams are used on breads instead of cheese and mustard. Oh how I miss a good cheese plate with a nice glass of wine.

  22. intrepidtraveller

    Yea, Koreans don’t really do dairy. Even their bread ain’t all that good. The only cheese in the local supermarket is processed slices. Ick. You’ll get used to the food here quickly enough…and be prepared to lose lots of weight!! 🙂

  23. That was even a little difficult to read/see, much less be there to see it & smell it in person! Yikes. I hear octopus really isn’t that bad though (according to someone else’s opinion, guess I’ll have to find out myself). I’m just a bit worried because as cheese and butter are my favorite food and I really haven’t heard of any Korean dishes with these ingredients… heaven help me.

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