What Korean Food Don’t I Like?

As a non-Korean who’s interested in Korean culture I get asked a lot of questions about my obsession with… er, I mean love of… all things Korean. Some of the most common questions – whether here in Canada or when I lived in Korea – revolved around Korean food. Do I like kimchi? Yes. Is kimchi too spicy? No. What was my favourite Korean food? Doenjang jiggae 된장 찌개, which is a spicy soybean paste soup.

I’ve answered a lot of the questions about food before but one question that I’ve only briefly touched on is about which Korean food that I didn’t like. Now’s a good time. ^^ But first I want to touch on something that’s always confused me – apparently I like a lot of Korean food that non-Koreans aren’t supposed to. Dishes like doenjang jiggae, sundae 순대, which is similar to blood sausage but stuffed with glass noodles and goes great with tteokbokki, makchang gui/gopchang 막창구이/곱창, which is grilled/barbecued pork intestines  (I had it for Christmas dinner one year by accident) and dried squid 오징어채, which is oh so perfect with beer. Which begs the question – what Korean food am I supposed to like?

But I digress. ^^

While I loved exploring the many wonderful, delicious and different dishes that Korea has to offer, there were a few that I didn’t like, one I just couldn’t bring myself to try and a couple that kind of creeped me out. Read on to find out which!

Korean Food I Don’t Like

Bondaegi 번데기

The smell, the awful, awful smell. Bongaegi is a popular street food, especially in smaller towns in Korea (or at least I saw/smelled it more often in smaller towns and cities than in Seoul) and I first remember smelling it at a festival one of my co-workers brought me to about a month after I’d arrived in Korea. What is it? Roasted silkworm larvae. But in all honesty my dislike of it has nothing to do with the fact that I’d be eating bugs but rather the smell is simply horrible. It took me more than a year before I had enough courage to try it – I ate still wiggling octopus way before I could get past the smell of bondaegi. Sorry, but the taste isn’t good either but then many of my Korean friends don’t like it either so it’s not just me being a foreigner.

Oh wait… there really is only one Korean food that I truly disliked. Of course, there are a few dishes that were simply ‘okay’, neither good nor bad but bondaegi is the only Korean food I would run screaming from and it’s a snack food. However, there were a few that unnerved me and so I probably won’t eat again either. Read on for more!

The One Korean Food I Couldn’t Try

Kaegogi 개고기/Boshintang 보신탕

As much as I tried to be adventurous and try everything Korean had to offer at least once, I couldn’t make myself eat kaegogi – dog meat – or boshintang – dog soup. I have no problem with others eating it, to do so would be hypocritical as I eat a wide variety of meat, but I was raised with a pet dog so I just can’t eat dog meat myself. And yeah, I understand that I wouldn’t be eating my pet… but I just can’t do it… for emotional reasons.

Korean Foods that Creep Me Out

Dalk Bal 닭발

Chicken feet, yep… chicken feet in a spicy sauce. I liked the sauce and to be honest, the one chicken foot I tried tasted just fine, if a little chewy, but they look like little baby’s hands. I guess I just have too much imagination because the one time I ordered them – I loved trying out new dishes in Korea – the look on my face sent the ajumma serving me into a fit of giggles. Now I know a lot of people who love them – and like I said, they taste fine – but I just can’t get past the visual. My bad!

San Nakji 낙지

If the ajumma thought my reaction to chicken feet was funny, she should have seen my reaction to live octopus (live, still wiggling octopus). I tried this with a friend during my first year in Korea and we were seated on the floor, Korean style, when it was served. I literally, and to my eternal shame, crawled away from the table on my hands and butt with an expression of horror on my face apparently. The ajumma serving us (a different one) kindly stopped me and helped me back to the table while I’m sure lecturing me to be more courageous. However, once back at the table and watching her chop it up – we didn’t have the courage to try it un-chopped – I gathered my courage, listened to her explain how to roll each piece carefully in sesame oil and chew carefully as the suction cups still work (and therefore can still pose a choking hazard). Turns out it’s not bad after all but I still prefer it cooked! Because it’s creepy to watch your food wiggling on the plate as you eat it as it moves for a few minutes AFTER it’s chopped.

Gaebul 개불

It’s a marine spoon worm but it resembles… umm… Google it and find a picture of it still alive. I’m sorry but every time I went to a fish market and saw a tank of these, I would burst out laughing. Okay, they don’t look creepy but… I just can’t eat them.

What about you? Do you like all Korean food? Which don’t you like? Have you tried the foods I mentioned? 

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

9 thoughts on “What Korean Food Don’t I Like?

  • July 4, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Many Koreans dislike/can’t eat those kind of food as well 🙂 but I guess Bondaegi is bit common than others.

    • July 4, 2012 at 3:27 pm

      Yeah, most of my female Korean friends don’t like bondaegi. But good to know my taste isn’t uncommon!

  • July 5, 2012 at 11:42 am

    On this issue, we are like (almost) twinsie! I do not eat everything you said here you don’t. I can’t, and I don’t want to. Plus, I don’t even eat 막창/곱창. I also don’t eat is 돼지껍데기 and 천엽. And I think dogs are too good for Koreans and we Koreans will all go to hell for how we treat dogs. I too come from home with dogs, and they were angels..

    Mostly, though, Korean food simply rocks. 순두부찌게 and 고등어구이 combo is definitely my favourite, and of course 주물럭 or 삼겹살 with 소주… ㅎㅎ

    • July 5, 2012 at 11:50 am

      순두부찌게 and 고등어구이 combo is great in winter! And while I prefer 백세주, 복분자주, or 맥주 over 소주… all are great with 삼겹살 (well, maybe not 복분자주 but it goes well with 갈비). There is so much Korean food that I love… that list is much, much longer!! We should have dinner together soon!

  • July 7, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Ha, I grew up eating a lot of 번데기 but the smell and the texture can be pretty off-putting to many. I also ate a few of 산낙지 (but always post-chop) and liked it….as for others on the list, I have never tried them myself either 🙂

    • July 7, 2012 at 7:15 pm

      I think 번데기 is something you either love or hate… there seems to be no middle ground. But I’m always up for trying new things 🙂

  • July 16, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Good article, and you’re far less picky than me. Without getting too detailed, I’m not a fan of any internal organ food, particularly 순대 and 소머리국밥.

    And perhaps soju belongs on your list, judging by your reaction, if only to emphasise how unpleasant the mass-produced stuff is.

    • July 16, 2012 at 10:18 am

      Thanks Jon! I grew up eating liver so internal organs don’t bother me 🙂

      I thought about adding soju to the list but I don’t mind it mixed (yogurt soju), I just prefer bekseju or bokbunja-ju as they taste better.

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