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
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 산 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.
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?