Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Food Firsts in Jeonju

There are certain foods that should be on every foreigner's "to try" list during their stay in Korea. While in Jeonju, I was able to try quite several strange foods that I wouldn't try on a normal day. Here's what we had:

홍어회 (hong-aw- fermented sashimi ) on the right and boiled 심겹살 (samgyupsal- fatty pork) on the right. Put them together with kimchi, and you get 홍어삼합 : hong-aw sam hap, or litterally hong-aw sum of three. Actually, I didn't eat this one but, you can see my friend trying it here. He's more adventurous than I.

번데기 (bondaegi) is silkworm larvae. I've always felt as though I should try this, but never could get up the guts. But, as my friend is preparing to leave Korea in the next month or so, he's trying to try as many things as possible, and got me involved too. Usualy on the street they sell this from huge vats of the stuff that you can smell from a mile away. The smell is usually enough to quell any desire in me to try it, but here as it was just served in such a small portion, I wasn't appaled by the smell. There's actually a video of me eating it, but it might discourage people from trying if I showed it publicly. Lets just say my friend thought they tasted like raisins, but a little crunchier. To me, it was edible, but far from enjoyable. Anyway, it's something everyone has to try at some point. I had to get it over eventually.

This one wasn't on my list, but I figured I'd throw it on here anyway. These are small crabs that you eat whole, shell and all. They're not bad, actually, and a lot less effort than trying to fish out meat from a crab shell.

Here's 돼지머리 (dwegi mori- pig's head). The thought of eating pig's head is a little disgusting, but if I hadn't actually seen the pigs head for sale before they process them and make it look like this normal looking meat product it wouldn't have grossed me out so much. When you see the actual pig's head for sale in the market with the snout, nose, mouth etc. all there for the world to see, it makes it a bit less palatable. Anyway, upon trying it I found that it was quite tasty. If I hadn't had the awful image of the pig's heads for sale in the market I would have definitely eaten more. They put some sort of spice that almost tasted like some sort of Italian seasoning in it. It was quite pleasant. This one is highly recommended.
Sorry for the blurry picture here, this is 산낚지 (sannakgi- live octopus). I actually didn't eat it here, but I've had it before. It's called live octopus because, even though it's been cut up, the octopus is still moving around a bit. It's really fun when you try to pick it up and it clings to the plate, seemingly trying to futiley save its life. It's a bit chewy, and they say that if you don't chew it well enough, it can cling to your esophagus as it goes down. I don't really think that's true, but just to be on the safe side, I'd chew well anyway...

Just for future reference, I thought I'd make a list here of all the strange food a foreigner should try while here in Korea. Let me know if I should add anything else to this list. I'll start with what I posted here.
  • 산낙지- live octopus
  • 돼지머리- pig's head
  • 번데기- silkworm larvae
  • 홍어회- fermented sashimi
  • 회- hwei- Korean style raw fish
  • 곱장- gopchang- marinated fried intestines
  • 순대-sundae- intestines, often filled with noodles
  • 보신탕- boshintang- dog meat soup
  • 육회-yukhwei- raw beef
  • 족발- jeokbal- pig feet meat
That's all I can think of at the moment. Any other "must try" foods that you can think of, please mention in the comments! Thanks!


  1. I think the pig items are the only things on that list I'd ever try. Mostly because pig brain tamales are amazing. For your list: I saw a youtube video about fermented skate in Korea. And maybe blowfish. Oh! And don't forget baby mice rice wine.

  2. I think the 홍어회 is actually fermented skate. But Koreans don't know the word for skate so I just learned that it was some sort of fish...

  3. Snails are high on a lot of people's ickiness scales, so you could add golbaengi--marine snail.
    Coagulated oxblood soup--seonji haejangguk.

  4. Good ones Steve, I've had both... Golbengi was too chewy for me, and the blood soup I tried (I don't know if it was the same as the one you mentioned, but it was some sort of coagulated blood soup) was.... well.... not something I want again. It was a very sad day when I was served that for breakfast one morning near Yongpyong...