10 Bizarre and Controversial Delicacies to Try in South Korea

10 Bizarre and Controversial Delicacies to Try in South Korea

From mildly bizarre to downright disturbing, look out for these 10 weird delicacies in Korea. If you have the guts (or stomach), try them!

Every culture has its list of bizarre foods, and of course Korea is no exception. Think kimchi was the weirdest thing you ate in Korea? Well, you’re wrong! Here is a list of the most bizarre Korean delicacies you can try the next time you’re in Korea — if you dare, that is.

Also Read: 10 Must-Try Street Delicacies in Seoul

10. Gaebul (Live Spoon Worms)

Image credits: J. Patrick Fischer

Koreans love their seafood, whether cooked, raw, or dare I say it, live. Spoon worms are a type of marine animal very commonly found in Korean fish markets. The phallic-like appearance of spoon worms, coupled with its rumoured aphrodisiac properties, earned them the nickname of “penis fish”. Usually eaten raw and live, gaebul are usually cut into bite-sized pieces which continue to wriggle around on the plate, before they are popped into our oral cavities. Apparently it tastes like saltwater.

Here’s a video:

9. Chueotang (Mudfish Soup)

Most often found in the southern parts of Korea, Chueotang is a delicacy often touted for its health properties. It is often served to patients with high blood pressure and obesity problems, as it contains unsaturated fats which help in reducing cholesterol levels. In addition, it contains calcium, proteins and vitamins and is also said to be great for the skin.

Chueotang is made by crushing and grounding entire mudfish, bones and all, and cooking it in a broth together with leeks, spring onions, doenjang (soybean paste), and gokchujang (red pepper paste).

Simply put, it goes from this:

Image credits: koreabridge.net

to this:

Image credits: Dalgial

Don’t worry, the mudfish will be cleaned of mud first.

8. Sannakji (Live Octopus)

weird korean food

Image credits: LWYang

I told you Koreans like their seafood live, didn’t I? In all honesty though, this has got to be one of more famous bizarre delicacies that foreigners know of. Just do a quick search on Youtube and one will see many videos detailing foreigners’ experiences with the tentacled animal. The more common way is to eat small, bite-sized pieces of the live octopus, though brave souls can try eating them whole, like this couple:

Image credits: DailyMail Online

There is a certain level of danger when eating this, and one should proceed with caution—octopi’s suckers continue to function even when they are chopped up, so do chew thoroughly . Another way is to dip the tentacles in sesame oil and soy sauce.

7. Soondae (Blood Sausage)

Image credits: Byoung Wook

The British have black pudding, the Taiwanese have pig’s blood cake, and the Koreans have soondae. Dangmyeon (cellophane noodles), glutinous rice, and pig’s blood are the main ingredients that make up the Korean equivalent of blood sausages. Other ingredients include perilla leaves, barley, etc, and all these are stuffed into intestinal casings, before being boiled and cooked in various ways. Ubiquitously found on the streets or in markets, soondae tastes pretty mild, though they are often served with a spicy sauce.

Image credits: Nachan87

After you’ve tried soondae on its own, you might want to challenge yourself further, and head down to a mom-and-pop eatery to try soondae-guk, a stew of soondae and innards in a spicy broth. A word of advice though — share it with someone, if you have any regard for the condition of your arteries!

6. Hongeo (Fermented Skate)

Image credits: Hong, Yun Seon

Yeah, it looks harmless, but this is one dish both locals and foreigners inevitably gag when they first smell it. Because skate excrete uric acid — the main substance that makes your pee smell — through their skin, fermenting skate breaks down the uric acid into ammonia, which activates our gag reflexes. In fact, the smell is so strong that it is recommended one breathes in through the mouth and out through the nose, just so you don’t get too overwhelmed by the stink. It is said to taste best when paired with kimchi and bossam (boiled fatty pork slices), or with makgeolli (rice wine) which helps diners bear with the pungent smell. Perhaps it’s because they get drunk enough….

Want an idea of how bad it smells? Try leaving your dirty and sweaty socks in an enclosed bag for a few days, then take a whiff. If that doesn’t knock you out, go ahead and try hongeo, and tell me how it goes!

5. Tarakjuk/Uyujuk (Milk Porridge)

Image credits: TravelBlog

This is probably the mildest delicacy on this list. Tarakjuk, or milk porridge, is one of the few Korean traditional foods that uses milk in its preparation. It is made by boiling milk and finely ground rice in water. Tarakjuk was traditionally served to rulers of the Joseon dynasty because of the multiple nutrients it contains and its many health benefits. It is purported to be able to strengthen the kidney, lungs, as well as the large intestine, among others.

4. Bokjili (Blowfish Soup)

Image credits: Doramakun.ru

The more famous cousin of Bokjili is a dish from Japan called Fugu. Ring a bell? Yes, I’m referring to that highly neurotoxic pufferfish, for which Japanese chefs have to have a certified license to be able to prepare and sell. Fugu in Japan is an expensive delicacy because of this reason. Korea’s take on blowfish is something similar, though the regulations regarding the preparation and sale of this delicacy are much more lax and easier to find. Prices are also much more affordable than its Japanese counterpart. The most common way of preparation is bokjili, a broth comprising blowfish meat, red pepper, and herbs. I have yet to try it myself, but I’ve read that the texture of the fish meat is light and puffy, as though one is eating a cloud (or maybe cotton candy). It is also rumoured that some people ask for a little bit of poison to be left inside the soup, to get some sort of high, though whether it is a genuine or placebo effect I have no idea. If you have tried the soup with poison, do let us know your thoughts!

3. Gejang (Raw Crabs)

You read that right. Raw crabs. This dish is so popular that there is an entire alley dedicated to this delicacy. The literal translation of gejang is “crab condiment”. While it used to refer to raw crabs marinated in soy sauce, there are now two kinds of gejang:

Ganjang gejang (soy sauce crabs),

Image credits: LWYang

and yangnyeom gejang (seasoned crabs), so one must be clear about how the crabs are done.

Image credits: gobizkorea.com

Looks a little like chilli crabs, doesn’t it?

The crabs of choice are usually small baby crabs, with soft shells, so one can eat them all. In some variations, hard shell crabs may also be used. And when you’re done with the meat, don’t waste the sauce! Put some rice in the crab’s body shell, pour a little of the gravy, mix well, and eat out of the shell. Mmmm, delicious!

2. Beondaegi (Silkworm pupae)

Image credits: Meniscus

Often served with alcohol, beondaegi is essentially steamed or boiled silkworm pupae served in a cup, together with all the juice that is a result from the steaming. The snack can often be bought from street vendors, as well as in watering holes and restaurants. It is so popular that they are also sold in canned form in convenience stores and Korean markets outside of Korea.


Image credits: Koreabridge

It doesn’t taste disgusting or unusual, but the idea of having an insect in my mouth is reason enough for me to put it on this list.

Okay, if you’re a dog lover, I’d suggest you stop here. Really. You have been warned.

Because the most bizarre, and weirdest food, on my list, is this:

1. Boshintang (Dog Stew)

Image credits: Koreabridge

Literally translated as “invigorating soup”, boshintang is said to be a good source of protein and energy. As such, it is traditionally eaten on the three hottest days on the lunar calender, also referred to as “dog days”. It has also been claimed to strengthen virility. Dog meat is the primary ingredient, cooked in a broth along with spring onions, gokchujang (red pepper paste) and doenjang (soybean paste). The taste is said to be like roast beef with a little more grease and fat.

Image credits: Beeniru

The practice of eating boshintang used to be more commonplace in the past. In recent years, however, the number of boshintang restaurants has dropped, due to the decrease in demand for boshintang, as well as greater awareness of the plight of these dogs raised for consumption. People now replace dog meat with chicken or beef. Despite it being technically illegal, the dish can still be found in specialty restaurants around Korea, so if you see the dish on the menu, don’t freak out.

Personally, though, I can’t get over the image of eating dog meat, and I’m not even a canine lover, so I don’t think I’ll be trying this any time soon.

Also read: 21 Bizarre Asian Delicacies That You Either Love or Hate

There you have it; Korea’s weirdest (and controversial) delicacies that I dare you to try! Well, perhaps with the exception of boshintang. Have you tried any other bizarre foods in Korea? Tell me in the comments below! And if I’ve whetted your adventurous appetite, head on over and start searching for your perfect Korea travel package!

About Author

Rosxalynd Liu
Rosxalynd Liu

A book-lover who loves losing herself in fantasy and historical fiction, Rosxalynd is working towards her goal of viewing and unravelling the mysteries the world has to offer. On her month-long travels, she eats, sleeps, and lives like a local, whilst taking in the touristic sights her destinations have to offer. Having a terrible sense of direction allows her to experience many things off the beaten track.