Monday, May 2, 2011

Actually, I won't try the live octopus: a lesson in Korean cuisine

Every traveler has that one end-all-be-all thing that tops the list of the most horrible foreign delicacy they can imagine eating. Giant cockroaches were my topper until last March when I went to South Korea and discovered a dish far more distressing.

I was on my way to Thailand and took a three-day stopover in Seoul for fun. A friend put me in touch with Daniel Gray who runs a Seoul nighttime eating and drinking tour (that's so phenomenal it's worth several articles and blog posts, but I'll have to get to that another time) and I lucked out that he was available to take me out last minute. Now I'd heard about Koreans eating live octopus and had a (soon-to-be-proven-false) idea that the creatures were teeny, tiny squirmy things that you'd pop into your mouth like a wriggling grape or cheese puff. Thinking this was my chance to try something really weird and possibly tasty, I asked Dan if we could go to a place that served the live critters.

"Well it's funny you asked," he said. "Because I just took some people to eat some this morning. Let me show you the video."

I don't have Dan's video, but what he showed me on his phone looked a lot like this - but not sideways:

That might have been enough to talk me out of it but then Dan added the cinching detail: several people per year die from eating octopus this way. The tentacles, still moving whether dead or alive, search for escape - something to latch onto - and the nearest something in your mouth is your windpipe. Yup, they can strangle you from the inside. Now seriously, no sushi I can think of is worth risking my life for and a live octopus could only be slimy and chewy - let alone still moving. No my kids won't have to explain to their friends that their crazy mother got suffocated by eating a live octopus in Korea, no matter how much street cred that might garner.

"OK then," I said. "Lets go eat some barbeque."

And that is another story.


  1. Sorry, NO WAY could I do that. That was weird but I couldn't help but watch. NO THANKS!!!

  2. Oh good lord.


    Foreign delicacies, I usually won't weigh in on regarding whether it's right or wrong. Because that's not my call. It'd be ignorant and daft of me to say "you shouldn't do that".

    In this case, I break that rule.

    That's vile.

    And evidently rather dangerous. Although I think it's a Darwin Award kind of way to go.

    Dear lord.

  3. People tend to not eat the whole octopus anymore since it is a little dangerous. They cut it up first and serve it to you still thrashing about. It isn't the most delicious food in the world, but it certainly is fun to eat!

  4. Mark Buttweiler... give good information..but you are ever taste octopus ,i do not agree your view




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