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Soju Bottle
Notorious Green Bottle

South Korea is well known for its K-pop, ramen noodles, bibimbab, Korean BBQ, and that infamous green bottle of soju. But beyond the ‘known,’ an adventure awaits filled with surprises and delight, especially when it comes to exploring the more unusual things you won’t find at your local restaurant. After living here for over two decades, I’ve tried many of these Korean foods and I suggest you do too…

From spicy chicken feet to fermented skate, the realm of Korean food offers a whole bunch of peculiar yet enticing delicacies. Buckle up and prepare to fly into a world where flavors and textures defy expectations, offering a taste experience like no other…

16 exotic Korean foods to try!

Dak Bal Korean Chicken Feet
DalkBal

1-Chicken Feet (Dalk Bal 닭발)

Chicken Feet, known as Dalk Bal (닭발) in Korean, is a unique and popular delicacy in Korean cuisine. Despite its unconventional nature, chicken feet have gained a significant following among food enthusiasts both in Korea and around the world. One of the most popular Korean foods to have while enjoying some drinks with colleagues…

Origins and Cultural Significance:

Chicken feet have been a part of Korean cuisine for centuries. Initially, they were used in soups and stews for their rich flavor and collagen content. Over time, they evolved into a popular snack and appetizer, often enjoyed with beer and soju, especially in social settings like bars and pubs.

Texture and Flavor:

One of the defining characteristics of chicken feet is their gelatinous texture due to the high collagen content. The sauce adds a spicy kick, making them a favorite among those who enjoy bold flavors. Eating chicken feet is a hands-on experience, requiring diners to nibble the tender meat off the bones, making it both a delicious and interactive dining adventure.

Korean Grilled GopChang
Grilled Version

2-Grilled Intestines (Gobchang Gui 곱창 구이)

Grilled Intestines, known as Gobchang Gui (곱창 구이) in Korean, is another intriguing and popular dish in Korean cuisine. Here’s a detailed overview of this unique and flavorful delicacy:

Origins and Culinary Tradition:

Gobchang Gui, or grilled small intestines, has a long history in Korean cuisine. Traditionally, it was a way to utilize every part of the animal and minimize food waste. Over time, it has transformed into a beloved dish, especially popular among barbecue enthusiasts and adventurous eaters.

Texture and Flavor Profile:

The outer layer becomes crispy and caramelized when grilled, while the inner part remains tender and juicy. The seasoning adds depth to the flavor, making it savory, slightly sweet, and subtly smoky. This harmonious blend of textures and tastes contributes to the dish’s popularity.

Live Squid Strange Korean foods
사진: UnsplashElle Hughes

3-Live Squid and Octopus (San Ojingeo 산 오징어, San Nakji 산 낙지)

 Live Squid (San Ojingeo 산 오징어) and Live Raw Octopus (San Nakji 산 낙지) are exotic and adventurous dishes in Korean cuisine, known for their unique preparation and the thrill of consuming seafood that is still alive. Check your gag reflex at the door! These little tentacles have powerful suckers so be aware!

Unique Preparation:

Live Squid and Live Octopus are prepared in a way that maintains their freshness and vitality until the moment of consumption. The seafood is usually served immediately after being caught, ensuring that diners experience the lively movements and natural textures of the creatures.

Choking Hazard and Safety Measures:

Consuming live seafood poses a choking hazard due to the suction cups on the tentacles, which can stick to the inside of the mouth or throat. As a result, diners need to chew carefully and mindfully while enjoying these dishes. Some diners prefer to cut the tentacles into smaller pieces to minimize the risk.

Texture and Flavor:

Live Squid and Live Octopus offer a unique texture experience. The flesh is incredibly fresh and tender, with a slightly chewy consistency.

Korean Strange Foods. Raw Crab
Raw Crab In Sauce

4-Raw Crabs (Gejang,게장)

Gejang (게장) is a unique and popular Korean dish that involves marinating raw crabs in a special soy sauce-based seasoning. This delicacy is enjoyed for its rich flavors and soft, velvety texture. 

Preparation Process:

Gejang is made by cleaning live fresh crabs thoroughly and marinating them in a sauce made from soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar, and other seasonings. The crabs are typically left to marinate for several hours, allowing the flavors to permeate the delicate crab meat. The result is a dish with a perfect balance of sweetness, saltiness, and umami.

Texture and Flavor Profile:

One of the defining features of Gejang is its unique texture. The crab meat becomes incredibly tender and velvety due to the marination process. The sauce infuses the crab with a deep, savory flavor, transforming the raw seafood into a delectable treat that melts in the mouth. The combination of the sweet, salty, and garlicky notes creates a harmonious taste experience.

Acorn Jelly Korean Dish
Acorn Jelly

5-Acorn Jelly (Dotori Mook,도토리묵)

Dotori Mook (도토리묵), also known as acorn jelly, is a unique and traditional Korean dish made from acorn starch. It has been a staple in Korean cuisine for centuries and is appreciated for its smooth texture and versatility. It took me years to appreciate this one but mixed with some spicy sauce my taste buds got used to its tofu-like texture. 

Acorn Harvesting and Processing:

Dotori Mook is made from the starch extracted from acorns, the nuts of oak trees. The acorns are harvested and processed to remove their bitter tannins. The processed acorn starch is then mixed with water, boiled, and cooled to form a jelly-like substance.

Texture and Preparation:

Dotori Mook has a smooth, slightly chewy texture and a subtle nutty flavor. It is often served in bite-sized cubes or sliced thin and is commonly used in various Korean dishes. The jelly can absorb the flavors of the dishes it is cooked with, making it a versatile ingredient in both savory and sweet preparations.

Korean Hongeo
Not my cup of tea

6-Fermented Skate (Hongeo, 홍어)

Hongeo (홍어), also known as Fermented Skate, is a traditional Korean dish that is both loved and feared for its intense flavor and unique preparation process. 

Fermentation Process:

Hongeo is made by fermenting skate, a type of cartilaginous fish, for an extended period of time. The fermentation process typically lasts for several weeks to months, allowing the fish to develop a strong aroma and distinctive taste. The fish is usually buried in layers of straw or rice bran to facilitate fermentation.

Pungent Odor and Flavor:

One of the most notable features of Hongeo is its powerful odor. The fermentation process produces a strong ammonia-like smell, which can be off-putting to some people. However, fans of this dish appreciate the bold, savory, and slightly tangy taste that accompanies the pungent aroma. The flavor is often described as complex and acquired, making it a culinary adventure for those willing to try it.

7-Dog Meat (Kaegogi 개고기)

The consumption of dog meat, known as Kaegogi (개고기) in Korean, is a controversial and sensitive topic. It’s important to approach this subject with cultural sensitivity and awareness of differing viewpoints. It’s so taboo here and most Koreans have never tried to eat this dish and most think it’s out of date.

Cultural and Historical Context:

The consumption of dog meat has historical roots in some regions of Korea, where it has been considered a traditional food source for centuries. Historically, dog meat was believed to have health benefits and was consumed during specific times of the year, particularly during the hot summer months.

Declining Practice:

In recent decades, there has been a significant decline in the consumption of dog meat in South Korea, particularly among younger generations. Animal welfare concerns, changing attitudes toward pets, and increased international scrutiny have contributed to a decreasing demand for dog meat.

++So, I’ll leave this one short and open ended~~

Silk Worn Larvae
Good Luck!

8-Silkworm Larvae (Beondaeggi, 번데기)

Beondaeggi (번데기) refers to boiled and seasoned silkworm pupae, a popular street food and snack in Korea that might be considered strange by some due to its unique source. 

Source and Preparation:

Beondaeggi are silkworm pupae, which are boiled, seasoned, and then enjoyed as a snack. Silkworms are typically raised for silk production, and their pupae, considered a byproduct, are repurposed into this culinary delight. The pupae are boiled to remove any impurities and then seasoned with a mixture of salt, soy sauce, and sometimes sugar and spices to add flavor.

exotic korean food

Texture and Taste:

Beondaeggi has a unique texture – slightly crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The seasoning provides a savory and slightly salty taste, making it a flavorful snack option. The crunchiness, coupled with the seasoning, creates a distinctive eating experience for those willing to try this unusual delicacy.

Nutritional Value:

Silkworm pupae are a good source of protein and contain essential amino acids, making them a nutritious snack option. While they might not be a mainstream source of nutrition, they offer a unique protein-rich alternative for those looking to diversify their diet.

Adventurous Eating:

For adventurous food enthusiasts and travelers, trying Beondaeggi can be a memorable and culturally immersive experience. Embracing the local culinary customs, even those considered super weird.

Yummy Exotic Korean Food

Pressed Fish
Best with Beer!

9-Pressed Fish (Juipo 쥐포)

Juipo (쥐포) is a traditional Korean dish that involves pressing and fermenting fish to create a unique and flavorful delicacy. I love having this long time favorite as part of more side dishes when having a beer or two.

Preparation Process:

Juipo is made by taking whole fish, often mackerel or croaker, and pressing them under heavy weights to remove excess moisture. The pressed fish are then salted and left to ferment for several weeks or even months, depending on the desired level of fermentation. This process allows the fish to develop a complex umami flavor while preserving it for an extended period.

Texture and Flavor Profile:

Once fermented, Juipo develops a firm texture and a robust, salty-sour taste. The fermentation process imparts a unique depth of flavor, making Juipo a favorite among those who appreciate the complex and intense tastes associated with other traditional Korean foods.

Korean Blood Sausages
A must try

10-Boiled Intestine Sausages(Soondae,순대)

Soondae (순대) is a popular Korean dish made from boiled or steamed sausages filled with various ingredients, including pig’s blood, cellophane noodles, barley, and sometimes rice.

Some people love this as a hot soup but I like mine simply steamed with a bottle of rice wine. It’s a different twist from what I used to eat as a child back in Ottawa, Canada. Being French Canadian my Dad used to make blood sausage on Sunday mornings. We called this ‘Boudain.’ 

Ingredients and Preparation:

Soondae is made by mixing pig’s blood with starch (such as sweet potato noodles or barley), rice, and various seasonings. The mixture is stuffed into natural casings, typically made from pig intestines, although synthetic casings are sometimes used in modern variations. The sausages are then boiled, steamed, or grilled until fully cooked.

Texture and Flavor Profile:

Soondae has a chewy and slightly bouncy texture due to the combination of starch and pig’s blood. It has a subtle earthy flavor from the blood, complemented by the seasonings and fillings. The sausages are often served with dipping sauces, such as a mixture of salt and pepper or a spicy gochujang-based sauce, to enhance the overall taste.

11-Live Spoon Worms (Gaebul,개불)Penis Fish

Gaebul (개불), commonly known as “Penis Fish” due to its phallic shape, is a unique marine creature found in coastal areas of Korea, Japan, and other Asian cultures. It is a type of spoon worm, also known as a fat innkeeper worm. And the first time I saw these I knew that they would never ever forever be eaten by me. No thanks!

Appearance and Habitat:

Gaebul is a marine worm that burrows into sandy or muddy seabeds. It has a long, cylindrical, and soft body with a phallic appearance, which led to its colloquial name “Penis Fish.” Despite its peculiar appearance, Gaebul is considered a delicacy in Korean cuisine.

Culinary Preparation:

Gaebul is typically served raw. The live worms are cleaned thoroughly to remove sand and other impurities. They are then sliced into thin bite-sized pieces and served immediately. Some diners enjoy Gaebul dipped in a mixture of salt and sesame oil, while others prefer it with spicy gochujang (Korean red chili paste) sauce.

Texture and Taste:

When properly cleaned and sliced, Gaebul has a chewy texture and a mild, briny flavor reminiscent of the sea. Its unique texture and subtle taste make it a sought-after delicacy among seafood enthusiasts, despite its unconventional appearance.

12-Blowfish Soup (Bokguk,복국)

Blowfish Soup, known as Bokguk (복국) in Korean, is a traditional Korean dish made from blowfish, a type of fish known for its potentially toxic parts. The preparation of Bokguk requires careful handling to ensure the removal of poisonous elements, making it a dish that demands culinary expertise and caution. Do you remember Homer Simpson eating small pieces of blowfish meat during an episode years back? Funny and not-so-funny stuff…

A High-Risk Ingredient:

Blowfish, also known as fugu in Japanese cuisine, contains a potent neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin, which can be deadly if not prepared properly. Due to the risks associated with consuming this neurotoxic pufferfish, chefs must undergo rigorous training and certification to handle this ingredient safely.

Raw Meat (Yukhoe,육회
Beef Tartare

13-Raw Meat (Yukhoe,육회)

Yukhoe (육회) is a classic Korean dish that consists of raw beef seasoned with various seasonings and often served with garnishes. Similar to beef tartare in other cuisines, yukhoe is appreciated for its fresh, tender texture and bold flavors. Here’s an overview of Yukhoe for your article about Strange Korean Foods:

Ingredients and Preparation:

Yukhoe is made from high-quality cuts of beef, such as sirloin or tenderloin, which are finely minced or thinly sliced. The raw meat is then seasoned with ingredients like soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, minced garlic, and sometimes pear puree, which acts as a natural tenderizer. Additionally, yukhoe is often garnished with julienned Asian pear, pine nuts, and a raw egg yolk for added richness and flavor.

Texture and Flavor Profile:

Yukhoe boasts a velvety, melt-in-your-mouth texture and a rich, savory flavor. The combination of the tender beef, aromatic sesame oil, and the umami of soy sauce creates a harmonious taste experience. The crunch from the pear and pine nuts adds a delightful contrast, while the raw egg yolk contributes a luxurious creaminess to the dish.

14-Fruit Sandwiches (Gwail Saendeuwich,과일 샌드위치)

과일 샌드위치 (Gwail Saendeuwich), or Fruit Sandwiches, are delightful and colorful sandwiches popular in South Korea and other parts of Asia. These sandwiches feature a variety of fresh, seasonal fruits, often accompanied by fillings like whipped cream, custard, or sweetened condensed milk, all neatly layered between slices of soft, fluffy bread.

They surely an acquired taste for some but if you’re in the country head to one of the many convenience stores that dot the land and try one.

Colorful Variety:

Fruit Sandwiches are known for their vibrant and diverse assortment of fruits. Common choices include strawberries, kiwis, mangoes, bananas, and sometimes even more exotic fruits like dragon fruit or passion fruit. The combination of different colors and textures adds to the visual appeal of these sandwiches.

Soft Bread Layers:

Soft, white bread is typically used as the base for Fruit Sandwiches. The bread is often lightly toasted or left fresh, providing a delicate, pillowy texture that contrasts beautifully with the fresh, juicy fruits. Some variations of Fruit Sandwiches use milk bread, a type of sweet and fluffy bread, enhancing the overall sweetness of the sandwich.

Sweet Fillings:

To enhance the sweetness and creaminess, Fruit Sandwiches are commonly filled with sweet toppings. Whipped cream, custard, and condensed milk are popular choices. These fillings add a rich, creamy layer to the sandwich, balancing the tartness of certain fruits and creating a harmonious blend of flavors.

Grilled Pork Skin
Grilled Rinds

15-Pork Rind (Dwaejikkeobdaegi,돼지껍데기)

Dwaejikkeobdaegi (돼지껍데기) is a unique and popular Korean snack made from pork skin. The name “Dwaejikkeobdaegi” translates to “pork rind” in English. This snack is enjoyed for its crunchy texture and savory flavor. Here’s an overview of Dwaejikkeobjil for your article:

Preparation Process:

Dwaejikkeobjil is made by deep-frying pork skin until it becomes puffy and crispy. The skin is usually seasoned with salt, spices, or other flavorings to enhance its taste. The result is a light and crunchy snack that is similar in texture to traditional potato chips but with a distinct pork flavor.

Congealed Ox Blood Soup in Korea
Ox Blood Soup

16-Congealed Ox Blood(Seonjiguk,선지국)

Congealed Ox Blood Soup, known as Seonjiguk (선지국) in Korean cuisine, is a traditional Korean dish made using coagulated ox blood, which is sliced and cooked in a seasoned broth. Despite its unique ingredients, Seonjitguk is a beloved dish in Korean cuisine, appreciated for its rich flavor and hearty texture. 

Ingredients and Preparation:

Seonjitguk is made by coagulating ox blood with various ingredients like soybean paste, garlic, green onions, and Korean radish. The coagulated blood is sliced into thin pieces and added to a seasoned broth, which typically includes soy sauce, sesame oil, and other spices. The soup is then simmered until the flavors meld together, creating a hearty and flavorful dish.

Texture and Flavor Profile:

The ox blood slices in Seonjitguk have a soft, slightly chewy texture. The seasoned broth imparts a savory and umami flavor to the dish, while the combination of blood and other ingredients creates a hearty, robust taste. The soup is often enjoyed hot, especially during colder months, providing comfort and warmth to those who savor its distinctive flavors.

A Dieu Weird Korean Foods…

For in the world of strange Korean foods, there’s a delightful surprise waiting for those willing to take a bite. Cheers to the weird, the wonderful, and the utterly delicious!

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