Elwood 5566

X Rated Foods – A Personal List of Korean Culinary Nasties

Posted in fish, Food and Drink, seafood by 노강호 on June 3, 2012

shite made pretty

If you can eat a MacDonald’s burger you should be able to eat anything. However, the grey, dry, tasteless shite that comprises  a Mac patty, which according to the docu-movie Food Inc, may contain mechanically rescued meat sludge from as many as a thousand different carcasses, is masked by pickles, sauce, mayonnaise and other gubbings. I often hear people declare a Mac burger to be ‘delicious’ and instantly know they’ve probably never eaten a real beef burger in their life. A real burger tastes of meat, it is slightly pink and it is succulent. If you asked for a burger steak in a restaurant and were served a pallid, dry Mac patty you’d probably complain because void of distractions such as tomatoes and mayonnaise, a Mac patty clearly does not contain meat as we know it. Indeed, separate the individual components of a Mac burger and their ersatz quality is exposed. The bun, pumped full of air, can be squeezed into the size of a dice and the cheese is totally cheese-less and useless for making cheese-on-toast – believe me – I’ve tried! Mac ‘food’ is a triumph of science in which assembled components, all individually tasteless and inferior, combine to satisfactorily tingle all the important sensory receptors. I’m quite sure if most of us were to witness the mechanically rescued process and the gullies of meat slurry slopping through stainless steel channels, we’d never eat a Mac burger again. But with the tweaking of science, shite, especially when it’s decorated in pretty boxes and wrappers, given brand imagery with accompanying little plastic toys on which kids are weaned and where burgers are mutated into cartoon characters led by a clown, can be somewhat satisfying. A lot of R and R, little of it culinary, has gone into the success of  Mac food and I have to agree, that while they can be highly satisfying (the right: temperature, balance between salt and sugar, just enough oil, the combination of different mouth-feels for whatever components are in the burger etc, etc,) they are never delicious. Indeed they are a simulacrum of a burger, of food!

And so, while I can easily enjoy a Big Mac, all the horrors of production, which should really make me gag, hidden from me, there exists a large menu of Korean foods that despite their honesty, I simply cannot eat.

Here’s my list of X-rated Korean foods that I personally avoid:

13. Chickens-arse – ddong-jip (똥집) – except it’s not really arse at all but the gizzard. Koreans always delight in trying to shock you with this food but the fact is that as a fan the ‘parson’s nose’ (pygostyle), that fleshy protuberance  at the very back-end of a chicken or turkey which twitches every time the animal has a shit or gets excited, the ddong-jip is lame. If you like the parson’s nose, and as a boy my family competed for it at Sunday dinner, you’re eating portion a of a chicken or turkey much more equated with anuses and poop than the gizzard.


12. Intestine – mak-chang (막창) – chewy and tasty but the thought of it being part of the poop-shoot is always too overpowering to allow me to enjoy it. Actually, mak-chang is almost an enormous ‘dog dick’ (see number 11). The dislike is of course cultural because in British food intestines are always integral ingredients in sausages and pork pies, especially the working class pork pie – and as such are minced and hidden.

and chewy, again

11. Gae-bul (개불) – commonly known as ‘dog-dick’ in Korean. This is chewy, rather like squid or octopus and has little or no taste other than the sesame oil in which it is often drizzled. What makes them particularly memorable is the fact they actually look like turgid penises and before you eat them you usually have the pleasure of seeing them squirm about in the tank before their being slaughtered. The gae-bul is basically a piece of rubber tubing with a mouth at one end and anus at the other.

What happens to a ‘dog-dick’ when squeezed. Incidentally, they are eaten raw

10. Sea Squirt (멍게) – I’ve written about this bloated monstrosity before. They are a mucous mess of bright, glistening colours, most notably orange, if there’s one food which comes close to resembling a tumour, this is it but I have two Western friends who actually find them delicious and ironically, both, unlike me, never eat Mac Shite!

An interesting medley of ‘dog-dick’ and sea-squirt

9. Spinal column soup (뼈다귀감자탕) – I guess there isn’t anything too revolting about this but I never enjoy it. There is something disquieting about eating what it basically an offshoot of the brain and which carried all the animals’ motor commands. A few weeks ago it happened to be my turn to pay for lunch and the unfortunate choice of my friends was spine-soup! I quite hated having to pay 70.000 Won (£35) for a meal I hardly touched – but they loved it!

the actual soup is delicious but I have a psychological barrier with the spine

8. Chicken feet (닭발) – well, there’s a distinct lack of any meat on a chicken’s feet. Instead, you’re rewarded with a mouthful of little bones, bits of claw and hard skin. Worse, is the thought the chickens spend most of their life traipsing over the shit of other chickens.


7. Dog stew (보신탕) – I’ve eaten this several times and there’s nothing unpleasant about it. However, it’s hard to swallow if you love dogs!

6. Silk worm cocoon (번데기) –  mmmm… the taste of damp soil followed by shards of exoskeleton and embryonic antennae which lodge themselves between your teeth. And that steamy, nauseous smell!

and the smell is just as bad

5. Midoedeok (미더덕) – horrible. First, I still don’t really know what they are or whether they are animal or vegetable. If the dubious greeny-brown colour and ultra smooth texture experienced by your tongue is not enough to put you off, the sour, detergent like substance spurting into your mouth when compressed between your teeth, will.

chewy and revolting

4. Raw beef (육회) – well, perhaps not the worst of experiences but personally, I like beef at least singed by a little heat before consumption.

totally raw

3. Raw ray fish (홍어) – probably the most disgusting smelling food I’ve ever eaten and I know plenty of Koreans who find it repulsive. A mouthful of smelling-salts, a stinging assault of pungent ammonia, best describes this ‘delicacy.’ Apparently, ray fish urinate through their skin and when fermented the smell is intensified. It is suggested you eat this food while breathing through the mouth and out the nose.

the most hideous stink

2. Raw liver and raw tripe, simply ghastly!

unlike a Mac Monstrosity burger, the detraction is simply a sprinkle of sesame

And the winner –

Boiled lung – so far I’ve eaten everything above, but this is one Korean ‘nasty’ I’m not going to taste. Not only does it look gross, like a great bluey-brown clump, but there is a lack of any sauce to mask what it really is.

Of course, the ghastliest food of all is a Mac Burger simply because you haven’t the least idea exactly what it comprises. I imagine the flesh is mechanically rescued from every part of the animal – eye lids, lips and all!!! However, disguised and nicely packaged, the sludge of a thousand cattle can be surprisingly satisfactory.

one of my favorites, raw crab

By the way – I’ve still to try eating live octopus (산 낙지) and grasshopper (메뚜기). Other weird foods, such as raw crab (게장), acorn curd (도토리묵), jellyfish (해파리) and sea cucumber (해삼), I enjoy.

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©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.

9 Responses

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  1. wetcasements said, on June 8, 2012 at 6:42 am

    I’ve come to really enjoy makchang. Didn’t think I would, but it seems as if about 1/3 of the restaurants in my immediate neighborhood are makchang/gopchang places.

    Must be a Daegu thing.

    • 努江虎-노강호 said, on June 8, 2012 at 1:19 pm

      Yes, one of Daegu’s regional ‘specialties’ is makchang. When I lived in Ch’eonan there was a Daegu Makchang place right outside my school. I think I could get used to it but to be honest I prefer sam kyeop sal.

  2. The Stumbler said, on June 8, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Speaking of odd chicken parts, I was reminded of my dislike of liver. As a kid, my parents loved chicken liver, and would either cook it or bring a box home from KFC (something I don’t see on the menu here in Korea). I hated it. I learned no amount of ketchup will disguise the taste of chicken liver. As a college student, my doctor advised I eat a lot of liver, because my blood count was weak at one time. I remember my Dad taking me to a restaurant in Atlanta, and ordering two huge liver (cow’s) steaks. I must admit, slightly tastier than chicken liver, but still disgusting. Instead of ketchup, the kitchen served this smothered in an onion gravy – which was good, but didn’t hide the liver taste.

    Fast forward a couple decades, here in Korea I had the oppotunity one time to eat pigs liver. I didn’t know it at first. We were eating at a pork restaurant with some company directors, and the waiter brought out this large tray of “service”. The focal point of this extra food was pig’s skin, which we grilled and ate – nothing special. The other “meat” they couldn’t translate at first. But after eating some (cooked), it was really quite good. I was shocked a bit later when they finally remembered the English name – Pig’s Liver.

    I have had a couple chances to eat the raw liver (cow?) as you posted, but it was just bland. It didn’t do anything for me. Now I don’t see the pig’s liver very often, and I probably wouldn’t order a big plate of it, but I’ll enjoy it again if I run into it.

    And last Christmas, I was wandering through an open-air market near Incheon, and ran into a chicken shop selling fried chicken livers! They had a big bowl for free samples. I decided, why not try a bite or two? It’s been decades, my taste buds have matured, my mind is more accepting, who knows, maybe I’ll like it now? Wrong!!! Fried chicken liver tasts the same in 2010 Korea as it did in 1970’s Alabama.

    One final disgusting food I suddenly remember, in high school one afternoon I was out running some errands with my grandfather. We stopped at a deli for lunch. I ordered something plain, like a ham sandwich, and my grandfather asked for a tongue sandwich! I had never heard of such a thing. The lady plopped this big ole tongue on the counter, sliced off a few pieces, and made him a sandwich. I was completely shocked – this was a whole new side of my grandfather. That was the one and only time I’ve encountered anyone eating tongue – though I wouldn’t be surprised to find it served here in Korea in some form or another.

    • 努江虎-노강호 said, on June 8, 2012 at 1:33 pm

      Thanks for a really enjoyable read. I got into chicken livers about twenty years ago, but for making pate. When I was a boy I used to love my mum’s fried lived with onions, gravy and mashed potatoes. It’s quite a British meal. However, since my mum died I cannot enjoy any offal. If I have to touch it I can’t eat it. But, liver and gravy and kidneys in gravy all tasted great.

      My sister boils liver for her dog on a weekly basis; the smell is revolting. What’s worse however, is she eats slivers of it from the pan – no gravy, no salt!! Vile!

      I’m sure you can still buy tongue in the UK but it’s probably prepacked in supermarkets and sliced. I remember when you’d walk past butchers and see a plate of cow tongue. I was always amazed how long and thick they were. There was also raw, and blanched tripe – eww! My parents and grandparents used to make tongue sandwiches and thorough I ate them I was never really enjoyed it.

      As for KFC chicken livers, I’ve never seen them!


  3. wetcasements said, on June 8, 2012 at 8:51 am

    I forgot to ask — what do you think of soondae?

    • 努江虎-노강호 said, on June 8, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      Once again not something I really enjoy. Actually, I would have included it on the list but only realised It was absent when I’d finished. Couldn’t be bothered reorganizing the numbering. But I’d probably place it before fermented ray, which is the first food on the list which is truly rank. It’s always billed as ‘blood sausage’ but there certainly isn’t as much blood in it as Northern English black-pudding – which I actually like.

  4. Juls said, on September 10, 2012 at 6:00 am

    That’s quite a list. I don’t think I can stomach eating most of them. And by the way Gae-bul is really funny.

    • 努江虎-노강호 said, on September 13, 2012 at 1:03 am

      Thanks for all your comments. As for religion I have none but probably feel more affinity with Buddhism – their hands aren’t as bloodied as the other major religions.

    • 努江虎-노강호 said, on October 14, 2012 at 4:39 am

      Only just got back to the blog after a stressful vacation. Thanks for all your comments.

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