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.

chewy

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.

crunchy

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.
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Song-So in Transition

Posted in Daegu, Diary notes, Westerners by 노강호 on June 19, 2010

E-bente-tang (이벤트탕)

In the Ebente Tang (이벤트 탕) today the additional essence was pine (솔입). It was slightly busier than usual for a lunch-time and I got talking to the westerner who isn’t afraid to bend over. It’s actually the first time I have sat with a westerner, naked in a bathhouse, since I visited Korea a few years ago with a friend. I passed another westerner on the way in;  I was taking my shoes off as he was putting his own. He didn’t want to talk, I could tell, and he was a dirty looking backpacker type with grungy looking clothes and a month’s stubble. I almost  let him escape then said, ‘hello,’ after which he had to exchange some conversation with me. I’ve not really seen him around before but of course, he’s lived here for a few years, which means probably 13 months.

I’ve had a few drinks. This evening, as I left work, I felt like a stroll down to where my old school  used to be which involves crossing a large cross-road near the Lotte Cinema. I  hardly ever go Keimyung University side unless I want some Baskin Robbins ice cream.  The cross-road forms a barrier, an asteroid belt between my realm, a few blocks, and what is basically another universe. I usually experience a sense of adventure as  I cross it and begin journeying where I haven’t been before.  Of course, I probably have been in this location before but the transformation of the buildings and businesses occupying it generally make me feel passing them is a first encounter.   I’d started the journey from my bank and half way towards my old school, as it starts to rain, I realise my umbrella is in the bank foyer. It’s pointless turning back and beside, this is Korea and the chances are very high it will be there when I return.

Song-So in 2000 from the top of E-Marte. This area still had patches of farmland all since developed

2010. Same location

The businesses towards my old school, a hideous factory in which I worked for 18 months, have changed. KFC has gone – the first pace I ate on my own in Korea, so too has Lotteria burger bar where I’d hang out in the most humid part of summer because contracts back then didn’t include air conditioning, and where a bedding shop used to be I’m treated to a reminder of life back home  in the form of a Tesco’s Home Plus. Not content to have invaded every corner of England, they are now starting to terminate all small businesses in Korea. My old school is no longer Di Dim Dol but some other school, still run by a money grabbing businessman boss. On the huge poster on the third floor,  some round-eyed western kiddy stares out at Korea, pen in hand, looking studious. Of course, the truth is most western kids couldn’t give a fuck about English and the native language skills of both Britain and the USA fall behind that of Korea, which for all its faults, has one of the most successful education systems in the world. My old Taekwondo Academy has gone and so too has the Pizzaland underneath it.

This entire stretch of road used to be the most affluent part of Song-So but since a mega cinema complex, known as Mega Town, was built some 6 years ago, opposite where I currently live, the money has moved into the next block. It was an obvious transition; near the Cinema is the E-Marte supermarket and surrounding it are buffet restaurants, pizza restaurants, coffee shops and a Dunkin Donut. Further down the road towards the university, the area in which my old school used to be the atmosphere is  now slightly shabby and deserted. When I cross the large crossroads and venture into the unknown I often feel guilty of being lazy but nowadays I just remind myself I rarely come here as there isn’t really much to see.

Sea squirt (멍개)

I end up eating dinner in an Oyster restaurant where I know the owner. It’s one of the hardiest local businesses. The first thing he says to me is that I have put on weight when indeed I have lost it. Not a good start to the evening especially as my favourite food here was oyster tempura. Ten years ago this restaurant was a North Korean restaurant  and was where I regularly used to meet my friend Cherie, currently my boss after she quit Di Dim Dol Factory School. The owner is really pleased to see me and wanting an excuse to drink, plies me with plenty of ‘service’ in the form of beer, makkalli, sea squirt, and sliced jellyfish.

If you’ve ever wanted to know what its like to eat a boil, Sea Squirt (멍개) is a close approximation. I’ve eaten them before and never found them delicious. Sliced jellyfish (햅아리) however, I like especially if in a sauce. The specialty in this establishment is oyster. My home town in the UK, Colchester, has existing oyster pens built when the Romans occupied Britain. Indeed the oyster trade dates back 2000 years. You wouldn’t really know this as oysters are probably no more visible in Colchester than in any other town especially as they cost about a pound a shot – approximately 2000 Won each. My basket of delicious Oyster cost 20000 Won (£10) and there are probably 30 oysters – enough to make me feel a bit sick. And this is where I have to laugh because they cost the same price back in 2002!

I left the Oyster restaurant feeling a little sick and pissed and on the walk home passed a restaurant in which sat a group of around 6 waygukins. I stopped for a moment and spied on them. They were all young and shabby, the men unshaven and clearly back-packer types with a touch of goth about them as they were all mostly dressed in black and drab colours. One dumb-ass  had a tea cosy on his head and sat next to him was the guy I met going into the bathhouse today. No wonder he didn’t want to talk as he obviously has a gaggle of mates to chat with.

I ended up back at the bank where my little sojourn had begun and there, where I had left it, was my umbrella.

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