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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One Word – Vile!

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

the garden of a traditional Korean restaurant

Even for westerners with eclectic palates who enjoy flitting between the spicy and tantalizing subtleties of Thai, Indian, Mexican and Chinese food, a Korean specialty can chuck a spanner in the works. Of course, most of our knowledge of such cuisines has been doctored and what comprises their menu has been selected to appeal to our tastes. Chinese food in the UK is nearly always Cantonese or Peking and the enormous silk worm cocoon sautéed with scorpion, a cuisine typical of the Gobi region of China, is not likely to appear on the menu of your local takeaway.  I’ve never seen the boiled duck embryo, khai khao, cooked alive and served with the shell intact, in my local Thai restaurant and some of the food I ate in India I doubt appears on any menu outside the country itself.

Korea has a number of foods which cause a foreigner, especially those accustomed to European traditions, to stifle a retch. Dog meat is perhaps the most infamous and is likely to shock us with as much revulsion as Koreans find at the thought of eating rabbit. And if a westerner gags at the idea of sushi they are likely to do far worse if faced with sashimi (known in Korea as ‘hoe’ – 회) against which sushi is positively tame. Anything which crawls, swims, floats, buries itself in the mud or simply hangs about on rocks, is fair game for the sashimi platter where it is usually eaten raw. If raw fish isn’t enough to empty your stomach, there is variety of raw meats, the tamest of which is thinly sliced beef steak but venturing into the Klingon domain are raw tripe and liver. However, a few cooked meats, intestine and boiled lung, are likely to repulse a healthy hunger after which steamed silkworm cocoon or pan-fried grasshopper seem almost civilised.

Over the New Year, I ate at two traditional seafood restaurants. The first specialised in a particular kind of clam and the entire menu, apart from side dishes, focused on this local delicacy. I wasn’t too happy when the hors d’oeuvre arrived; an unceremonious bowl of clams which had been warmed rather than cooked, and hence the shells required prizing open with a tool I’m sure I’ve seen in an electricians tool-bag.  Have you ever been dumped on by a passing pigeon? Once prized open, the clams’ innards were just that; a messy splurge of white and brown pudding that dripped onto the paper table-cloth like diarrhoea. I silently cursed my Korean friend and prepared to stifle the retch reflex that was sure to follow but surprisingly, they were very delicious. The rest of the meal contained clams in one form or another – in pancakes, as sweet and sour, skewered, in a soup, and in the sauce of a bibimbap.

 

painful on the eye but pleasing on the tongue

My evening delight was in an enchanting traditional restaurant in a small outhouse. Here I was served the entire gamut of food at which the European usually cringes. Apart from insects and dog, there was a selection of all the nautical nasties, sea squirt – which resembles an acned, bulbous boil (멍게), ‘dog dick’  (개불 – Urechis unicinctus) – a slimy type of spoon worm which has no English name, a type of shellfish with the texture of slightly meaty, raw cauliflower, raw squid, the unpleasant orphaned testicle thing known as mideodek (미더덕 – styela clava) which many Koreans hate. Other delicacies, less shocking, included raw oyster and I even managed some raw sliced beef. Along with a fine spread of kimchies and as a veteran of Korean food, I managed to eat with apparent pleasure.

more still to come

Then I picked up what looked like raw tuna, which I actually like, and slipped it onto my tongue. I hadn’t even shut my mouth when there was a sensation of something very unpleasant. ‘Can you smell it?’ my friend asked. ‘Ugh,’ I managed to mutter without moving my teeth for fear of stirring whatever was on my tongue. I wanted to swallow it but it had bones, cartilaginous bones which demanded chomping and I could smell what seemed like neat ammonia invading my nasal passage. ‘Urgh!’ I gagged again. I couldn’t spit it out, that really isn’t an option with Koreans and though I scanned the ‘banquet’ fom some friendly food that might speed it into my stomach, everything was both raw and slimy.  It was truly like a mouthful of smelling salts and my eyes were beginning to water. ‘Ugh, ugh! ‘I gagged as I furtively eyed the table from the dish of raw oyster on one plate, the messy sea squirt on another to the slivers of sliced dog dick. In the end I was rescued by a bowl of seaweed soup from which I slurped before swallowing the entire slice of fish, unchomped cartilage as well.

raw ray fish (홍어) – revolting!

I’ve eaten dried ray fish in sauce and really enjoyed it but fresh (홍어) and uncooked it is the most revolting thing I’ve ever eaten; worse than all the crud of the sea, the insects, dog and probably worse than boiled lung – which I don’t ever intend eating! If you want to eat something truly awful, something that makes even live octopus tame, this is your baby.

recuperating

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©努江虎 – 노강호 2012  Creative Commons Licence.

FURTHER REFERENCES

Food to Put Hair on Your Chest (Bathhouse Ballads Sept 2010)

As Tasty as it Looks (Mideodeok). (Bathhouse Ballads Sept  2010)

Monday Market – Sea Squirt (멍게) (Bathhouse Ballads May 2010)

Do You Remember Ding Ding Dang? – Monday, November 27th 2000 (Korean Accounts 2000-2001)

Posted in Food and Drink, Korean Accounts Part 1 by 노강호 on November 27, 2000

This evening Nana and I went out with Roger who works at a school called Ding Ding Dang  (note – in 2000, Ding Ding Dang was a major English academy franchise – certainly around Daegu – it now seems to have disappeared). We went to a marinated pork restaurant. I do like Korean food but it seems void of fat, sugar or salt though I am sure salt is used in the kimchi process. A Korean meal never seems to fill you and they don’t seem to eat large quantities of meat. There are restaurants everywhere, some serve noodles, or barbecues which can be pork or beef, or chicken but usually you don’t find pork and beef alongside chicken. Then there are places which serve kimbap (김밥)fish stick or cheese rolled in rice and covered in seaweed. One of my favourites is ddeokpogi (떡볶이) which is various size noodles, with a boiled egg and cabbage served in a hot spicy sauce. This also has a strange fish strips in it, called odeng, made from powdered fish. Often a plate of ddeokpogi (떡볶이) is crowned with mandu (만두) pancakes. A big plate of this in a restaurant is usually shared and costs only a few pounds.

Tonight however, we had pork barbecue and all the side dishes but there was some kind of noodle side dish with very strange little green things in them which resembled scrunched up testicles and we couldn’t fathom which animal or anatomical part they came from. I have since discovered these are a sea product, mideodeok  (미더덕) but I’m still not sure whether they are animal or vegetable. They are often found in kimchi-chi-gae. We drank a few bottles of soju and the bill came to 10.000 won each which is around six pounds.

On Monday I was back in school after giving Dong-soo  his English lesson. I went to taekwon do in the evening and all was going well until I pulled a fucking hamstring in my left leg. It happened right at the end of the class. Almost at exactly the same time as I pulled it, Dong-soo told me I was to be graded the following evening by Master Bae.

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©努江虎 – 노강호 2012  Creative Commons Licence.