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.

Creative Commons License
©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
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A New Rice Cooker (Teacher) Arrives from Australia – Sunday December 10th (Korean Accounts 2000-2001)

Posted in Food and Drink, Korean Accounts Part 1, Martial Arts by 노강호 on December 10, 2000

At the taegeukkweon this week, (태극권 – is a Korean form of tai chi which is taught twice a week as part of  my  taekwondo classes), one of the boys was hit with a padded stick used to simulate a club attack. I don’t know what the boy had been doing but the instructor, Mr Park, struck him three times across the back of his legs. The boy, aged about 12, started crying and had his head bowed and Mr Park seemed to be telling him to stand in the ready position. The boy ignored him and so he was beaten. Eventually he complied and the class continued.

a rice cooker and a teacher share a lot in common in Korea

On Thursday, Mr Jo asked me if I would go to the railway station with him to meet a teacher arriving from New Zealand. He wanted me to go there at eight in the evening and as I wasn’t going training, I agreed. Nothing in Korea is simple, at least not in my school and after waiting at the school to be collected by Mr Jo, I discover she isn’t arriving until nine. Nine-thirty arrived and still there was no sign of Mr Jo and then Miss Pak, the school secretary, told me she was arriving at eleven. Next, Mr Jo arrives with a change of plans and sent another teacher to collect the new teacher  and decided to take Nana and I for dinner. We went to one of the many restaurants near the school, a sort of cross between a drinking house and a restaurant and there were western style tables to sit at. Before the drinks arrived at our table Mr Jo started telling us about some of his plans and I quickly sensed something else was afoot (note – Koreans initiate business meetings through food and drink). I had originally arranged to meet this Korean woman, a teacher in the school, for dinner, at 10.pm, her name is Pak U-chun (박유천 – 12 years later, she was to become my boss). As soon as I told Mr Jo I was supposed to be meeting her he telephoned her on his mobile and cancelled our meeting. He then decided we should meet at 10.am but I was supposed to be giving Dong-soo (박동수) an English lesson then. Nana suggested I phone him and cancel the meeting but I quickly retorted that I didn’t have his phone number. Nana’s next suggestion was that I should simply not turn up for Dong-soo (박동수). Jo got up and went to the toilet and I told Nana that I didn’t want to cancel my plans on the whims of Jo. When Mr Jo returned, we agreed to meet at 10.45 next morning.

If I was pissed off with Jo, I was even more pissed off when the meal arrived as it was totally Klingon and disgusting. What I thought was a purple bean curd (note – probably my early under standing of acorn curd, 도토리묵) and octopus turned out to be raw lived and stomach. Then there was this thick, white gloopy soup which resembled ejaculate. The liver and tripe I passed aside and the soup actually made me gag. However some recognizable meat and vegetables arrived for us to cook on the pot at our table and this was quite tasty (note – I’ve gradually become more accustomed to Korean food but there are still some foods I don’t enjoy and raw liver and stomach or good examples).

As we drank more soju (소주), Mr Jo’s plans began to unfold and it transpires that he wants Nana and I to go to his new Letterland school tomorrow to start planning the Letterland system. The trouble with the Korean way of business is that you have to be very careful about committing yourself through the influence of alcohol and do you even have a choice?

By the time we left the restaurant we’d drunk several bottles of soju (소주)  and beer and despite this Jo drove us to a noraebang (노래 방)  almost adjacent my flat. We spent several hours here singing and I must have ordered 7 or 8 rounds of beer. Next morning I had a bad hangover and had lost my voice.

(note- I’ve learnt that a number of Korean bosses treat you like a ‘rice cooker’ and once you have a problem or don’t function as they want and you’re simply replaced with another wayguk. Others bosses are quite the opposite!)

 

Creative Commons License

©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Further References

When the Cuckoo Dies (Bathhouse Ballads, June 2010)