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I Don’t Know Karate, But I Do Know Crazy (Sannakji/Live octopus)

Well, I managed to take down another culinary milestone in my life: I ate something that was still alive. Naturally, I would only be able to do this sort of thing outside of America where we prefer our animals dead and processed into slabs, tubes, or patties. Now that’s some “fresh food”, but nothing comparable to 산낙지 or sannakji or live octopus.

While everyone around the world has heard of Japanese sushi, Korea has its own version of it called 회 or Hoe. I’m not the biggest sushi fan, but when I heard that you could order and eat an octopus that is still alive made me want to try it even more. I began researching eating live octopus in Korea, and I found out that people have died from it due to the suction cups sticking to their inside of their throats while swallowing. This element of danger lingered in the back of my head as I made my way to the restaurant (Sinjung-dong metro stop, exit three. Take a left, then take a left on the first street on your left. Take a right on the first street on your right). Simple, right?

Bucheon's finest

Bucheon’s finest

When we sat down, I quickly ordered sannakji for 15,000 won. I got a Cass beer on the side just in case the octopus wanted to get frisky. Nothing stops an octopus from killing you faster than being doused in terrible Korean beer.

Eventually my meal came out with a mystery omelet that resided within a small cauldron.

Mystery egg dish to the left, silk worm larvae to the left of the seaweed soup

Mystery egg dish to the left, silk worm larvae to the left of the seaweed soup

It seemed that the eggs were whipped somehow into a fluffy foam that spread out and filled the bowl almost to the top. Plus, they brought out a small dish of bondegi or silkworm larvae. As if eating live octopus wasn’t enough, they thought I needed some bug babies to munch on. I had already tried them though (See Ssam bam a loo bop), so I waited until they brought out the beast on a large plate.

Still squirmin'

Still squirmin’

Unfortunately, they didn’t sell whole octopodes, but this plate was still writhing about without poking it too much. I could see the head and the tentacles all chopped up in one, big goopy mass. I found the flavor to be not as briny/fishy as I was anticipating, but it was more earthy in nature than anything. It went went well with the savory soy paste a.k.a. chogochujang (초고추장). However, the rubbery texture combined with the suction cups grabbing my teeth and roof of my mouth were a bit unnerving. It was also hard to pick pieces up because they were suction-cupped to the plate , squirming out of my reach, and had the consistency of slimy pudding. Mission impossible for someone with metal chopsticks. I decided to take one last bite with my spoon to cap off this monumental moment in Mastication Monologues history. I will try and seek out a place that sells whole octopus and will follow up this post in the near future. Kudos to Carolyn for being a brave camerawoman even though she was quite nauseated for a majority of my dining experience. Click here for the video of me struggling against live tentacles and eventually eating the octopus’ head!

One last spoonful

One last spoonful

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