Welcome! How to Use This Blog...

Step 1: Teaching in Korea FAQ
Step 2: Read The Top Posts of 2006
Step 3: How to Find a Job Teaching in Korea

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Eating Live Baby Octopus in Korea!

Side note: we will be moving into our hotel first thing tomorrow morning, so that means this will be the last post from our officetel. I will try to keep posting at work if I can get the wireless internet to work properly. In the words of Arnold: I'll be back!

Alright everyone, this could the post you've been waiting for. If you remember wayyyy back, I posted about eating live octopus. I also promised Katie from the TEFLlogue (check out my interview with her) for an exclusive of my culinary adventure. Well, on Sunday night HC, her friend Blake (visiting from the USA), Devante, and myself headed to Noryangjin Fish Market in Seoul to find the freshest available octopus.

Eating live octopus, or sannakji in South Korea is seen as a novelty and health dish (whatever happened to eating fruit and vegetables?!). The live baby octopus is cut up and immediately served, usually with some sesame oil. The problem is the tentacles are still squirming and fighting--which equates to a party in your mouth as your chew them to death inside your mouth!

We took a cab from Noryanjin station on Line 1 to the Fish Market. Here, this market was jam packed full of seafood vendors--they were quite aggressive I might add:

Some of this stuff is not your average seafood from back home. However there was a lot of shrimp, clams, abalone, weird eel thingies, and some other random items:

Here's the video of us buying the baby octopus. A couple friendly Koreans who spoke English helped us buy two for 10,000w ($10USD)--what a smoking "deal"! Watch how the one tentacle is stuck to the tank:

There was a restaurant right at the fish market that will cook any seafood you bring to them. Part of this includes the side dishes and such. Anyways, here's a picture of the octopus after it was cut up and brought to us--the picture does not do any justice to how much these things were squiggling around!

After getting their tentacles freshly chopped off, I think these things get into a rage as revenge! Watch them wiggling around like mad...this slowed down after a while, but they were still very, very active:

With a little bit of samjang and sesame oil, it wasn't that bad...however there wasn't really a taste, as it was just darn chewy!

Alrighty, enough of the small chit chat...here is yours truly digging into his first piece of live baby octopus--this is for Katie from the TEFLlogue!! I called it squid, but either way this is still pretty nuts:

So after eating that first piece, I can tell you that it tasted like the jellyfish appetizer that is served in Chinese restaurants. However, this time around it was about 1 billion times more chewy. It is imperative that you chew the tentacles properly, because if you don't they can stick to your throat as you swallow---and that would not be fun!

Here's another attempt but this time I wanted to show you how it is such a weird feeling having the tentacles grab grip to my tongue--oh, and don't mind the sesame oil/drool that comes out of my mouth, it's all for show. ;)

We didn't expect them to give us back the remaining nakji, but this time it was COOKED! Devante didn't dare to try it (she said she likes to eat her food dead) out--she did an excellent job filming us though!

Now, if only next time I would be brave enough to stuff an ENTIRE octopus at once like THESE GUYS!!

So, you're probably asking me if I'd eat nakji again, right? My answer is probably no, because there wasn't much taste and it was just too chewy. It was pretty fun trying it out before we departed from Korea though. After the nakji, HC went out and bought us a king crab for dinner. I'll post that the next time around.

Have you eaten sannakji before? How was your experience compared to mine? Who would want to give this a try?!

If you liked this post, subscribe to my full RSS feed!


hirocakep said...

I was in Singapore and Indonesia for my summer vacation so that I've just know you're going to finish your job in Korea. I really wanted to meet with you. I'm sure I'm gonna miss you much later :p

Finally you ate live octopus! Did you finish all? My wife could eat a few of octopus. It was sooo scary to eat live thing for her.

While traveling in Indonesia I ate bat which is traditional food in Manado, Indonesia. Have you ever eat it? And have you ever eat dog? If no, let's try! About dog you can eat in Korea. Me? I don't wanna eat both again.

Anonymous said...

Sure think you gotta have some guts to put those wiggling things into your mouth... Way to go Gary...not for me though :P

imoet said...

Oh!!! I tried that!! Really was an experience hahaha

The story is here: http://shiefrallo.blogspot.com/search?q=eating+octopus

Unknown said...

...I MUST try that. Dude, that looks so weird. That bowl of parts is squirming so much more than I thought it would.

Gary said...

Thanks for the comments everyone! I am at work so I will have to post a little later! Later everyone!!

Anonymous said...


I get a kick out of the fact that you dedicated the live octopus eating experience to me and the tefl logue and at the same time I am little bit horrified about it all!

Five stars for you for really being willing to try a local specialty, even one that I bet a lot of locals wouldn't try! Very cool

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. Again not only it is fun to read/watch but also very informative.

I never tried that when in Korea but not because I was squeamish but because I was on my own and didn't know how to find a place to eat them!

Would love to try (I have eaten lots of weird stuff, including brains (veal and lamb), snake, cow intestines, lamb intestines, tripe etc.)

Good luck at the hotel to both of you, I hope you have a nice time.

Gary said...

Hey everyone!! We're at the hotel now--and it's amazing!! It's the Best Western Niagara, we have a king sized bed, huge LCD TV, a full bathroom with tub, and free internet! I don't have time to post, but I thought I'd give an update! Let's just say we're happy campers right about now, and that this is paid for by work!!! :)

annamatic said...

the san nakji is supposed to give you stamina. you know. male... stamina. Frankly i think the jellyfish appetizer you mentioned tastes better, but then again i've never tried it without the seasonings. san nakji just tasted like whatever i dipped it in. Since it didn't taste like much, required too much chewing to kill it, and i don't need male stamina, i don't think i'll bother to eat it again...

laura said...

Not for me. I always thought that they were supposed to be wrapped in a special way and then just swallowed so that the tentacles don't stick in the throat and choke you. I have heard that many people die eating live octopus.
Good on ya for trying it!

Anonymous said...

poor octopus! is all i have to say, thats one dish i definably won't be trying when i come to Korea

Anonymous said...

Hey, better you than me. There's no way I'm gonna touch the stuff when I'm in Korea. You're a brave/foolish soul!

george said...

My friend, what you did was extremely cruel and stupid. Stupid because you could die choked and extremely cruel for eating some animal alive. Think about it.

George Ciobanu - a fellow Canadian

Gary said...

George--the octopus is dead. Only the nerves are still firing away. Obviously I'm not going to choke--there's something called CHEWING.

How about you think about how your chicken, beef, or pork got to your dinner table? Each culture has their own norms, so respect them. ;)

george said...

1. Chopping it does not mean that it is not aware anymore (cutting the head of a human being leaves him/her aware for almost a minute, sometimes more).

1.2. I have seen Youtube videos of octopuses being eaten alive in Korea, so I assume it is extremely similar.

2. Ok, just please be careful ;-)

3. The chicken, pork or beef are usually killed in a humane way such that they would not experience pain (at least that is the law in Canada). Yes they have sucky lives and I feel bad about it. I can at least pretend not to know (no, it does not make me any better). But the gist of it is that the octopus may have just as awful a life. Why not make its death a peaceful one?

3. Some cultures have norms that require the wife to be killed when the husband dies. I would certainly not respect that norm or endorse it in any way. "Norms" are fine so long as they are sensible and don't violate fundamental human (and animal) rights. think a quick, painless death is one of them.
We could start criticizing fishing and hunting as well (I used to fish, I stopped) on the same arguments, but this is not the place/time.

I'm not an extremist animal rights defender, I just think that eating live octopuses is cruel. I know it's hard to accept critique, especially when it's this blunt, but just please give it some time and think about it.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with george here. Yeah, I get it Gdog, you're supposed to chew the tentacles beofore swallowing, but if somebody were to die from choking while eating this dish I honestly wouldn't care. They deserve it.

I'm not a christian or anything, but I remember that one of the first things God establishes in the Book of Genesis is something like "Flesh with it's lifeblood still in it you shall not eat", which I assume means that you're not supposed to eat things alive.

Also, I try to avoid eating octopodes altogether. From what I've read, octopodes are pretty intelligent. I mean, they can figure out how to escape from cages that would stump some people. They can kill sharks, too.

When the octopocalypse is at hand, I really don't want to be in your shoes, Godg.


george said...

Like :-)

Anonymous said...

Octopuses are highly intelligent, likely more so than any other order of invertebrates. The exact extent of their intelligence and learning capability is much debated among biologists,[5][6][7][8] but maze and problem-solving experiments have shown that they do have both short- and long-term memory. Their short lifespans limit the amount they can ultimately learn. There has been much speculation to the effect that almost all octopus behaviors are independently learned rather than instinct-based, although this remains largely unproven. They learn almost no behaviors from their parents, with whom young octopuses have very little contact.

An octopus opening a container with a screw cap
An octopus has a highly complex nervous system, only part of which is localized in its brain. Two-thirds of an octopus's neurons are found in the nerve cords of its arms, which have a remarkable amount of autonomy. Octopus arms show a wide variety of complex reflex actions arising on at least three different levels of the nervous system. Unlike vertebrates, the complex motor skills of octopuses in their higher brain are not organized using an internal somatotopic map of its body.[9] Some octopuses, such as the mimic octopus, will move their arms in ways that emulate the movements of other sea creatures.
In laboratory experiments, octopuses can be readily trained to distinguish between different shapes and patterns. They have been reported to practice observational learning,[10] although the validity of these findings is widely contested on a number of grounds.[5][6] Octopuses have also been observed in what some have described as play: repeatedly releasing bottles or toys into a circular current in their aquariums and then catching them.[11] Octopuses often break out of their aquariums and sometimes into others in search of food. They have even boarded fishing boats and opened holds to eat crabs.[7]
In some countries, octopuses are on the list of experimental animals on which surgery may not be performed without anesthesia. In the UK, cephalopods such as octopuses are regarded as honorary vertebrates under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and other cruelty to animals legislation, extending to them protections not normally afforded to invertebrates.[12]
The octopus is the only invertebrate which has been conclusively shown to use tools. At least four specimens of the Veined Octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus) have been witnessed retrieving discarded coconut shells, manipulating them, and then reassembling them to use as shelter. This discovery was documented in the journal Current Biology and has also been caught on video.[13][14]

Anonymous said...

appalling, sick, cruel and totally unnecessary. Babies for God's sake. Have you no heart or soul?

Anonymous said...

I do see the adventurous side here - but I keep wondering if whatever fits your mouth should be devoured, or if it doesn't, should be chopped into pieces first and then devoured - and I keep objecting that rather trivial concept in general. I somewhat hoped that mankind has come further than being outstandingly thrilled and amused by eating whatever unusual being comes along - but I might be naive, and consequenty, wrong.

I wish I weren't.

aiva said...

oh no... i'm not sure i can eat this.. :(

Recent Posts

Learn Korean with KoreanClass101.com