Anyone who has ever watched an episode of Bizzare Foods on the travel channel will know about some of the strange food there are out there. Some of the strangest foods to us western worlders is the food from the eastern worlds. Korea in particular has some very interesting foods. Most of them seem like they taste disgusting, but are actually quite good when you try them.
This soup is named after the fermented soybean paste that it is made out of. It has earned the nickname "Dead Body Soup" from a story that is often told about it. As the story goes, two Korean exchange students were living in Germany in an apartment. One day the started to cook cheonggukjang. The smell was so strong that their neighbors called the police thinking that they were trying to hide a dead body in their house.
The soybean paste used is different from other soybeans pastes because it is only briefly fermented. This makes the paste keep a strong smelling ammonia smell. This soup may stink to high heaven, but the taste is very savory so do not pass it up just because it is the stinky soup on the block.
This a confusing food name, I know. This is not the ice cream and chocolate sauce concoction that us English speaking people know and love. The Korean sundae is a sausage. the sausage meat is various junk parts of the cow and pig all ground up and stuffed in cow and pig intestines. So basically it is like normal sausage, there is nothing particularly unique about this food but it does have an interesting name. These sausages can also contain ground up seafood, especially squid. This food is a popular street food in Korea.
Beondegi is the Korean way to say steamed or boiled silkworm larvae. Korea is one of many places westerners can go to try eating bugs for the first time, though one can always take a culinary adventure to the back yard to fish up some good bugs. Silkworm larvae take a lot of bravery to try for the first time. They are a popular street food in Korea as well. Beondegi are essentially like nuts that you eat at a bar when you are drinking. You can frequently find them near alcohol and other roasted bugs like crickets.
The larvae is not just steamed a served plain though, they are seasoned before they are served. The beondegi will taste a lot like whatever it is seasoned with, but has a really nutty and earthy after taste. What really gets people is the fact that they explode when you bite into them. If you can get past the fact you are eating bugs, beondegi is full of protein, like most bugs.
Koreans as well as many other countries like to eat things that are still moving around. Everyone knows of things like Sannakji, which is eating the still moving octopus tentacle. This however is a little more obscure. Gaebul is spoon worms that have been cut up and are eaten when still moving.
Sea worms are not actually worms, they are marine animals that look very tubular. People with lesser class would even suggest that when they are swimming around in the ocean, they look like male genitalia. The sea spoon has a light taste without all the fishy taste of octopus. It is more of a peer pressure food for westerners than anything. In Korea is is actually served up as a popular street food.
What is truly shocking about eating a sea spoon is that is kind of sprays the inside of your mouth. It sprays the inside of your mouth with sea water. This does give it a naturally salted taste though, it is just kind of surprising.
Hongeo a fermented fish called Skate. There are tones of people who eat fermented fish and even fish soaked in lye, and Hongeo lives up to its smelly ancestors. What is kind of disgusting about this dish is the fish it is made from. Skate does not urinate like your normal fish, the skate releases its waste through its skin. So as the skate is fermented the urine that is still in the skin breaks down and smells, unsurprisingly, just like ammonia.
This is definitely one of the stinkier fermented fish around. Most people have to hold their nose just to take a bite. Hongeo can be served as either sashimi, soup or whole. The sashimi is usually for people who are not used to eating it. Eating the fish in its whole form is only for those with steel stomaches and no sense of smell.
The hongeo soup is made extremely spicy to try to mask the flavor of the fish. I am so confused on why they eat this fish if they put so much work into covering up the stench.
Dotorimuk is what you get when you smash up a whole bunch of acorns into a powder and cook it. Acorns are poisonous so they are not frequent foods in the west. However, in the mountainous regions of Korea, acorns grow in great numbers, so during hard times they learned that when cooked, the acorns become safe to eat. This cooking of the powdered acorns results in a bitter jello like jelly block. Dotorimuk basically translates into 'acorn jelly'.
The block by itself tastes horribly bitter, though a bit nutty. Koreans add soy sauce and hot spices cooked into a soup to it. When this is done, the gel seeps up the flavor better than anything I have ever seen. The flavor from the spices and soy sauce gives this dish a now delicious taste.
This is not something Koreans eat often, as I said again this was a last resort for times of hardship. Though they do serve it in some restaurants just because it did end up tasting so good and it proved to the world that you could indeed eat acorns.