There are many bizarre foods out there, from scorpion kebabs to steamed silkworm pupae. But of all the weird foods, my personal strangest hails from Korea. Living in the country for 3 years, I came across many oddities. Although some, like beondegi (번데기), definitely took some time - and a lot of courage - I was usually keen on trying most of them.
A few I tried for the novelty (sea urchin, pictured to the right), a few on accident (chicken rectum), and a few were intentional, not to mention delicious (deep fried tentacle anyone?).
The weirdest of the weird, though? Sannakji.
Sannakji (산낙지) is raw baby octopus. Although it is often referred to as “live octopus,” the octopus is not actually alive. It is, however, VERY fresh. So fresh it is still moving. The octopus is prepared, sometimes right at your table, by removing it live from its water, and simply cutting off limbs.
Usually served with sliced cucumbers and a sprinkle of salt, the tentacles will squirm independently for a good 20-30 minutes. Wriggling on your plate, you are meant to pick it up with your chop sticks, dip it in some sesame oil, and slurp it down. But don't forget to chew - sannakji actually kills a handful of people every year! If you don't chew it up quickly enough, it can suction to your throat and suffocate you (karma?).
So how does it taste?
Actually? Delicious! I love seafood, and have
never been afraid of a tentacle. My first time trying sannakji (yes, I did this more than once!), I also tried a number of other sea critters that we ordered straight from their aquariums - many of which I could not name, or even identify! If you have ever eaten calamari, that would probably be the closest comparison I could make as far as taste goes. But hopefully your calamari doesn't go crawling off your plate!
So if you typically like your cow “still mooing,” maybe you could try your hand at sannakji next time instead.
If you liked this, check out this article I wrote for Matador Network:
Or the bizarre foods I try from around the world on my YouTube channel: