San nakji: the weird and dangerous food of South Korea

When you think of Korean food, you probably think of delicious BBQ, fresh seafood, or even spicy fried chicken. After living in Korea for a decade, I still find myself finding new and unique foods that I have yet to try. Take a trip to a new region of Korea, and you’ll open up a new world of culinary delights.

While I am the #1 fan of samgaepsal (Korean grilled pork belly), and could live off of fried chicken, I am also open to trying new and unusual foods. Let’s take a look at one of the weirdest, wildest, and most dangerous foods of South Korea.

San Nakji (산낙지)

San nakji is a very unique experience. Most people who travel to South Korea add this dish to their bucket list of food items to eat while on the peninsula. This is one dish that is definitely not for vegans or fans of PETA.

San nakji is literally ‘live octopus‘. The dish (if we can call it that) can be served two different ways. One is to take a small species of octopus out of a tank, chop it up into tiny pieces, and serve it with sesame oil and other optional garnishes. When the dish is served, diners will find the remnants of the octopus still wriggling around the plate. Diners should chew quick and vigorously .

One way of eating sannakji is by wrapping a live octopus around a stick, dipping it in sesame oil, and eating it in one bite.

The other way to eat san nakji is to take the octopus straight from it’s watery home, wrap it around a wooden chopstick, dip it in sesame oil – and eat it in one bite. This is an extreme way to eat a living animal, and is only for the brave. Diners must chew with extreme care, as deaths have occurred when the octopus isn’t chewed enough, and it sticks to the throat of the diner, effectively killing them.

This is one Korean food you’ll want to eat at your own risk! Check out this video to see just how a live octopus is eaten whole!

San nakji can be found in many restaurants around the country. Prices vary, but expect the damage to be roughly 10,000 – 25,000 Korean Won. Going to one of the many seafood markets (such as Noryangjin Fish Market) will ensure you’re able to get the freshest octopus possible.

Noryangjin Fish Market, as seen from above

Sannakji goes well with an ice cold beer (or a bottle of soju). If you’re visiting South Korea, you should definitely check it out (unless you are concerned with the welfare of octopuses – in which case you might want to skip this particular food!)

Would you eat a live octopus? Tell me in the comment section!

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