Korean Food

7 Unusual Korean Foods Worth Trying

Dive into the world of Korean cuisine beyond kimchi and bibimbap. Experience the unique and unusual aspects of Korea’s rich food culture. Here are seven foods that may seem unusual at first, but are definitely worth trying.

1. Beondegi (Silkworm Pupae)

What Makes Beondegi Unique
Beondegi, a snack made from boiled or steamed silkworm pupae, is a staple street food in Korea. This protein-packed food item is commonly sold in outdoor markets, food carts, and even in canned form in supermarkets. Beondegi’s taste is often described as slightly nutty, with a unique aroma and a chewy texture.

Why You Should Try Beondegi
Beyond its unusual ingredients, Beondegi is a testament to Korea’s sustainable eating culture. This snack has been a part of Korean diets for centuries, providing an affordable source of protein. If you’re interested in tasting a piece of Korean history, or you’re looking for a unique, nutrient-dense snack, Beondegi is the way to go.

Beondegi (Silkworm Pupae)
Beondegi (Silkworm Pupae)

2. Sannakji (Live Octopus)

Sannakji’s Unusual Appeal
Sannakji is a dish that truly embraces the fresh seafood culture of Korea. Baby octopuses are served alive, often lightly seasoned with sesame oil and sesame seeds. What makes this dish stand out is its theatrical aspect — the octopus continues to squirm even when it’s being eaten, providing a unique sensory experience.

Why Sannakji is Worth a Try
Trying Sannakji is considered a daring culinary adventure. While it might be an initial shock to the uninitiated, this dish is a demonstration of Korea’s appreciation for freshness in food. For culinary thrill-seekers, Sannakji is not to be missed.

Sannakji (Live Octopus)
Sannakji (Live Octopus)

3. Yukhoe (Korean Beef Tartare)

The Delicacy of Yukhoe
Yukhoe is a dish made from high-quality, raw beef that’s been thinly sliced or minced. The meat is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, pear juice, sugar, and other seasonings, resulting in a flavorful and tender dish. Yukhoe often comes with a raw egg yolk on top, which adds a creamy richness when mixed with the beef.

Why Experience Yukhoe
If you’re a fan of steak tartare or carpaccio, Yukhoe is a Korean counterpart that’s worth trying. The combination of fresh, tender beef and sweet, savory seasoning creates a delicacy that’s both exotic and familiar to many food enthusiasts.

Yukhoe (Korean Beef Tartare)
Yukhoe (Korean Beef Tartare)

4. Jokbal (Pig’s Trotters)

The Flavorful World of Jokbal
Jokbal is a dish made of pig’s trotters (or feet) that have been boiled in a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and rice wine until they become tender. The result is a dish that’s savory, slightly sweet, and deeply flavorful. Jokbal is typically served with lettuce and perilla leaves, which are used to wrap the meat, as well as spicy fermented shrimp sauce (saeujeot) for dipping.

Why Sample Jokbal
Jokbal offers a unique way to appreciate different cuts of pork. The collagen-rich trotters have a gelatinous texture that’s both chewy and tender, which many find addictive. This dish is also usually enjoyed as anju (food to pair with alcohol), making it a great choice for social dining experiences.

Jokbal (Pig's Trotters)
Jokbal (Pig’s Trotters)

5. Gejang (Marinated Raw Crab) Continued

Unpacking the Flavors of Gejang
Gejang is a traditional Korean dish consisting of raw crabs marinated in soy sauce or chili pepper paste. The crabs are marinated for long enough to “cook” them in the sauce, resulting in a tangy, umami-packed dish.

Why Gejang is a Must-Try
Gejang is a testament to the Korean love for seafood. The technique of marinating preserves the natural sweetness of the crab, while adding layers of flavor through the soy sauce or chili paste. This dish is perfect for seafood lovers and those who appreciate bold, tangy flavors.

Unpacking the Flavors of Gejang
Gejang (Marinated Raw Crab)
Gejang (Marinated Raw Crab)

6. Gopchang (Grilled Intestines)

The Unique Allure of Gopchang
Gopchang refers to beef or pork intestines that are cleaned, seasoned, and then grilled. This dish is well-loved in Korea for its distinctive chewy texture and rich, savory flavor. Grilled gopchang is typically served with a side of fresh vegetables and a spicy dipping sauce.

Why Venture into Gopchang
Gopchang is a delicacy that offers a different perspective on Korean BBQ. It’s not only about the taste, but also the texture. The chewy intestines have a robust flavor that pairs wonderfully with a cold beer or soju. If you’re a fan of offal or want to experience a unique aspect of Korean BBQ, Gopchang is worth trying.


7. Gaebul (Sea Worm)

What’s Special about Gaebul
Gaebul, also known as “penis fish” due to its phallic shape, is a type of marine spoon worm commonly found in mudflats around Korea. This seafood delicacy can be eaten raw or grilled, and it has a sweet, slightly briny flavor with a chewy texture.

Why Gaebul Should be on Your List
Trying Gaebul can be a culinary adventure. It’s a unique seafood item that you’re unlikely to find in your average restaurant outside of Korea. The taste and texture offer a new experience for those who enjoy trying exotic seafood.

Gaebul (Sea Worm)
Gaebul (Sea Worm)

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