Have you heard of the wonderfully weird Korean food out there?
If not, your taste buds are in for a treat!
Today we are going to discuss some dishes truly unique to Korea! Some are loved and some are loathed, but one thing is for sure—they definitely do stand out. Korean culture is known for its food, but these dishes are on another level.
If you’re feeling brave, daring, and adventurous, then you might want to try these 10 weird Korean food dishes for the daring.
If you are looking for some new Korean vocabulary, we will also include the Korean names of each food so you can order them if you go to a restaurant. This is a good chance to boost your Korean language skills as you learn about these different kinds of unusual Korean food.
Note: If you would like to know how to pronounce the cool looking characters next to the words below, you can get a free guide to learn Hangeul (Korean alphabet) here. Most people learn to read in about one hour.
1. Beondegi (번데기) – Silkworm Larvae
The silkworm are first seasoned and then boiled or steamed. Beondaegi have a somewhat soft and crunchy texture, and are served in a paper cup on the street or in a bowl at restaurants.
If you’re dying to taste the home version of this wonderfully weird Korean food, we have great news for you! Beondaegi can also be bought in sealed cans, so you can experience the delight anytime you get a craving.
To all you fitness people – these are packed with protein, so grab a can after your next workout!
2. Jokbal (족발) – Pig’s Feet
Jokbal is a beloved dish in South Korea which is made up of boiled pigs’ feet cooked with leeks, soy sauce, ginger, sugar, and rice wine. The feet are deboned, cut into slices, and served on a large platter.
To eat, first, grab a piece of lettuce. Next, wrap a slice of jokbal in the lettuce. Finally, add your choice of sauces, veggies, and other little goodies, and you’re all set! Jokbal is said to be good for your skin and for hangovers, which works out well since it’s usually eaten alongside alcoholic beverages.
While it may seem like weird Korean food, it’s one of the more tame dishes. If you like Korean BBQ, then there’s a good chance you’ll like the taste of this one.
If you are looking for the real deal, be sure to check out Jokbal Alley in Seoul (장충동 족발골목| jangchungdong jokbalgolmok), which is chock full o’ jokbal spots.
3. Dakbal (닭발) – Chicken Feet
While we’re on the topic of feet, let’s not leave our little fine-feathered friends out of this one! While some of the foods on this menu may not resemble the corresponding animal you are eating, dakbal is the exception. Make no mistake; you will know they are chicken feet!
The feet are cooked and seasoned with sesame and red pepper paste. Keep a pitcher of water or other beverage of your choice nearby, because they are spicy! Korea is known for its spicy foods so if you like these there are plenty more spicy dishes to try!
To help remember this word, 닭 (dak) means chicken, and 발 (bal) means foot. Look for these words on signs next time you’re out in Korea or in a Korean restaurant area.
4. Hongeo (홍어)– Fermented Skate
Due to overfishing and low reproductive rates in recent years, skate has become an expensive delicacy in South Korea. Skates are similar to stingrays. You probably wouldn’t be able to tell them apart if you saw two next to each other.
As far as adventurous foods go, this one may be the winner. Hongeo is famous for its ammonia-like odor and the ability to make your eyes and mouth water at the same time. Raw fermented skate is served with various side dishes and is most common in the southern part of Korea.
Head over to your favorite fish and seafood market to get a try this out. You can use the word 홍어 (Hongeo) skate to order. Bon appetit!
5. Sundae (순대) – Boiled Intestine Sausage
First, let’s address the pronunciation. While the word for this dish may look like the delicious dessert item the “ice cream sundae”, it’s actually pronounced like “soon” + “day.” Now that we can say it, let’s figure out what it is!
Also known as blood sausage, sundae is boiled or steamed cow or pig intestines seasoned with various ingredients and then packed together in sausage-like form. It’s often one of the most popular foods at street vendors in South Korea.
6. Gopchang (곱창) – Grilled Pork or Cow Intestines
If you’re in need of a new dish to compliment a soju-infused night on the town, then you may want to consider gopchang.
Prepared in true BBQ style, you’ll sit at a round table with a grill in the middle and be served a dish of seasoned grilled intestines ready to be cooked up. If you forgot to work out that day, not to worry —gopchang’s chewiness will certainly give your jaw muscles a serious workout!
Gopchang’s companions are typically onions, garlic, green onions, mushrooms, hot peppers, and various kinds of sauce.
If you are in Korea, check out the Munhyeon Gopchang Alley in Busan (문현 곱창골목 | munhyeon gopchanggolmok) and Wangsimni Gopchang Alley in Seoul (왕십리 곱창골목 | wangsimni gopchanggolmok).
7. Dakttongjip (닭똥집) – Chicken Gizzard
Looking for food that will help keep your skin looking healthy? Then you might want to look into some dak dong jip. This popular dish has a reputation in Korea for contributing to healthy skin.
Made from the thick, muscular walls of the chicken’s digestive tract, this chewy delight is also known to cure hangovers. Doubly good!
Fun fact: 닭 (dak) means chicken, 똥 (ttong) means excrement, and 집 (jip) means house. Makes it quite easy to remember, but maybe you’ll want to briefly forget while you’re eating it!
8. Bosintang (보신탕) – Dog Meat Stew
The dog meat is prepared and boiled with various vegetables and spices, including green onions and perilla leaves. Although not as popular with the younger generation, bosintang can still be found quite easily in Korea.
Some Koreans believe that the dog meat stew gives virility and stamina to men after they eat it.
9. Gaebul (개불) – Live Spoon Worms
If you’re in the mood for some fresh seafood, then gaebul might be for you!
These worm-like marine animals are chopped up into bite-size pieces while still moving for your chewing enjoyment. They are served with salt and sesame oil, and have a mild flavor.
They are famous for resembling a certain part of the male anatomy and also are rumored to be an aphrodisiac. You can find this weird Korean food at many of the fish and seafood markets throughout the country.
10. Sannakji (산낙지) – Live Octopus
If you’ve seen the Korean movie Old Boy (올드보이), then you probably will never forget the legendary live octopus scene. Live octopus tops the list of weird Korean food for many people.
San (산) means “living” and nakji (낙지) means “octopus”, and it is just exactly that.
Sannakji is one of the most popular foods in Korea at seafood restaurants. Live octopus is served in different ways. Sometimes the tentacles are cut off and eaten immediately, while the body of the octopus is put into a soup. Alternatively, the tentacles may be served on a stick and eaten while still moving.
The body is cut up into small pieces and put into a bowl, to be enjoyed with sesame and sesame oil.
You may have noticed the frequent use of the word “live” in this paragraph. If you’ve never had your food moving around in your mouth before, then you may be in for quite a treat!
What are your favorite Korean foods? We’d love to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment below!