So I've gotten to eat some "questionable" food recently.
Last night I had 추어탕, or Chueotang--Loach fish and bean paste soup. According to my 'net research, the soup is made by boiling/blending fish, then adding turnip leaves/cabbage. This sounds disgusting, and the soup itself looks pretty foul, no?
Looks a little like vomit, YUMBO
I had it with my partner teacher, Jenny. I've learned to follow her every move when we're eating together; she has excellent taste(buds). I asked her what she had ordered for us, and and I didn't believe her when she told me "fish soup," 'cause 추어탕 tastes/smells NOTHING like fish. It is freaky. The soup is sprinkled with ash seed powder to remove any trace of fish smell/taste...it had a strong, hearty, beef-stew like flavor. It was delicious! And it's apparently very good "for your health," as Koreans like to say.
Last week a few friends and I went out for 족발, or Jokbal--pig's trotters. I had no idea what we were going to be served--a big platter of feet? I kept on thinking about those gross-looking pickled pig's feet jars you see (usually looking pretty dusty/scarcely purchased) at the grocery store back home. What arrived at our table was a ton of thinly sliced trotter feet meat, served upon the actual legs, which MANLY MEN Mark and Charles proceeded to gnaw on:
The meat itself was good, if not begging to be supplemented with rice of some kind/beer. It was really fatty, but since living here, I've really embraced fatty meat, taste/texture wise--Koreans love it, and so do I. Jokbal is apparently loaded with collagen, and thereby also "good for your health". HIGH FAT CONTENT NEGATED
Finally, I recently bit the bullet and tried one of the only foods in Korea that I've found truly revolting since being here: bondegi, or boiled silkworm larvae.
Bodengi are usually sold on the street as a snack--people buy little cup-size portions of them and eat them with toothpicks. I can smell bondegi boiling from a couple blocks away--they smell like mothballs/old socks/nothing edible. I told myself I would never knowingly purchase bondegi, but that if I was ever presented with an opportunity to try it for free, I would be brave and make an attempt. And unfortunately, at lunch the other day, I was provided with a tray full of complementary bugs (served as 반 찬, or "banchan"--side dish).
I took one bite of single larvae. It crunched, which I was not expecting...it was ribbed and the texture was terrible. Then, I was immediately overwhelmed by musty sock taste, and swallowed the thing (practically) whole before my gag reflux kicked in. I had the taste in my mouth for the rest of the day, and I still feel like things are crawling all over me whenever I think about my bondegi experience.
Call me culturally insensitive if you want, but in my defense
A) a lot of my students hate bondegi--my personal polls find about 70% hate the stuff
B) some things are just straight up nasty, cross-culturally. BUG BABIES FALL INTO THIS CATEGORY