Asia Travel News

How to eat an octopus

For those that like a dash of danger with their dinner, South Korea may just be the place to order up. There, diners will discover one of the world's stranger meals: live octopus.

It's a dish not made for the faint of heart, not least because it involves the consumption of another living creature. The real frightening aspect of the meal has to do with those many little suckers, which inevitably stick to the tongue, the mouth and - if one isn't thorough in his or her chewing - the inside of the throat. Yet, while octopus borders on choking hazard, it has become a popular dish for Koreans and is starting to catch on among the tourists, too.

Cinema and bar food
The dish, specifically known as san-nakji, became legendary after the Korean action film "Oldboy." In it, one of the actors eats an entire octopus by shoving it into his mouth. However, it seems that Koreans have gravitated to the dish not just because of the cinema, but because it seems to be an excellent side dish during a night of drinking, as evidenced by the people who visit Gasiri, a restaurant in Seoul that offers the delicacy

"It is a good side dish to alcohol because it is non-greasy and has a unique, fresh taste," Jin-Hyung Chu, a Gasiri regular, told CNN. He also told the news source that he enjoyed the unusual texture.

People will order octopus not just for a night of drinking, but for the regular, casual meal. It's also a sought-after treat for the occasional adventurous traveler, who take to the dish because it offers a unique culinary experience. In a piece featured by USA Today, travel bloggers Captain and Clark put the octopus encounter in no uncertain terms.

"If you're in any way a fan of sushi or raw fish, this will be a crowning jewel in your culinary life," they wrote.

How to eat it
Eating live octopus is something of a ritual, and sticking to the script is key for both enjoyment and safety. The dish is usually served with sesame oil. Standard procedure is to wrap the legs around the head before dipping it into the sesame oil, hot sauce or whatever other condiment is provided. Then diners should chew thoroughly before attempting to swallow. En-hee Sohn, the owner of Gasiri, told CNN that the octopus should be eaten with raw garlic to help keep tentacles from sticking. If eating an entire octopus seems to be too terrifying, san-nakji may also be chopped up into a plate of sesame oil and garlic and served. Either way, it's a dish one's not likely to forget anytime soon.

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