Sometimes, on Wednesday nights, the NETs at my school get together and grab dinner. A few weeks ago we opted for a Daegu delicacy, makchang (막창). Similar to chitlins, makchang is actually grilled pig intestines… sounds good, right? They belong to the anju food group, aka food to be consumed alongside soju. I’m not a soju fan and I was sick… so I opted out. It’s a popular dish, is appropriately freaky, and originated in this area, so we bit the bullet and tried a place near work.
|our makchang on the grill
It was served with lettuce leaves for wrapping, onions, garlic, and some kind of ssamjang. They also gave us a frosty cabbage soup and squid salad. The pieces were pretty big so we cut them.
Ultimately… it was good. It had a slightly sweet flavor, enhanced by the sauce. We got the spicy variety but it didn’t pack too much heat. Some of my fellow diners were put off by the chewy texture as well as the flavor. My Korean coworker described it as “bold.” Honestly, wrapped up in my lettuce leaf, I didn’t find it to be particularly strong. Would I eat it again? Yeah. For the price, though, I’d rather have some good samgyeopsal or galbi.
Freaky Food: Makchang
Verdict: Decent, but not worth the price
Every region of Korea has its own culinary specialty. A group of friends and I found ourselves in Jinju (Gyeongsangnam-do) last weekend, and we decided to sample some local flavor. Jinju is known for yukhoe (pronounced yook hway) bibimbap – raw beef mixed rice. While some people may have eaten raw beef before, I hadn’t. In Japan, I had a dish with raw egg and felt squeamish… surely I would contract salmonella or worse! But it was fine (and delicious), and part of being a traveler is trying new things. Otherwise, why bother?
A new Korean friend took us to a local market where we could find a few restaurants, including one that specialized in this dish. There was literally a line out the door and around the corner, always a good sign!
We went upstairs. Sat down. Looked at the neighboring table. They had ordered an entire plate of raw beef, which looked pretty scary. Hesitantly, we ordered our dishes and awaited our future food-poisoning…
But then this came:
It was delicious. The bibimbap alone was really great, with lots of veggies and other goodies, but the meat was super flavorful. The beef seasoning included soy sauce, sesame oil, and even Korean pear, which is pretty traditional. I ate an entire bowl and half of Andy’s!
This particular restaurant also served a bowl of beefy, oniony soup with each order. The banchan were radish kimchi, pickled radish, and ojingeojeot (fermented squid – sounds gross but is amazing). All in all a great place!
Freaky Food: Yukhoe bibimbap (raw beef mixed rice)
Verdict: A must-try!
About 3 months, Andy and I faced one of our fears… eating bugs! Beondegi are super popular snacks at Korean events or even sold in stores, similar to popcorn or nuts. I remember very clearly my distaste for this snack… but Andy wasn’t convinced. A second round was in order. Watch the verdict below.
Don’t forget my original post on beondegi!
Less than two weeks ago, Andy and I went to a restaurant near our apartment. The food was great, and we shared a pot of honey makgeolli which was delicious. But before the food arrived, they brought us some bar snacks and banchan (sides). Nothing too out of the ordinary… seaweed soup, Kix-like crackers, and beondegi (번데기). We knew we’d have to face beondegi at some point, but I assumed that was in the distant future, when we had finally bet each other enough money to try them as street food. What are beondegi you ask?
|sorry it’s so yellow… my flash was off!
Yup, we were staring down a bowl of bugs… but we promised each other we’d try everything in Korea, and neither of us was about to back down. Chopsticks tentatively perched in hand; I struggled to pick up a single pupae. They were surprisingly… moist. I only tried one.
Freaky Food: Beondegi