Tuesday, April 22, 2008

닭발 (Dak bal) & 번데기 (Beondegi)

I went out with my friend Michael Sunday night and tried two strange foods--one by accident.  We had an SMS conversation back and forth and came to the conclusion that we wanted to try something off the beaten path and I wanted to introduce him to 막걸리 makgeolli--a rice-based alcoholic drink.

The place had no picture menus and very little Korean that I understood.  But I ordered our drinks.  Along with the kettle of makgeolli came two cermaic cups for us to drink out of and a small bowl of 번데기 beondegi.  Beondegi are silkworm larvae.  They are a common street food during the winter.  The smell is inescapable when walking down the sidewalk in cold weather.  But, since its a bug larvae, its taken me 18 months to try them.


Well, Mike dug right in--not knowing what they were.  I carefully watched his face as he chewed.

"Hmm nuts.  Hmm...  They taste like nuts, but they're juicy inside."

After I told him what they were, he dug in for more so i had to try.  Like he said, they taste very nutty at first.   Then, when you bite in and the innards squirt in your mouth, there's a strange taste of sadness that overtakes the nuttiness.  Perhaps I should have tried them after a few bowls of makgeolli.

First, we ordered a plate of chicken nuggets since that was one of the the only things that I could positively identify from menu.  We killed those, ordered another kettle of makgeolli, and I dared Michael to order a random thing on the menu.  He ended up ordering 닭 발 Dak bal, since it had the shortest name.

When our 닭 발 finally came, I thought, "Oh its little octopi in hot sauce."

I've had this a few times.  I looked back at the menu and wondered why the Korean word for octopus (낙지) wasn't in the name of this dish.  I was also curious why these octopi only had three arms.  I figured maybe they were just chopped up or something.

So, we dug in.  The meat was tough and spicy.  Then, I bit down on a bit of cartilage.  I put the piece on my napkin and looked back at the menu.  I didn't know octopi had cartilage.

Then, I used my English-Korean translator on my phone.  The first word I translated was "닭" which means chicken.  Wow, okay, so it was actually chicken.  Then, I put the last part of the name in the phone.  "발" means foot.  Chicken.  Foot.


I looked down at the plate.  Suddenly, it became clear.  The three "arms" were the three toes of the foot.  I looked closer and even though they were covered with hot sauce, I could make out the texture of the chicken skin.

I busted out laughing.  I asked Michael if he wanted to know what we were really eating.  He did.  I told him and watched as he stared at the plate.  Suddenly all the little feet on the plate came in focus for him as well.  Here's Michael chowing down, after we knew what we were eating.



  1. Hahahaha! Isn't Korea awesome?

  2. lawsuit. Under article 7 section 2b. The unauthorized print of any character(s) on a public site is grounds for immediate public humilation, regardless of speeling errors. Please step within the light of the strob and juggle these bottles. Nice!

  3. I heard beondegi has the taste of death, but chicken feet is awesome. Chinese people eat it all the time too. Spicy ones are especially good! Heard the cartilage is good for your skin.


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