Task #48 of 101.1001 is to eat an insect and task #17 of 30in30 is to try a new food. I’ve never knowingly tried insects before, so we bought a small cup of beondegi or silkworm pupae at namdaemun market. This is a typical Korean street food, the pupae were boiled and eaten with toothpicks. One small cup was KRW2,000 or two dollars so it was worth trying.
When I initially set this challenge, I envisioned trying the cricket chocolate from Wittamer, but the box went mouldy on me. I have been reading a lot of articles about the benefits of eating bugs — they are sustainable, nutritious and 80% of the world’s cultures already eat insects. As global population grows exponentially, there is a lot of thinking that the future human population will turn to insects for protein source. I guess people in 200, 500, 1000 year’s time will look back on our diet with the same shock as us looking at the diets of people hundreds of years ago.
I wasn’t really prepared to try bugs that look scary. I don’t think I’ll let anything with legs come near me, so spiders, grasshoppers and ants were out. I was okay about trying mealworms so when I read about beondegi in the course of my seoul research, I thought it may be alright to try.
First, it’s served hot, in a seasoned sauce. People complain about the smell, but it was no worse than other meat-based street food. You eat the whole thing, just pick it up with a toothpick and pop one in your mouth. The outside had the texture of boiled peanuts, a little crunchy, a little soggy. The inside was a little gamey, like mild liver. I won’t say I’m in any hurry to try it again, but if offered I won’t refuse it.
A tale of two markets today. Lunch was at Noryangjin fish market. A huge place, with hundreds of stalls on the ground floor selling fresh fish, crab, prawn and all manners of shellfish. On the first floor were small restaurants that would cook the fish customers bought at the stalls.
After watching the action and a short debate, we decided on a plate of assorted sashimi, spoon worm that looked and tasted like pig’s intestines, fresh steamed fish and one of the food items on all adventurous food challenge lists: sannajki or live still moving octopus.
Yes, the tentacles were still moving and the suckers made it difficult to remove from the plate. People who tried it always said the tentacles stuck to the inside of their mouths but I didn’t get that. It was pretty much like a gimmicky octopus sashimi. The head was awful though, I chewed and chewed and chewed and didn’t get anywhere, had to spit it out. Not the taste but the fact that it was unchewable. Everything else was great, especially the steamed fish.
Market #2 was the famous namdaemun market. Namdaemun means south gate and the gate formed one corner of the ancient seoul fortress. The gate burned down in 2008 after an arson attack, it was meticulously restored and I couldn’t tell the difference between the old and new one.
The market itself was your standard street market with stalls selling clothes, snacks, household items, accessories and souvenirs. There was a street with food and another area with a few snack carts. We bought some dried cuttlefish, sweet potato and chocolate from a nice lady who let us try everything and gave us some sweets as freebies. We were quite tired by then so we found a coffee place to rest for a while before heading back to our hotel.
Dinner was at a barbeque place a few doors down from the hotel. Belly pork and beef ribs, the meal total came to KRW25,000 (USD25). We walked around the Ewha University shopping streets after dinner and bought a few small accessories. It started raining so we made our way back to the hotel.