Restaurant search apps tend to favor quantity over quality. Most mine the web to produce general results vouched for by random strangers who think Kimbap Heaven actually lives up to its name. The MangoPlate team set out to create a better restaurant app that’s not just a directory, but a useful tool that makes restaurant discovery easy and delicious. It’s like having a personal restaurant advisor in your pocket that’s constantly updated with the latest hotspots and hidden gems. It’s linked with Facebook, so finding where to eat lunch can be as easy as perusing the “Friends’ Feed,” a timeline of the latest eateries visited by friends.
Joyce from MangoPlate drew up the “Top 5 Foods for Adventurous Eaters” coupled with restaurant recommendations on where to find these wacky dishes.
1. Teuksubuwi 특수 부위 – Cow Digestive System
Eating cow intestines isn’t that weird – if you can get past its role as a poop highway for our steak-martyr friends. Many cultures eat it as chitlins, tripe, menudo, andouille, and so forth. But Korea doesn’t stop there. In this land, everything from tummy to tush is legit consumption territory.
Cows have four stomachs. The first stomach, yang (양), looks like bleached, expired steak and chews like a rubber eraser though it doesn’t really taste like anything. The second stomach, buhljip yang (벌집양), is scarily gray and textured like a car tire, which is also what it feels like when attempting to digest it. The third stomach, cheonyeop (천엽), resembles ratty terrycloth and is usually served sliced and raw with bloody cubes of cow liver as “service”. The fourth stomach, makchang (막창), is greasier and not as chewy as the first stomach. If yang is like eating a lean six pack, makchang is like eating beer belly.
Weirdly enough, the closer one gets to the exit, the tastier the situation gets. The small intestines, gopchang (곱창), has the consistency of overcooked squid and tastes rich and beefy with a subtle touch of barnyard. The large intestines, daechang (대창), can be served straight up or “Gangnam-style” – inverted so all the fat is stuffed into tubes. Think bursts of buttery beef fat with each bite.
Where to Eat It:
Janggane Gopchang 장가네곱창 – Mapo 마포
It’s difficult to find a restaurant that serves all the innards mentioned, but Janggane does and does it well.
Squishy, delicious cow intestines. Photo by MangoPlate.
2. Bokeo 복어 – Blowfish
Blowfish, of course, is one of the most poisonous vertebrae in the world. It has enough tetrodotoxin to kill at least a couple dozen men. And the best part? There’s no antidote! Thankfully, the fish’s toxins are concentrated in its internal organs, namely the ovaries, eyes, and liver, making it so that skillfully trained chefs with stringent government licensing can expertly prepare blowfish without anyone dying. The Korean preparation of blowfish is different from the Japanese who favor serving it raw as sashimi. Instead, Korean blowfish is usually boiled in a soup with red pepper paste, garlic, and vegetables. The taste of the meat itself is light with a dense, slightly fibrous texture, and the experience of eating it is made all the more delicious when flavored with danger.
Where to Eat It:
Fukuchan 후꾸찬 – Apgujeong 압구정 and Seolleung Station 선릉역
Serves different variations of blowfish – deep-fried, grilled, raw, and boiled – in set menus. Reservations required at least a day in advance.
Blowfish soup. Photo by Mike 8283.
3. Sannakji 산낙지 – Live Octopus Sashimi
There’s fresh and then there’s still moving. A slithery octopus is plucked from its tank, sliced live, and made to sit in a myriad of its wriggling tentacle bits. The residual nerve activity keeps them dancing for a long time. Sannakji is slimy, chewy, and takes on the taste of whatever dipping sauce it’s plunked in. The novelty of sannakji is the sensation of a bunch of suckers furiously attaching themselves to your lips, tongue, and cheeks. It’s also a part of a long list of foods Korean men refer to as “Korean Viagra.”
Though entertaining to chew on tentacles that conveniently self-marinate by writhing around in sesame oil, some octopi get their revenge. There are about 6 deaths a year in Korea from choking on sannakji, and sometimes, it’s the tool for murder. The key is to chew thoroughly to make sure the suction pads have no way of fastening onto the throat which can lead to asphyxiation.
Where to Eat It:
Noryangjin Market 노량진수산 – Noryangjin Station 노량진역
First buy some octopus at a vendor then head to one of the many restaurants within the market to sit, eat, and drink. Use MangoPlate to find one that suits you.
Wriggle wriggle. Photo by MangoPlate.
4. Gaebul 개불 – Spoon Worm (“Penis Fish”)
Gaebul is a species of sea worm whose phallic appearance has earned it its nickname of “penis fish” or “sea weiner.”
It seriously looks like the male member, and not surprisingly, it’s known for its aphrodisial effects. For men. Oh, the jokes and arm-nudging I had to endure when I announced I was going to eat “penis fish.” If that weren’t enough, chewing on gaebul results in an explosive spray of…salt water. This is also what it tastes like, and chewing it reminds me of what I can only describe as what chewing on
condoms balloons must be like.
Where to Eat It:
Alive versus (kind of) dead. Photo by MangoPlate.
5. Dalkttongjip 닭똥집- Chicken Rectum
Ddakddongjip literally translates to “chicken shit house,” a colorful play on what it really is – chicken anus sphincter. Though you may recoil at the thought of munching on chicken butt, it’s really just chicken gizzards…but extended to where no man had dared. Until the Koreans. Because it’s a muscle (try not to think about what the muscle does), ddakddongjip has almost no fat, making each bite thick and springy. It’s usually skewered and slathered with a spicy sauce or stir-fried with garlic, peppers, onions, and Korean red chiles, but stand-alone, it tastes a bit like chicken livers. It may be of small comfort that ddakddongjip isn’t the actual chicken asshole. It’s the muscle that keeps the asshole closed. Are you too chicken to try chicken rectum?
Where to Eat It:
Ppeokkugi 뻐꾸기 – Several locations throughout Seoul
Popular drinking hole serving as-delicious-as-it’s-gonna-get chicken butts loaded up with lots of garlic.
Mmm, chicken anus. Photo by Nocturnalb.
Whether you want to have a unique dining experience or just need to know where to eat for lunch, MangoPlate is here to help. Use the app to get restaurant details on any of the restaurants mentioned in this article or use the powerful search function to find alternative restaurants in your neighborhood. MangoPlate boasts over 5,000 restaurants in the Seoul area and allows you to search for restaurants by name, keyword, proximity, cuisine, and price. MangoPlate is free and can be downloaded from the Apple app store or Google Play.