My Favorite Korean Food – Live Octopus


Probably the single thing I miss about Korea the most is the live octopus.  This is my favorite food of all time, I grew up eating live octopus when I was young and it’s really great with soju.

When I arrived in Korea, my mom asked me what I wanted to eat, I said, “Sannakji” (산낙지), which means live octopus.

Let me clear up some of the mis-understandings and rumors here.  Koreans don’t actually eat “live” octopus.  The head of the octopus has been cut beforehand and the tentacles naturally move but it’s not actually “live”.

We don’t know why what the tentacles still “function”, but that’s why I love live octopus, it sticks on your tongue.  Just make sure you chew all the way before swallowing otherwise you can choke to death as it happens in Korea to several every year.

And you want to eat live octopus “fresh”, preferably at a live octopus specialty restaurants.  In Korea, there’s live octopus restaurants that specialize in that and that only.  Also, you can get live octopus at fish markets, which are super fresh, I will have a blog post on that too later.

I know PETA has been posting bunch of animal-cruelty videos of Koreans eating a whole octopus “live”.  That’s completely made-up and the live octopus dish is served with the tentacles only.   And yes, the movie Old Boy is a “movie”, hello world!

Well, it’s a different culture, you won’t understand why Koreans eat live octopus unless you grew up in Korea.

Check out some of the banchan (sidedishes) for the live octopus.  You can also wrap it with the vegetables and dip it in Korean chili paste, which is good too if you don’t like playing with the tentacles in your mouth.

Check out this delicious Gae-jang (Spicy Raw Crab), this one was on the house!  So good… I missed this already.

For drinks, I got the Korean rice wine called Makkuli (막걸리), this one is “draft” Rice wine, as you can see in the expiration dates, 10/25/2010 to 11/23/2010, this rice wine has no preservatives added in any way and does not last long.  You can get the slightly similar version in the U.S. but this one tastes a bit better.

Did you know Makkuli has 100 times more good bacteria than the same amount of yogurt?  Yes, it’s one of the healthiest (if not the healthiest) alcoholic beverage in the world.

The Makkuli has about 6% alcohol content and is a creeper so try drinking it slowly.  Also don’t forget to shake the bottle very hard before you drink it.

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6 Responses to My Favorite Korean Food – Live Octopus

  1. Pingback: Eating Live Octopus in Korea!

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  4. William says:

    That sure is an interesting dish. And them sticking to the tounge sounds interesting as well but I do not think you could get me to eat it since it is raw and look scary ……

    The Gae-jang looks good though, well, if I where allowed to but them in the owne for a while anyway 😉

    • Max Lee says:

      Yes, this is a hard dish to learn to eat but I’ve been eating it since like I was 5 or 6 years old so, it’s just natural for me. But there’s plenty cooked octopus dishes that are great too.

  5. Fouzia Sahli says:

    Well, I’d like to try eating some sanakji, seems like fun^^ Unfortunately, where I live (Lyon, France) there aren’t korean restaurants cooking (or more like cutting it) … Will wait till visiting South Korea 🙂

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