10 December 2004


Today we're having little octopus, or nakji (낙지).

These are the little nakjis resting peacefully in the tank. But not for long ..... (play Jaws theme here).

It's usually quite a full tank, but we're kinda late for dinner tonight. This restaurant specialises in all things nakji.

Here's what we're having tonight.

Straight from the tank onto the plate - in less than 8 minutes. Raw octopus (낙지회, nakji hwee) can either be eaten whole or sliced up. Obviously, my guests chose the latter - cowards!

The nakji arrives at the table all squirming and wriggling, very worm-like when you think about it. It's served with a healty dash of sesame oil and topped with roasted sesame seeds. Nothing else - no salt, no pepper, nada.

The fun bit is getting them onto your chopsticks and then into your mouth. These fellas will squirm and wriggle their way out of trouble. And the suction cups on their tentacles can be pretty strong, even as they slide down your throat! Hahaha ..... talk about your food fighting back.

Someone once told me that it's easier if you used wooden chopsticks instead of the metal ones, but I do fine with my metal chopsticks, so no problems there.

After 2 hours of soju-ing and chatting, you'd think that these fellas would all be goners by then. Nooooo ..... they sit idly on the plate when not provoked, but the moment you stick your sticks in there, they're up and wriggling again .... even after 2 hours!

Taste wise, my best description for it would be this - it's like eating soft plastic, chewy but not very tasty. I guess the novelty value runs low after several times. But for first timers, I'd say "you only live once, so go for it". It's one of those "been there done that" event.

I have a short video clip of these squirmy buggers. I'll put them up if you guys can tell me if there are any servers out there willing to host my short video for free. Else, just send me an e-mail request and I'll e-mail it to you. The video is approximately 32 seconds long and about 727kb in size. No biggie.

[ update - pieman over at noodlepie has graciously offered to host the video clip. So if you're interested, head on over here and download the file. Thanks, pieman. ]

This plate of nakji hwee is a single portion, comprising of 2 nakjis, and cost KRW22,000.

Next up is the less exciting but more delicious octopus casserole (낙지전골, nakji jeongol).

Usually, at these sort of nakji restaurants, you have a choice of two varieties of nakji - saeng (live) or naeng (refridgerated i.e. dead) - and prices differ drastically between the two. The live nakjis go for about KRW16,000 per person whereas the non-live ones go for about KRW8,000 per person. Just so you know.

This is a three-person portion. It's loaded with sliced octopus, round cabbage, chinese cabbage, leek, tofu, straw mushrooms, bean sprouts, large onions, sliced radish, and topped with a healty heap of seasoned gochujang paste. Add the seafood stock and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

This heat from this very spicy dish creeps up on you unsuspectingly. A couple of minutes into what starts off as a sedate dinner and you'll be reaching for that glass of cold water in no time. The gochu paste is mixed with a generous amount of sugar and sesame oil, so while it's spicy, it's also sweetish and fragrant all at the same time. Nice.

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