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All About San-nak-ji: Eating Live Baby Octopus

by Gizelle Lau
From Food + Drink
March 3, 2008

Eating live octopus? You must be joking, right?

Welcome to another chapter to our popular and acclaimed series on highly stigmatized foreign and cultural dishes from around the world. One of our past favourites: All About Haggis.

Introducing San-nak-ji or Sannakji

Sannakji is a popular Korean and Japanese dish that is also often considered a delicacy.

Today it is served in many Korean restaurants as well as sit-in bars on the side of the street in South Korea.

So what is it? Well, there's really no way to play it down.

Sannakji is live, fresh baby octopus cut into small pieces and served immediately - legs and tentacles still squirming and slithering on your plate.

Like revenge, it is a dish best served cold, raw, and seasoned with sesame oil, sesame seeds, and other sauces. In varying restaurants, different sauces are used and sometimes the octopus is also served whole.

Sannakji is a big tourist attraction and eating adventure for those travelling throughout Korea, and is sensationalized especially by Westerners. It is a dish likely to be served on reality TV shows like Fear Factor, Survivor and Amazing Race because, well, it's eating live octopus.

The Best Part of Sannakji?

Baby SquidFor many experienced sannakji eaters, it is said that the enjoyment of eating the live octopus is the feeling of the octopus moving around while you eat it. What is especially exciting about it are when its tentacles stick to the roof of your mouth. This is not recommended for beginners or those who have consumed too much alcohol as it is very easy to choke.

Death by Sannakji

The reason why sannakji can be so dangerous is because since it is still alive, the suction cups on the tentacles or legs of the octopus are still active. Thus, it is very important for those eating sannakji not to swallow, but to chew very meticulously until the octopus is in small pieces. This way, the suction cups won't be able to suction or stick to your mouth or throat to choke you while eating.

Blowfish or fugu, which also served in mainly Korea and Japan, is probably considered the most dangerous food in the world, causing poisoning, death, and worse. The next most dangerous food is probably considered to be sannakji, rumoured to cause approximately 6 deaths a year in South Korea.

Learn about Blowfish: Death by Blowfish: Stories You Wouldn't Believe!

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Gizelle Lau

Gizelle Lau is a freelance writer & photographer in Toronto, Canada with a passion for food and travel. 



Located: Toronto Canada
Likes: cities, culture, food/wine, paths-less-travelled, photography, wildlife
Website: http://www.gizellelau.com/blog.htm

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