#Tastemakers Ep. 14: What it’s like to eat South Korean delicacy Sannakji (live octopus)

susan wong live octopus sannakji

Is eating live octopus gross, macho or cruel? Curiosity was what drove me to try Sannakji, a South Korean delicacy, for the first time during my last trip to Toronto, Canada.

Toronto is home to the largest single concentration of Koreans in Canada and has grown to become one of the city’s largest cultural groups. Contributing to Toronto’s diverse multicultural fabric through setting-up businesses but specifically my personal favourite, restaurants; authentic Korean delicacies are easily found in the metropolis.

At the popular Gonoe Sushi Restaurant, diners can indulge in traditional Japanese and Korean dishes. For those that are more adventurous, Gonoe also offers Sannakji or “live” rather “incredibly fresh” butchered octopus where the tentacles are served raw, cut into small pieces, usually still wriggling, and complemented with chili and sesame oil.

Internet videos of people eating Sannakji whole and even chopped-up have recently gone viral with viewers squirming from the sight of wriggling tentacles, detached from the body of the octopus, still sucking from residual nerve activity.

Traditionally, Kando warriors ate Sannakji to give themselves strength. Despite what other cultures may interpret as a strange culinary tradition, Sannakji is still a thriving South Korean delicacy that’s often paired with shots of Soju.

Indeed, it was an incredibly memorable experience, one that I’m happy to have tried, once.  I’ve never eaten anything that could wriggle-off my chopsticks before and do not particularly wish to experience that again. The fresh gelatinous pieces of tentacles were slightly chilled and had very little flavor aside from a subtle sweetness of the ocean. Slightly chewy, much like the texture of the skin of a braised chicken, the morsels of Sannakji were underwhelming to the palate but the experience was unique and challenging.

If you’re looking for an eating experience and not a flavourful one, then sampling Sannakji is for you.

Watch my experience below:

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