Korean speciality dishes 산낙지 (sannakji) – Are you brave enough to try?
Many Asian dishes are known to be very interesting, containing raw fish or freshly caught seafood, but the Korean dish Sannakji contains an even more exciting twist than just being raw – the octopus is still alive! The most common way the dish is displayed is wriggling baby octopus (nakji) tentacles served on a plate, often drenched in sesame sauce and some seasoning.
When the dish is served this way the octopus is technically not alive, but the reason the tentacles are still moving is because they are not cut off until right before serving which makes them still able to function. The reason the dish is so popular amongst Koreans is the sensation and feeling of eating the still squirming food rather than the flavour itself, which is usually quite mild.
For people who are not used to eating Sannakji it can actually be dangerous because of the suction cups. Not only are the tentacles moving but they still have the ability to use their suction cups and this causes a choking hazard for those who are not careful. It is recommended to chew properly and preferably drink something after swallowing to help the food reach the stomach.
After a while the tentacles will stop moving on the plate and many restaurants will gladly cook the remains into another dish for you, for example Haemultang (assorted seafood stew).
An even more interesting way of enjoying Sannakji is to eat a whole live octopus. There is no seasoning or cooking involved when eating Sannakji this way; you simply start nibbling the tentacles and enjoy the mild flavour. When eating like this you have to make sure you have chewed very properly before swallowing. The head of the baby octopus is not supposed to be eaten as it can be poisonous.
Live baby octopus can be bought at larger fish markets in Korea and many restaurants which serve raw fish also serve Sannakji. It is also a rather popular side dish or snack in many bars to be followed down by a drink. There are also other famous dishes that contain live seafood such as the Japanese dish odori ebi which literally is translated to dancing shrimp as it wriggles its legs and tentacles as you eat it.