Korean Eating: Let’s Eat Feet!
Two Korean dishes that I personally enjoy commonly are made up entirely of feet.
Of course, they weren’t the first dishes that I was drawn to in Korea, but after eight years in this country, my taste buds have certainly expanded and I enjoy many of the more interesting Korean delights. I tend to think of eating in Korea as if in a game. Level one is for the newbies and encompasses meals like galbi 갈비 (grilled meat), bibimbap 비빔밥 (a mix of rice, vegetables and a spicy pepper paste) and mandu-guk 만두국 (dumpling soup). These are the meals you take your visiting friends and family out for because they may not be as adventurous as you now are after living here for a year or more. As foreigners develop a taste for these meals, they gradually start tasting the side dishes which tend to be fermented and spicier thereby developing taste buds for some of the other Korean main dishes. Level five might encompass such dishes as sannakji 산낙지 (live octopus) or kimchi jjiggae 김지찌개 (kimchi stew) and jok-bal 족발 (pig’s feet) and then as you go higher you get into the foods that you may not have thought were edible like chicken feet 닭발.
In Korea, chicken feet is made with a spicy red pepper sauce and if you’re lucky they have already been de-boned. The skin and tendons that make up the feet make the bite a bit crunchy while at the same time squishy. If you don’t like strange consistencies in your mouth, this probably isn’t the dish for you. Chicken feet wouldn’t be the main dish of a meal but would be a dish eaten while drinking alcohol. It’d be like eating spicy chicken wings in the States. The spicy sauce on the feet makes them perfect for that bite between drinks with friends. The feet are fatty and coated in a spicy sauce that will keep you coming back for more if you can get past the idea that these chickens were just up and walking around a coop on these little fellas. A great place to try them is at Gwangjang Market where they are served at numerous food stalls by old women who really know their stuff. Sit down, order a plate and maybe a bottle of soju and you’ll be good to go for at least an hour. A dish of one helping costs between W7,000 to W10,000 and one helping is enough to feed a couple people just feeling a little peckish (is that a weird word to use when you’re eating chicken feet?).
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I tried pigs feet much earlier than the chicken counterpart. For some reason pigs feet didn’t seem so far fetched and they didn’t look nearly as spicy at first glance. I remember a glimpse of pigs feet in a pickling jar on a shelf in a convenience store when I was in car driving from Ohio to Florida one time with my family when I was young and so for that reason, it seemed not unnatural to eat the things I guess. That being said, I never once saw them in Ohio and don’t know anyone that has eaten them but, if someone in the States was eating them, southerners, then why not? In Korea, the trotters aren’t pickled like the American version, instead they are braised in soy sauce, garlic, ginger and rice wine. Also joined on the table with a couple of bottles of soju and a dipping sauce made of fermented shrimp called saeujeot 세우젓. Either just dipped in the sauce and into the mouth it goes or the slices can be dipped in the sauce, wrapped in a piece of lettuce and topped with some nearby garnishes to make for a filling meal. Restaurants that sell this dish can be found all over the place. One of our favorite spots to get some are at Mangwon Market where they will package it to go making it the perfect meal to grab before heading to the Han River for a picnic.
Both kinds of feet are worth a peck, a gobble or a munch while you’re in Korea. Delicious meals anytime of day.
Have you ever tried pigs feet or chicken feet Korean style or other? What did you think?