Friday, February 11, 2011

Live Baby Octopus

Eating live octopus, or San-Nak-Ji in South Korea is seen as a novelty and health dish (whatever happened to eating fruit and vegetables?!). The dish 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. The problem is the tentacles are still squirming and fighting--which equates to a party in your mouth as you chew them to death inside your mouth.

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.

      Tasting Notes


Slightly salty and sweet in the same time with a nutty taste as well


Chewy and sticky; pieces wiggle inside the mouth while eaten

Food Complements:

Samjang (a spicy pepper and bean paste)

Wine Complements:

Soju (Korean rice wine)

Beverage Complements:

Green tea or boricha (barley tea)



       Selecting and Buying

Seasonal Availability:

In Season

How to Choose:

The baby octopus, or "nakji," should be alive and active.

Where to Buy:

Best purchased from a seafood vendor that sells octopus fresh from a tank.

Growing, Hunting, and Foraging:

Octopus can be found in most warm-water oceans, but are abundant in the Pacific ocean in places like Korea, Japan and Hawaii. Octopus hunt their prey (crabs and crayfish) at night, so it is best to begin hunting them just before sundown, when they are still hiding among rocks close to shore. They can be captured with a pole equipped with a grabber on one end. In many U.S. states, fishing rules state that octopus cannot be caught with any instrument that penetrates the animal.


       Preparation and Use

Sannakji is served directly from the tank, cut into small pieces and served on a plate with sesame oil and/or sesame seeds while still wiggling.


No cleaning is necessary since the pieces are served raw. 
Conserving and Storing: Live octopus must be stored in a salt-water tank until ready to be eaten.

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