In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine. Fish, crabs, octopuses, oysters and other gifts of the sea are quite perishable food that is why it is so important to keep it fresh. Korean appear to be the most oversensitive about the quality of sea food, they want to eat it not only fresh, but just got out seafood, literally alive. To be more exact they prefer fresh octopuses. Alive octopus is one of the strangest delicacies in the world. Only a brave Korean can risk to it the dish.
The dish is called san nak ji. They do nothing special with just got out octopuses, they don’t even eviscerate them, not even talking about any kind of cooking. As a rule they are eaten as a whole, but also could be slices to pieces – in that case part of an octopus live on for a few hours. A twisting octopus served on a dish looks really terrifying, but some Korean don’t bother with that.
Alive octopuses are sold in supermarkets, where they swim in special aquariums, just the same as fish. You can choose your victim for the dinner by its size and take it home. Octopuses can also be found in restaurants and marketplaces – in other words it’s not difficult to find the delicacy. The problem is in eating it.
It is not easy to resist disgust to slippery twisting tentacles of a living octopus. In addition to that, being alive, the animal is still conscious and trying to fight for life. And still that’s only half a deal – the dish must be eaten properly. If an octopus is small, they wind it round chopsticks to prevent tentacles from twisting asides. The next thing to do is to put it in a spicy sauce and then put in your mouth with its head first. One should be careful even with a small octopus, as the delicacy is not only dangerous, but also may be deadly food. They put octopuses in mouths with heads first to eliminate the risk to be smothered. Naturally the creatures are not going to give up and die, they keep resisting even inside mouths and gullets of brave Korean. There were a lot of accidents when octopuses used their suckers to stick to mucosal tunic inside human body. Every year a few people choke and die while trying to eat an living octopus. Big octopuses are cut into a few pieces, but their tentacles keep moving for a few more hours. But it’s easier to cope with those pieces rather than with the whole octopus.
An octopus has no significant taste that is why it is important to choose a proper sauce for it, which determines the taste of the dish. But, as Korean say, taste is not the main dignity of a living octopus. The sense is in enjoying the strange and unusual feeling when tentacles move inside the mouth and stick to tongue with its suckers. Besides that, Korean believe that living octopuses give human force – most of the gourmets, who like this unusual dish, are fond of old martial arts. Eating a living octopus is like a ritual, symbolizing strong temper and high moral qualities of a person.
Japanese has a similar dish, which is called ika-don (the meaning is octopus dancing in rice). But they don’t mean to get that far and eat living octopuses. They use a dead octopus for the dish, but there is one peculiar feature: if tentacles are poured with soy sauce, natrium it its composition, make a chemical reaction in octopus’s cells. As the result of the reaction, tentacles start to move on the dish, as if dancing. Such kind of effect can be made not only with octopus, but also with squids, which also have nerve fibers of the same kind. It can be compared with bared wires.