Sea squirts 멍게

So last week my best friend, the very same one who took me to eat intestines, rectum and raw liver (you’d think I’d have learned by now…), invited me to her house for dinner. As well as cooking the most amazing 목살 (pork neck meat) I’ve ever eaten, she also served up the not quite so amazing dish of sea squirts.

Sea squirts

Sea squirts

They look like something you shouldn’t eat, they smell like something you shouldn’t eat, and they taste like something you shouldn’t eat. Whoever first thought to eat a sea squirt was most likely insane. Apparently they’re very high in nutrients and are great for a hangover, but then Koreans say that about pretty much anything that you otherwise wouldn’t even consider eating. Personally I can’t imagine anything worse to try and eat when you’ve got a hangover, it’s certainly no bacon sandwich.


The ‘trick’ to eating sea squirts, she told me, is to pop the whole thing in your mouth, and chew it a few times until you feel the soft part burst and then spit the shell out again. It tastes like a revolting concoction of rubber, ammonia, brine and the seabed. The yellowy orange stuff in the photo is the flesh of the sea squirts, and it looks and feels like eating a massive, salty bogey. Sorry, but there’s literally nothing else I can think to compare it to.

There are some things that even soju can't improve...

There are some things that even soju can’t improve…

So, put down the chopsticks and back away from the sea squirts.

A bovine body part buffet…

Apologies for the delay, I think it’s taken my stomach a week to get over it, but last Friday I added to the ever-growing list of bovine organs that I have now eaten. My best friend (at least she was up until then!)  took me to her favourite restaurant for what she described as ‘an authentic Korean experience’. That probably should have set alarm bells ringing, but as we’d already polished off a few bottles of soju, we set off, with me proudly announcing that she didn’t need to worry and that I would try anything. In hindsight it might not have been the best choice of words.

Gopchang (곱창) on the left and makchang (막창) on the right…yum

Unable to decide whether we should have cow rectum (막창 – makchang) or intestines (곱창 – gopchang), she ordered a plate of each. And two more bottles of soju. The banchan (side dishes) at this restaurant didn’t just consist of the usual kimchi, bean sprouts and seaweed soup. Oh no, this place served chunks of raw liver with sesame seeds, and something called 천엽 that Google translated as ‘superficial lobe’, but further research has shown me that it’s proper name is the ‘omasum’ and it’s just another part of the stomach (also served raw). The liver was absolutely horrific, and both of us really struggled to eat it, but the 천엽 actually wasn’t so bad. The soju probably helped though.

천엽 (cheonyeop) and raw liver

Mmm…yum yum

Then came the main course; a large plate of 소막창 (cow rectum) and an equally large plate of 소곱창 (cow intestines). Having already eaten 돼지막창 (pig rectum) I kind of knew what to expect, it was just…bigger. Although 소막창 (beef makchang) is meant to be much better than 돼지막창 (pig makchang), I can’t honestly say I’m a fan of either. It’s not because of the taste, it just tastes meaty, but it is simply too chewy for me, although that is part of the appeal for Koreans. I quite liked the gopchang, it tasted a little bit like bacon if I thought really hard about it, and it was a lot less chewy than the makchang. The only slightly off-putting thing was the thick white paste oozing out of either end, which I later learned was mucus.

As the owner was so surprised to see a foreigner in his restaurant (now I know why), he gave us a dish of 염통 (sliced cow heart) as service. I thought it was the nicest part of the meal really, it was a little bit like steak, only it tasted a lot bloodier than that. It was actually quite hard to get the metallic-y taste out of my mouth, but again, the soju helped.

Gopchang and makchang

When I was beginning to struggle both my friend and the restaurant owner kept reassuring me of the supposed health benefits of eating intestines. They also said eating it guaranteed I wouldn’t have a hangover the next day. Lies. Barefaced lies.

Still best friends really!

My real best friend during this meal!