Soju is the most consumed spirit in the world…no, really!

We all know that Koreans have a certain fondness for their national liquor, but according to a recent survey by Drinks International soju is the most consumed spirit in the world, with a whopping 767,520,000 litres of the stuff sold last year.

The survey, called the Millionaires’ Club, showed that not only was Jinro-branded soju at number one (for the twelfth year in a row!), but Lotte-branded soju was also sitting at number three.

Considering soju beat dozens of more famous, global brands to the top spot, I’d never even heard of it before I moved to South Korea. It’s a pretty potent rice-based spirit that is often compared to vodka, Japanese sake, or paint stripper and is consumed en masse in Korea. Most of the time it is drank neat with food but can also be mixed with beer, whiskey, aloe juice, pretty much anything really. Classed as a ‘local’ spirit, 94% of it is sold in Korea, to a population smaller than England’s, with the remainder sold in America, Japan and south-east Asia.

Koreans are known for their livers of steel and their heavy drinking. According to a WHO survey from 2005 Korea ranked 1st in the amount of spirits consumed. In fact, a 60 year old business man could drink an entire university rugby team under the table, kip on a bench, and still make his 7am conference call.

Yummy yummy chicken feet

So last night, after a fair few glasses of Cass, I crossed another thing off my Korean culinary bucket list; chicken feet 닭 발.

Mmm…chicken feet…

Chicken feet is a delicacy often associated with East Asia, in particular with China and Korea. Dalkbal can be boiled, fried, steamed, or as we had them last night, grilled on a Korean barbecue.

Giving the middle finger; the chickens last defence

We put them on the grill and watched the claws curl up in the heat, appearing to give us the finger in one last stab at defiance. After a few minutes they were obviously cooked but we left them for a while longer (how do you know when a chickens foot is fully cooked??). No one wanted to be the first to try one, and no one wanted to be the last, so, we all gingerly picked one up with our chopsticks, but how do you go about eating them? Where do you start? Toe? Ankle? Somewhere in the middle?

Delicious…

I tore a chunk off the ankle, it was gristle, so I nibbled on a toe, that was gristle too. Like the pig trotters, they were mouth-scorchingly spicy, and I lost all feeling in my mouth for several minutes! Other than the tongue-melting spiciness they didn’t have much taste. Just gristle.

Next on the list, live baby octopus…