Dinner: It’s Only Mostly Dead

Last weekend I went out with my co-workers for a seafood dinner unlike any I’ve had before.  The restaurant was situated right on the beach in the city of Incheon.  The ocean provided a beautiful reminder of where the food on our plates had come from, some of it seeming all too recently.

I think the main attraction of the night was the squirming “sannakji” – live octopus.  Technically it isn’t alive because they remove the brain, but its active body provides some unsettling entertainment: dinner and a show!  Similar to a chicken continuing to run around despite its recent decapitation, it’s only “mostly dead.” The sannakji’s most infamous serving style is the full-size tentacles being wrapped, or more rather suction-cupped, around a chopstick.  An even more jaw-dropping presentation: the little guy in its entirety flailing all eight tentacles in your (still hungry?) face.  Thankfully the sannakji served at my table was cut into pieces, but it was still quite a shocking site.

You think they’re active on the plate? They put up a fight all the way down.  I’ve heard stories of sannakji fatalities because the little buggers can cling onto your throat upon swallowing and block your airway.  There was no way I was trying this sannakji….without proof of my survival!  My co-teacher commandeered the camera and offered me her blessing, just before warning me, “Make sure to chew well so it doesn’t stick.”

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