I have a friend named Aaron, and he is crazy. When he learned that Korean people eat live octopus, he wanted to try it (or more accurately, wanted to see me try it). It’s a delicacy in Korean cuisine, where you eat 낙지 (nak-ji: Octopus minor) that’s alive and squirming around. Some people eat it whole, wrapped around a chopstick. But usually in restaurants they cut it in pieces right before serving. I had never eaten it alive before, so it was a pretty exciting adventure for me too.
Going into it, one may think that it would be like the scene from the Korean movie Old Boy: (Warning: it’s not for the faint of heart)
But in actuality, it went something like this:
It didn’t taste that different from cooked octopus. It was just a lot more chewy and slimy. Also, the tentacles try to stick inside your mouth which is kind of a new feeling. And if you just let it sit inside your mouth, you can feel it move around a bit.
My friend Aaron didn’t like it as much:
Even after a few minutes, the octopus pieces still respond to poking stimuli by doing a little squirmy dance.
Initially, I thought about the barbaric nature of this cuisine, and how it seems like cruelty against animals. However, I realized that this is actually how octopuses often die in nature (eaten alive by predators). Even when you’re eating cooked octopus, somebody had to freeze/suffocate/brain-stab it to death. Cutting it is as quick and merciful as it gets (I don’t think anybody kills octopuses after carefully administering anesthesia). Besides, we humans dunk live crabs in boiling water and slowly suffocate the fish that we fish, which I think are worse ways to die.
At any rate, if you’re curious and/or want to go try it, you can Yelp for “live octopus” and you’ll get some Korean restaurants. We went to Masan Restaurant, and 1 live octopus sold for $25. It’s a very expensive appetizer, but that’s the typical price around LA. You should try it!