Gaebul refers to the marine spoon worm, also called the fat innkeeper worm, as it creates tunnels in the ocean floor that provide shelter for other creatures and allows them to pass through.
The plump pink creature resembles a skin-like sausage. But the texture has a feeling more similar to the softer parts of human flesh.
(Video shot and produced by Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)
Upon being touched, gaebul squirms and puffs up a bit. Then taken from the water, it shoots a jet of water like a squirt gun under even slight pressure.
In Korea, gaebul is often chopped and eaten raw. It is enjoyed with other sea creatures typically served alongside the raw fish.
The preparation process is not exactly appetizing, as the creature gushes scarlet blood. After the intestines and each end are removed, the gaebul is significantly reduced in size.
Even after it has been cut open and chopped up, the pieces of gaebul still squirm on the serving plate. With the slime that oozes from it, picking up the pieces with chopsticks can pose a challenge.
The Korea Herald's Kevin Lee Selzer and Im Eun-byel try gaebul. (Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)
Gaebul (Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)
Gaebul itself does not have much taste, except for a hint of sweetness. The pleasure largely comes from the texture. The rubbery texture makes it quite hard to chew. As the creature lacks a distinctive taste, it is served with sesame oil mixed with salt or Korean chili paste with vinegar.
The flavor and scent of sesame oil and chili paste overtake that of the gaebul. But the fresh ocean scent lingers.
It was once thought that gaebul resembles a dog’s genitals, so the creature was named from those Korean words. Due to its phallic shape, it was also believed to be an aphrodisiac.
To enjoy gaebul yourself, visit a fish market such as Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market in Seoul or Jagalchi Market in Busan. After purchasing the squirmy sea-dwellers fresh from a tank of water, take the bag upstairs to a restaurant and the professionals will prepare them to be served -- saving you the mess.
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