This might sound strange, but one of the top foods I wanted to try since moving to Korea was beondegi (번데기) or silk worm pupae. It’s a common snack sold by traditional Korean food stall vendors that we see every time we attend a street fair or festival. The worms are cooked in a large metal vat and served by the heaping spoonful into a quart-sized paper bowl, the distinct earthy smell noticeable from all the way down the street. I wanted to try the worms not for any Fear Factor sort of reasons, but simply out of curiosity, because maybe there was a reason that these food stalls could be found everywhere in Korea. Maybe it was really tasty? Maybe I was missing out on something? Maybe they would turn out to be the most delicious thing I have ever eaten? The problem was that I only wanted to taste ONE silk worm, but could never bring myself to buy — and eat — an entire gloopy bucket of it.
While my sister was in town, we ate at a restaurant where one of the sides (banchan) was a shallow bowl of silk worms. It’s not a normal side dish to serve in Korean restaurants so my eyes immediately zoomed in on the bowl of worms sitting on another table just before we sat down for dinner. I wasn’t really in the mood for worms and told Sly to tell the waiter that we would not be eating worms tonight. I got up to use the restroom and when I returned there was a bowl of worms on the table. I suppose this was what is known as “fate.”
It was now or never.
My feeling on trying new and “exotic” foods is this: I will try practically anything at least once, but I won’t eat something purely for shock value. Most foods that other people find “weird” and “gross” are things I actually find very tasty. With the exception of bugs. Eating bugs in bug form (things made with cricket powder or cricket protein don’t really bother me) has always sort of skeeved me out. I’m not sure I could ever wrap my head around eating a beetle or a roach, but I have always been just the tiniest bit curious about eating worms. Didn’t I watch a show where the host described eating tiny larvae as similar to eating “nutty popcorn?”
Let’s just say the silk worms pretty much tasted exactly how they smelled: earthy and very dirt-like with an odd chemical aftertaste. The texture, which I worried would be like biting into a big, juicy blueberry, turned out to be similar to a chewy piece of chicken. Overall, not the best thing I’ve ever eaten, but also not the worst. If I had nothing else to eat and/or I was invited to someone’s house where worms were on the menu, I would eat it again, but otherwise I probably wouldn’t choose to do so unless they were prepared in a different way.
Eating silk worms in Korea: check.