Eel on the Grill

Eel would certainly not have been my first choice when it comes to dinner, but I am quickly discovering that in South Korea it is common to order a group meal, and therefore a bit trickier to please everyone’s palate. Not wanting to be the new foreigner who squirms at the sight of odd delicacies, I waited apprehensively for this water snake to make its appearance at my table.

Grilled Eel, a South Korean dish

A large platter of eel marinated in an orange sauce was promptly plopped next to me. My new friend picked up a pair of scissors and began cutting the chunks of eel into more manageable sizes. With a pair of tongs she placed these over the sizzling grill, while I watched a white goo ooze out from the sides. “Just like cheese,” someone said encouragingly. Except not at all.

Dinner with Friends

I picked up my pair of metal chopsticks and chose the smallest, crispiest piece I could find. One of the more experienced foreigners picked up a piece as well and gave me the best advice to get through this meal – “don’t think about the texture, just focus on the flavour.” And with that I was set. I took my first bite of eel and it wasn’t so bad. Chewy? Yes. But very tasty!

Eel and side dishes

Feeling a bit more adventurous, I dipped the eel in the various sauces sitting on the table, and then wrapped it in sesame leaves for an extra burst of flavour. And then I had another, and another, and then a few more. Audrey now eats eel!

Beer and makkoli

Though eel was certainly the star of the meal, I did also try some of the other dishes at the table; including bean sprout soup, greens with hot peppers, spicy grilled chicken, and a soup with ramen noodles in all shapes and sizes. (I am quickly building a tolerance for all these hot flavours!) And what better way to wash down this flavourful dinner than with my first taste of makkoli – Korea’s rice wine.

Any other strange dishes I should try?


  • Ashley says:

    hahaha! ‘just like cheese … except not!’ . With my reflexes I dont think that comment would have done so well. . .
    A great way to start my work day. Haha.

  • Fidel says:

    Love this post, especially because I had some Korean BBQ yesterday in Donghae. We weren’t as adventurous as you though. Opted for the beef. It was delicious with the lettuce wrap, chili sauce and other toppings. Only problem was I had to sit on the heated floor and my long legs are not use to that yet.

    Your brave to try the eel. I can’t get past the texture or the sight of all the eels swimming in the fish tanks.

    I love the size of Korean bottled beer, lol.

  • Alison says:

    Sounds like you really enjoyed the eel, despite the initial hesitance 🙂

  • Thank goddess! Between you and my BF who’s in Yongin too (yay!), I think I’m a little less apprehensive about the food. He went to a BBQ place too and loved it!

  • Zhu says:

    I smiled at the “cutting with scissors” part. Chinese do that too for tofu pieces for instance, and I found it strange at first because I rarely let scissors touch food directly.

    I think I had eel before and didn’t mind it. Better that than… er… chicken feet or pork intestines!

    • thatbackpacker says:

      Apparently there’s a traditional Korean dish that consists of pork intestines… I’m going to have to try it soon – my palate is just too intrigued. 😀
      And I used to think that cutting your meat with scissors was strange, but it’s so much faster than using a knife. I may start doing the same!

  • Anthony says:

    I love talking about food — and hearing others talk about it.

    Won’t you consider incorporating more food-esque blogs through the span of your stint in South Korea? I’d like to hear about all the [new] foods you’re being exposed to; and what you’re liking 😉

    And some sexy food shots. I know you can take ’em.

    Glad you’re faring well, Audrey.

    • thatbackpacker says:

      Hey Anthony, thanks for stopping by. I will certainly be writing more posts about the food! I just tried another new place yesterday – a very fun, grill-it-yourself type deal. Cooking your own food at the table seems to be the norm. Errr, I’ll try to make the food look sexier…

  • Angelina says:

    I love that you had eel! By the way, your photos are incredible. 🙂

  • Yumm! I’m not sure I would be daring enough to try the eel but the grills at each table are so cool!

  • Suzy says:

    I admire your bravery in trying eel. I’m not sure I could focus on the flavor with a chewy texture.

  • Krista says:

    I remember the first time I had eel while visiting relatives in Denmark. 🙂 They showed me a platter piled with eels that looked like a heap of entwined snakes. Shudder. I grabbed my brother’s arm and said there’s NO way I could eat that. But after they cut them, cleaned them, breaded and fried them, I had worked up my courage and they were DELICIOUS. Especially served with warm potato salad. 🙂 The Danish tradition is to eat enough pieces for the backbone to circle your plate. I made it all the way around. 🙂
    Krista recently posted..Hauling Wood, Stacking Hay and A Maple-Glazed Pork RoastMy Profile

    • thatbackpacker says:

      Mmmm, that sounds kind of tasty! I wouldn’t mind having them breaded and deep fried with a side of potato salad. I might even be able to convince myself that I’m actually eating calamari… 😉

  • Andi says:

    I just can’t get myself to try it, but I really should!
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  • Vicky says:

    Hmmm I absolutely love eel and am definitely looking forward to trying some in South Korea when we’re there in September!
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