Gaebul is a traditional and very popular snack in South Korea. The first thing you thought when seeing Gaebul? Yes, you are right: its striking resemblance to the male sexual organ has earned it the widely used nickname ‘penis fish’. But not only its appearance has sexual connotations. Geabul as a dish is known and often especially consumed for its aphrodisiac effects as it is said to enhance men’s performance in bed.
But what is Gaebul?
Gaebul is a certain species of marine spoon worm which lives in the sand and mud on the sea ground. Apart from ‘penis fish’, it is widely referred to as ‘fat innkeeper worm’ since there are often other animals living inside the tunnels created by the worm.
The main culinary characteristic of Gaebul is its chewy texture. While the taste of the worm is rather neutral in the beginning, Koreans claim that the real taste, which is similar to that of clams, is released while chewing on it.
How to eat it
Fresh Geabul can be found on markets and is a common dish to order at the restaurant. While the worm is still alive, both ends are removed and it is cut into fine slices. Koreans usually eat Geabul raw – and still wriggling – together with sesame oil and salt.
It can also be found in different ways in Chinese cuisine where it is used as an ingredient in various recipes. Especially in the Shandong region, Geabul can often be found in dishes either stir-fried with vegetables, or dried as powder to be used as an umami enhancer.
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Photos by Ryan Bodenstein