Dog Meat for Dinner and dispelling myths

17 Mar

Most people who have never been to Korea, or the hermit kingdom as it was once known, know very little about it. Some people assumed when I told them I was moving to Korea that it was dangerous, poverty stricken and that they all eat dog meat. From what I have encountered from living here almost a year is that these myths are mostly false. I don’t personally find it any more dangerous than Britain and I think it’s safe for me to assume any other Western country, for that matter. Obviously, there is some political turbulence regarding North Korea but nothing that has ever affected me or anyone I know directly, and hasn’t done for a long time. There is some bitterness towards Japan and China but I know Koreans who have been holidaying in both these countries. I don’t know the intimate details of Korean people‘s finances but I’ve never seen any great signs of poverty other than the odd homeless beggar in the capital, which is usual for most cities in the UK too. As far as I know most people are living in reasonable circumstance. Most of them live in nice, privately-owned, high rise apartment blocks. Business appears to be far better off  than in Britain and doesn’t appear to be hit by the economic crash in the way that the Western world has. In contrast to my home town, with a high street almost full of redundant shop fronts business in Korea appears to be booming. There are dozens of shops and restaurants even in the small town where I’m situated. And of course, we are all familiar with Korean international companies such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai.

I was surprised to find that many of my students were repulsed by the idea of eating dog meat when I told them of my plan to sample the meat at a restaurant that particular night. One or two, on the other hand, admitted they had eaten it without knowing and some said that their parents on occasion ate it. I concluded from that that it is something that is becoming less usual than it might have been in the past. When I ask Koreans about their Korean culture regarding food they tell me Kimchi is their famous dish.  However, I’d never even heard of the spicy pickled cabbage dish until I came to Korea, although I’ve eaten at least a couple of nights every week since I’ve arrived.

For some time we have been talking about eating dog meat so I, my boyfriend, my Canadian co-worker and an American friend finally arranged a night to do it. We headed to the only dog meat selling restaurant we knew. The owner was a little taken aback by four foreigners requesting dog meat. Our American friend, Sean, requested it as he speaks decent Korean. The word for dog meat stew is actually a euphemism for healthy soup, Sean told us so when he asked for it the chef reiterated that it is in actual fact ‘dog meat’ as though to check whether it was what we actually wanted. The restaurant was just closing. Maybe it was out of curiosity that the restaurant stayed open to serve us. They perhaps wondered what four foreigners would think about their delicacy or maybe it was just the extra business. Either way we were able to eat a portion of dog meat stew each.

 

dog meat stew
It arrived in a bowl with what I think was spinach in a red sauce. The women who brought it over to us warned us that it was a little spicy. Also with the dish there was the usual side orders such as kimchi as well as a bowl of sticky rice and a spicy chilli sauce to dip the meat. My initial reaction was to smell the steam rising out of the bowl. The woman almost immediately warned me not to. As soon as I did I realised why. It stunk! It smelt of damp dog. Straight away I was transported to a time when I was out with Sophie, the pet dog my family used to have back home, I took her off her leash on the green by my home and she ran into the duck pond. After this happened she would always smell really bad. I thought this was the smell of greasy damp dog fur yet this was the smell rising from the steaming dog meat soup. It was quite hard to shake the image of my happy pet dog shaking herself off, spraying water from it’s fur and get past that awful smell yet I managed to eat several strips of dog meat from the stew. The others said they thought it tasted like turkey. I’m not a big fan of turkey but to be honest the dark meat didn’t taste bad. It tasted okay. It was quite chewy but in the sauce and chilli dip it was nice enough. I couldn’t finish it though, not with the image of my pet dog in the forefront of my mind. My boyfriend, who as it happens hates dogs, ate his own and finished mine off quite happily. We don’t have any intentions of eating it again but I’m glad we have at least tried it and had our portion of real, old style Korean cuisine.

dog meat

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2 Responses to “Dog Meat for Dinner and dispelling myths”

  1. Caroline Tait March 17, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    That’s almost as bad as eating your grandmother.

    • Tamsyn April 23, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

      I think I would have to be in quite a dire situation to eat you Grandma Caroline!

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