Nostalgic beondegiHere’s this week’s tip on Korean language and customs:
On Korean streets, I saw some large vats full of steaming brown creatures being cooked. They look like insects to me, and they are by far the most exotic-looking food I’ve ever seen in Korea. Before trying them, I’d like to know exactly what they are, please.
The brown creatures are popularly known as beondegi in Korean, which literally means a chrysalis. This particular chrysalis, which comes from silkworms, is a by-product of the domestic silk industry.
Silk production on the Korean peninsula dates back through more than 4,000 years of history, and silkworms that churned out the precious fiber were considered sacred on farms.
The silkworm chrysalis is high in protein, among other things, and in the old days it was an inexpensive and readily available source of important nutrients for children in particular.
Nowadays, many Korean adults, who remember eating delicious beondegi in their childhood, find it more of a nostalgic pastime than a nutritional source.
Despite the inroad made by a Westernized diet, beondegi continues to be popular in Korea as a simple snack sold on the street or as side dishes in pubs. It is also available in cans at local supermarkets.