Monday, May 21, 2007

Eating Dog Meat Soup

Kaesong, North Korea

“Who wants dog meat soup?” one of the tour leaders asked on the bus. “It’s five euros extra.”

“Dog meat soup is a traditional food of the Korean people,” the head North Korean tour guide explained. “We eat it three times a year on special days.”

A few of the men said they were interested.

A pause settled over the bus as the rest of us thought about it.

“Oh, I’ll do dog,” I said sheepishly, reaching into my pocket for a five euro note.

* * * * *

Koreans eating dog meat is a cliché in America, but it’s an example of cultural misattribution. The eating of dog meat occurs throughout East Asia, but each Western nation tends to associate it with the specific culture where those Westerners first encountered it.

Thus, Americans associate the eating of dog meat with Koreans, because American servicemen first encountered the practice in South Korea after World War II. By contrast, the British associate the canine dish with the Cantonese-speaking Chinese of Guangdong, where Brit traders first came across it. I personally associate dog meat with Cambodia, the first place I saw several skinned and gutted dogs hanging by their teeth from a window in a butcher shop.

In Korean, dog meat soup is generally called bosintang, and you can find online recipes. However, in many Western jurisdictions, the sale of dog meat for human consumption is illegal. For example, my home state of California has declared it a misdemeanor to buy, sell, accept, or even possess “any carcass or part of any carcass of any animal traditionally or commonly kept as a pet or companion with the intent of using or having another person use any part of that carcass for food.” California Penal Code section 598b(a) (scroll down). That being said, as with all such exotica, where there is a will, a wallet and an ethnic neighborhood, there is a way.

* * * * *

All of the dog eaters were seated at one table, and each place was set with nine small bowls made of yellow metal, covered by matching lids. The utensils were plastic chop sticks and a Western spoon.

The metal bowls each contained about three bites of a different dish, ranging from spicy cabbage to salad to sweet pastries. A bowl of moderately sticky white rice was also served to each diner. Bottles of water and local beer were on the table although, as was the case throughout the trip, the restaurant was stingy with the beverages.

After a few minutes, the dog soup came out. It was served in large black earthenware bowls and had a dark brown brothy color with hints of reds and yellows.

Enough with the back story, you say; what does dog meat taste like?

It tasted like beef – gamey, pungent beef.

The dog meat was only one component of the soup, which was rich in spices and vegetables. The meat settled at the bottom of the bowl, and I had to reach in with chopsticks to take it out.

The dog meat was in small, almost cylindrical pieces. It was stringy, not unlike the shredded meat found in Mexican food. The cuts were not in medallions or other recognizable shapes, probably because one dog doesn’t yield a lot of meat for the chef to work with. My slices had a moderate amount of fat on them, which I picked off. The meat was not oily.

It was good! After the initial cultural trepidation, I had to admit that the soup was excellent. It wasn’t as spicy as the hottest chile you’ve ever had, but it was in an adjacent neighborhood. Although the dog meat had a unique flavor, its juices did not overpower the soup or the vegetables. I didn’t ask for seconds, but I didn’t regret the firsts.

“This is actually pretty good,” one of the other travelers said. "It has a real bite to it.”

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Noooooo... tell me you didn't.

12:59 AM  
Blogger Roger said...

I most definitely wouldn't mind trying Dog. I was very surprised at how delicious Whale was when I tried it in Iceland last fall

1:27 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

I'll eat almost anything, but dogs are family. I don't eat kin unless, of course, a plane crash is involved.

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

If the dog lived its life in North Korea, it is probably better off in the bowl anyway. I would try it for the intense travel experience, but I would definitely shudder as it went down.

10:21 AM  
Blogger mausekopf said...

i admire your courage - not everyone is that adventurous.

having said that, i must confess that i also have had dog meat before (in china), twice, in fact. the first time i had stewed dog meat, and it was quite good (i think it would have been just as good if it was beef) and the other time it was a cold cut, which was ... urgh ... full of fat and not that great!

i wonder what other exotic food you'd come across? for me, insects are my limit.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I'll eat dog food , so why not dog?

1:42 PM  
Anonymous clayton said...

Nice that people like you are open minded. I have a dog myself and wouldn't mind eating one (obviously NOT my dog). I also like fish and I have an aquarium full of them. I would never eat my own fish but in a restaurant eating fish or dog is the same. You stuff it in your mouth and you don't put faces to the stuff you are eating. I don't imagine pig when I'm eating it cuz it's disgusting nor would i imagine my fish or a dog if I were to eat it.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh friend he is known amongst peers and homies...actually ate a live dog at my friends wedding. He had a bad "trip" after eating some mushrooms from his pal Miguel, next thing he knew, he was lying on the bathroom floor, naked, pool of blood surrounding his body with half a dog in his mouth. He demanded to help him "do his business" in the urinals and we ended up having to pay the restaurant owner a hefty amount...let's just say that the dog costed my friend his future...but that's another story. We found him the next morning tied up to a helicopter spooning the leftover dog. My friend is now "working" as an ambulance driver(is that even a real job?) making minimum wage and lives with his dad...And who said dog couldn't ruin ur life.

8:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Talkin about I've got a story for you...Following up on the previous story, you think my friend Shmarek wouldve learned his lesson, but I had to keep an eye on him because you never no wat that sick SOB would do next...but here we go again. It mustve been around Christmas time, when Shamrek decided to host a party and take a "trip" once again...this time, he not only invited Miguel, but also Sanchez, Luis, Jamal, Rashid, Jajim and (of Course) Old Dalan. Now, wen Dalan pulled out his "stash", you'd think it would be a normal relaxing night...but unforntunately, some bunghole called the Cops and you can pretty much put together the rest of the story, except for one thing. When the Cops broke down the door, they released the hound dogs and (as we all know) Shmarek loves eating dogs...There were three dogs and I swaer to God, I have never seen someone devour dogs as quickly and efficiciently as my friend did (Not to mention, God rest his soul, Dalan's body was desicrated in the aftermath of the situation). The Cops entered the living room, only to find dog carcus plastered on the walls and carpet with Shmarek yelling obscure profanities at the police. To make a long story short, Shamrek had a 3 year sentence and is currently living at home with his dad(no offence perry). It told you he was one sick SOB!!!

10:35 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

I'd try it. I hear cat is good too.
I've had goat and that was like beef.
rabbit is yummy.

7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sick people stay in Asia! Creeps wtf is wrong with you nasty pigs!

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is not even funny-in fact it's childish and ridiculous. "Smarek" obviously needs professional help-if the stories are true.

IS IT OKAY FOR US TAX PAYING WORKERS TO DINE ON YOUR ILLITERATE AND ILLEGITIMATE CHILDREN? They would also have a better life if served up in restaurants(and probably taste like chicken too), would cost the state (i.e "us",less, would also reduce crime etc. Think of the living your tyoes could make!


8:03 AM  
Anonymous DOGLOVER said...

ok these stories are true and there is an important lesson to be had. Drugs should not be inhaled before consumption and mastication of canine meat. Your tasteless attitude sickens me, and i encourage you to get a life. due to the success of the previous dog stories, i feel obliged to say that i have been inspired to create my dog adventures.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous real person said...

who r u people????? Gross do u really know what u r saying??? I will pray for u'll.... >gosh<

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you realize that dogs meant for meat are tortured to death? Beat, starved, hung, stunned . . . Korean culture believe the more the animal suffers the more benefits the meat will have. Cats are boiled alive. I wouldn't eat my pet, but I'd eat another dog/cat. The dogs in the dog farms and markets aren't just Korean dogs. I've seen all kinds of dogs there and it's not pretty.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I've eaten Alligator tail and it tasted a lot like beef, at least the texture. There was a certain "aquatic" flavor to it, but it was mainly like beef. They even served it with salad and potatoes (with a bit of sour cream and chives). You get the idea.

Frog legs on the other hand, as they say, DO taste like chicken. But once again, they also have an "aquatic" taste. I largely attribute the "chicken" taste to the texture of them, being very similar, slender strings of meat, as opposed to the Alligator, which was thicker textured, like cow.

This leads me to believe that the texture of the meat plays a large role in the perceived flavor, regardless of whether it's sweet, salty, sour etc. Dressing it up with sauces or seasonings would definitely make it harder to discern.

As for dog, I am curious. I was cuddling my dog today and when I give him pets and kisses I sometimes pretend I'm going to eat him up - a love bite sort of thing, entirely in play.

I love my dog, and would never do anything of the kind, but the question came to mind after the "love bite" and contemplating the distinctive "dog smell" he has. What does dog flesh taste like?

"Dog smell" at least from a clean, healthy dog, is actually kind of nice. I can see it being a bit sweet and flavourful, knowing how smell and taste are so closely related. But again, that probably depends on the dog.

A pitbull might be a bit tougher, whereas a greyhound like mine would be leaner and probably more like deer meat or perhaps even slightly closer to chicken (closer than beef anyways). They have massively lean muscular legs, so you could get a pair of fair sized drumsticks there, hehe

I wonder, could anyone describe the taste in terms of sweet, sour, salty, bitter? Dry, juicy? "Like chicken" or "like beef" is a bit of a cliche and in the end still leaves you wondering. I'd like to know (without munching down on little fido here) what the flavour is like.

I suppose it would be interesting to know what human flesh tastes like too, as a morbid curiousity sort of thing, but the thought of it makes my skin crawl!

So, I don't think I'll be cutting up my neighbor, or my dog in the next little while for stew. There is enough to eat in my local supermarket for now. But as for idle contemplation, it's an interesting question.

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Human meat is great too! next time try your own arm on the BBQ.

11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm a Korean boy.
I think eating dog should be banned.
In fact, most young people think like me. But, old people enjoy this food......

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Korea, more and more people regard companion animals as part of the family and share their love with their pets.

9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why that's too bad? why it's gross? the frenchmen eat geeese, snails... the people feeding those dogs for eating. Yes.the dogs are family. but that's only for pets. pets are family but that dogs purpose os to eat.I understand you guys cannot eat that foods. But i cannot understand why you guys are gross despise that dog food. It's only culture. traditional food. Think the frenchmen eat snail. I think that's more gross.

11:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm living in South Korea now.
There are many dog meat restaurants in here.
Although I've never eaten dog before, I think there are no needs to make eating dog eating illegal.

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am really curious and would love to eat dog meat, I guess my next trip to Asia I will seek it out. (Jan2011 perhaps)

4:10 AM  
Anonymous Eat dog said...

Eat dog is tasty, cheap and good for health according Cambodians and chineese medicine. :)

10:54 PM  

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