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Last week, Evan and I went out for our first trip to a proper makgeolli restaurant, where they serve the popular Korean rice wine in tea kettles. We joined our friend Chris, a university teacher, and his student, who is studying the effects and culture of wine and makgeolli on Koreans versus foreigners. Naturally, we jumped at the chance to be guinea pigs!

The rice wine is milky-white, with a tangy taste and is about 6.5–7% alcohol by volume. We met Chris, our buddy Dave, his student and her pal at a hoppin’ joint in our neighborhood. After only a few glasses, I began to get giggly. Each kettle comes with a number of side dishes, and they get better with every kettle you earn. We snacked on everything from egg and a pancake with octopus, to fish and raw crab mixed with rice (I skipped that, I won’t lie).

After ordering kettle number three, the waiter brought out sannakji, a unique Korean dish that is considered particularly healthy by locals. It consists of a live baby octopus that is chopped up at the table, and is meant to be eaten as the tentacles writhe and wiggle around the plate. Ours was accompanied by laver. The tentacles gripped the plate as you tugged with your chopsticks. The little legs didn’t stop moving, suctioning themselves to the inside of your mouth as you chew them up and swallow them.

PETA certainly wouldn’t approve, but it was a novelty dish and an experience to eat!

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