I finally tried Boshintang (보신탕), which is dog soup.
I’m sure you’ve just had an involuntary reaction: disgust, awe. I get it. Dog soup isn’t a common dish around the world, so my decision to try it is a little hard to digest.
So let’s dig in to that a bit. First, it’s important to know that the dish is seen as a specialty in Korea and is viewed with mixed opinions. Many Koreans have never eaten dog, do not agree with serving dog meat and think it should cease. They are also critical of the methods used to kill the dogs, which may include beating or hanging, but it is uncommon these days as most dogs are instantly killed with an electric shock. Others, especially the older crowd, want to continue the practice, seeing it as part of the country’s tradition. Additionally, the dog meat doesn’t come from just any dog running around the street. The common breeds, Nureongi (누렁이) and Hwangu (황구), are raised as livestock.
Personally, I don’t see a problem with eating an animal that is raised for the purpose of consumption. Ideally it would be raised in a nice environment and killed humanely. So I decided to try out this specialty while the opportunity was available.
Now, on to the experience. I had been wanting to try dog for a while, but it wasn’t easy to find people who wanted to go with me. And it wasn’t something I wanted to do alone. I needed to react in real time with someone sharing the experience! Luckily my friend Anton also wanted to give it a whirl, so we headed to a restaurant in downtown Daegu. We went to Cheongdo Restaurant (청도 식당). On the way to the restaurant we joked about it having pictures of dogs on the storefront (this actually happens occasionally: posters of fluffy yellow ducks lining the walls of a duck restaurant entrance), but thankfully there weren’t any pictures of dogs. There were, however, some goats pictured. I’m not sure if the restaurant also served goat, but it was funny.
We each ordered the soup, which was 10,000 won (a bit less than $10) each. The soup was incredibly hot when it came out, so I had to give it a bit of time to cool off before I could start. I was glad to have the time though, because it gave me a moment to catch my breath and settle my stomach. I was a little nervous, but mostly excited. I was finally going to try some dog!
Preparing for the first bite.
The first bite I took was a fatty piece, which ended up being one of two pieces of that style, that had very little meat on it. It wasn’t too bad, but it was chewy and bland. Round two provided a much better experience. I ate a nice chunk of meat, which was really tasty. The meat was a dark grey and had a nice meaty texture. It didn’t really have a distinct flavor, but was very tender. I would say the texture was what I imagine the stringiness of pulled pork mixed with the firmness of a thick steak would be like. After my second bite, I was sold and really enjoyed the soup. The soup had a rich, mildly spicy broth filled with a generous helping of meat along with green onions, mushrooms and some other vegetables.
Yum! I like it.
We also received a few side dishes, including bean sprouts, peppers and a mysterious cold cut of dog. Anton and I tried to figure out what part of the body it came from, but we reached no solid conclusion. Whatever it was, it was chewy and cold. Absolutely awful! I chewed it as little as possible and drank some tea to help wash it down. I then decided to eat a pepper to help cleanse my palate. Was that ever a mistake! The peppers are tricky, because their spiciness is inconsistent. I picked one of the hottest peppers I have had in Korea, and my mouth was on fire. Tears leaked from my eyes; my nose was running. Thankfully the heat died down within a few minutes and I was able to enjoy my dog soup again.
My dog-eating adventure was a delightful experience. I really did enjoy the soup, though my stomach did the occasional jump as I remembered that I was eating dog. I am really glad that I tried it. I don’t feel the need to run out and get it every week, but I wouldn’t be opposed to eating it again if the opportunity arose.
Bonus shot- Anton liked it too.