Beyond bloody mint sauce and gravy

Roger Rabbits
with Jim Bunny

I’m shilly-shallying over Christmas dinner. I am thinking a show-stopper perhaps –a highly spiced, marinated Indian-style leg of lamb – ‘Sabut Raan’ – spit roasted. And a whole bottle of red while you watch it cook.

An ‘ex’, bless her, would tell me just because you took the top off a bottle of wine, you didn’t have to drink it all. She could make a bottle last a week.

You could also have a glass while you decide who to on-gift all those crappy presents you just got. How many nose-hair trimmers does a man need? A manual on tantric sex – really? If it’s that interesting Aunty, you read it and report back.

Or the out-of-date joke calendar from Nana. When I pointed it out she just harrumphed and said: “Yeah, but the jokes are never out-of-date”.

Or we might go down the seafood path.

Severed and squirming

Some ‘san-nakji’ – freshly severed, and still squirming, octopus tentacles. An exciting departure from that God awful adulteration, salt and pepper squid.

San-nakji is a global gastronomic sensation – for all the wrong reasons, but it would be a hell of a conversation piece.

San-nakji got some bad press when an 82-year-old South Korean bloke had a heart attack after choking on a piece of ‘live’ tentacle. Was he choking or was he retching, or gagging, or all three? I feel a movie coming on. ‘Revenge of the Squid’...

And before we get all sniffy about strange foreign eating habits, let’s examine ourselves.

When you are next slurping back a few Bluffies, remember they’re still alive when eaten immediately after being shucked. Because raw, dead oysters can carry dangerous bacteria – vibrio vulnificus – which can have you dancing with the dunny for a couple of hours. Or worse.

But some experts say the oyster is probably dead once separated from the shell. Either way, it doesn’t wriggle and squirm like a tentacle in its death throes.


And again, before we get too judgmental, the octopus in ‘san nakji’ is technically dead because it’s decapitated before the tentacles are chopped into bite-size portions and served dripping with sesame oil, sesame seeds and ginger. ‘Masisseoyo!’ as they say in Busan and Seoul! Delicious!

It’s never as it seems because there’s compelling evidence that the neuron-packed tentacles are still alive. They still respond to stimuli – they recoil from touch or suction-attach themselves to chopsticks. Some eaters sense a ‘tight pull’ as the tentacles suction to their mouth or throat. Which would account for the 82-year-old’s last, ghastly gastronomic experience? A defiant portion of san nakji refusing to dislodge its sucker from his throat.

Perhaps some karma going down there – or nature’s forces at work. You eat me alive and I choke the life out of you.

We are not above some disgusting eating habits ourselves. Some Kiwis eat ‘mountain oysters’, more as a show of bravado I suspect. These oysters aren’t shucked, they’re castrated. They’re sheep testicles. There’s a belief they boost your masculinity.

I think I’d rather live as a compromised male. Mind you, a new friend from South America can’t understand all this food fuss. Because he started salivating as he talks about something called ‘Criadillas’. “My grandmother used to make it. Bulls’ testicles, all meat, beautiful!”

Here’s another excerpt from the weird and wonderful world of international cuisine.

Bones and feathers

It’s called balut – it’s a popular food sold by street vendors in the Philippines and Vietnam. It consists of a fertilised duck egg that has been incubated for about 18 days, which means there’s a partially developed embryo in the shell, and it’s boiled alive. It’s a slimy texture, similar to oysters, the brittle little bones crunch and the feathers brush your tongue. Lovely!

I’m told it tastes like chicken broth with egg – surprisingly delicious, rich, flavoursome and a creamy texture. I’ll take their word. I like chicken broth, I love eggs – I draw a line at embryos. Balut won’t be on my Christmas table.

The lamb please

Just one more – something called ‘svio’ from Iceland. Take a sheep’s head, once the sheep has finished with it, cut it in half, remove the brain, use your brulee micro gas torch to singe the wool, boil it for an hour or more and then slap it on the plate. Suddenly tentacles are sounding much more attractive. So is lamb, roasties, peas and gravy. Even a turkey drumstick.

A footnote to the san nakji experience. It was used as a successful alibi in the ‘octopus murder’ when a man was sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly killing his girlfriend and blaming san nakji. He was later acquitted.

And is it too early to be thinking Christmas dinner 2024 because South Korea is planning to outlaw farming dogs for human consumption – and it’s causing a right old stink. And I’m not talking corn dogs – skewered snags deep-fried in a corn meal batter.

If you need a dressed pitbull or Rottweiler carcass for your Bosintang – literally ‘body protecting soup’ which is said to have medicinal properties – I’d probably put an order in with your friendly Korean kennel now

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