The streets of Seoul, South Korea, are constantly full of interesting smells. The smeel of dead fish and fermenting cabbage fill the restaurants and alleys as people navigate through the urban maze that is Seoul. One of the most distinct smells comes from the street vendors that sell beondegi: silk worm larvae. If you are wondering what this smell smells like, stop it. This is not a smell that needs to be smelled. It is one of the most horrid and nose-polluting foods I have ever encountered. Virtually every subway stop has a man standing at the top of the stairs, stirring a big pot of steaming silk worm larvae. The smell carries down the stairs and permeates the whole station.
I was talked into finally trying the insectual treat when a friend came to visit. He demanded to know what the foul smell was that was filling the streets, and when he was told it was edible, he demanded to try it (8 hours later, after we’d been out drinking for a while to get our courage up.) The smell is so overpowering, I actually had trouble putting the little guys in my mouth. I got a few down and then had to call it quits. My friend ate about the same amount, and then proceeded to throw them up almost instantly. We were both plagued with terrible tastes in our mouths the next morning we could do nothing to get rid of.
On the octopus page, I advised readers of this site to try octopus at all costs if they ever find themselves in Korea. I am afraid to say the opposite is true of silk worm larvae. Do anything and everything you can to stay away from these guys. Trust me, it is not a mandatory part of the Korean experience. Just visit the DMZ, try some kimchi and be on your way.