Korea: Nakji Bokkeum in Seoul

Posted by on Nov 12, 2015 in Destinations, Featured, Food, Korea, Korea, Travel Photo Thursday | 33 comments

Welcome to Week 254 (11/12/2015) of Travel Photo Thursday. The semester is flying along, and I cannot believe that in just a little over a month I will be jetting off to Spain and Portugal! Until then, experiencing all the traditional Korean food that Seoul has to offer is still high on the list. Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending  another awesome Hansik meetup. Our previous meeting had us savoring delicious Kimchi Jjigae  (spicy Kimchi pork stew) ( (김치찌개) served up at Gwanghwamun Jip in downtown Seoul. You can check it out here.  Last Saturday nights dining adventure saw us again in downtown Seoul, featuring a totally different traditional Korean dining adventure.  We met outside of City Hall Station, Exit 7, and it was a short walk to Wonjo Halmoni Nakji Center (“Original Grandma’s Octopus Center”). Established in 1965, it owns the bragging rights to being one of the oldest nakji bokkeum restaurants in Korea. If you haven’t figure out yet what nakji is, think octopus. Koreans love the stuff!

Remember to leave your link and comment at the end of the post. Magic will happen. Guaranteed! 

Our host, Jason, provided a bit history on both the restaurant, the food, and the owner…

The owner/grandmother who created the dish, Park Musun, made history with her spicy stir-fried dish and spawned endless copycats near the old hotspot in Jongro called pimatgol, or “food alleyway.” But with urban development and modernization, that area has been revamped with new businesses and they’re now located in Bukchang-dong.

Halmoni Park Mu-sun, the original creator of the spicy ‘Mukyo-dong-style’ pan-fried octopus back in the mid-60s. Unfortunately, she is no longer with us as she passed away this year from natural causes. Check out her photo. 

The dish Jason is referring to is nakji bokkeum (spicy stir-fried octopus). We were served both the original, and a less spicy version.


Our dinner, lounging in the aquarium at the entrance.


Live octopus

Very spicy,  nakji bokkeum (낙지볶음) ! Delicious, and a perfect way to clear the sinuses!


Nakji Bokkeum

Nakji Bokkeum

There’s more! We were also tortured with  treated to a plate of sannakji: raw octopus that is dead but still squiggly on the plate and in your mouth!  I must admit I was a little nervous about having an octopus doing back flips in my mouth, but when in Rome.


Note the eye balls, and I did draw the line there. No eyeballs got eaten by me!


Sannakji -- raw octopus

Sannakji — raw octopus


Getting ready! Dipping it into sesame seed oil definitely helped! He was lively, and it took some chewing!


Sannakji -- raw octopus


The spice of the nakji bokkeum was  slightly tamed by mixing it with rice, and other side dishes.




Wonjo Halmoni Nakji Center is located just steps from Subway line 1, Exit 7. Map and Address

Open Daily from 10am to midnight.

Phone: 02-734-1226

Watch me eat that squiggly fella! A big thanks to Will at SeoulWeaver.com for the video. (Be sure to check out the movement and the eyeballs!)

Have you ever tried octopus, raw or live? Would you?


Please welcome our co-hosts this week: Jan from Budget Travel Talk      Ruth from Tanama Tales       Rachel from Rachel’s Ruminations


You can browse the Travel Photo Thursday archives here.

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  1. Loved the video! When I was in Japan, there was a stand selling octopus crackers and I wanted to try them but the line was down the road and we ran out of time. Next time!

    • Hi Jill. Yes, you’ll find a lot of octopus here and in Japan. Octopus crackers sound interesting.

  2. I love octopus but think I will draw the line at eating it raw or live. Good on you though!!!

    • Hi Jackie! Cooked octopus is great. I wouldn’t make a habit of eating it raw. Once was enough!

  3. Eating sannakji would, indeed, be torture for me. I’m not very adventurous with food. However, I love reading accounts by others braver than me. Interesting to learn from you about Korean food and the specialities found in pimatgol.

    • Hi Cathy. I’ll try a lot of things at least once. I quite enjoyed the spicy octopus, but the raw not so much!

  4. Oh my gosh, Nancie. You ARE brave! I bet you’d even try smalahove here in Norway (smoked and torched whole sheep’s head, eyes n’all).

    • Hi Sophie. OMG! Not sure I could eat sheep’s head. I refuse to eat eyes! 🙂

  5. I am no an adventurous eater, but my best friend is and she has tried live octopus! It totally freaked me out! haha

    • Hi Kassie. It is a little freaky! I was glad that I could dip it in the sesame oil. At least it didn’t taste bad!

  6. Don’t think I could eat from the tank – I know that’s illogical but you know…

    • Hi Lydia. I know what you mean. Seeing something live and knowing it might end up being your dinner can be a little strange!

  7. That the stir fried octopus look delicious. I had to show the photo to my husband because I knew he was going to love it. I think I will pass on the raw (still moving) octopus. I really enjoy eating octopus. It taste great with a wide array of spices.

    • Hi Ruth. The Nakji Bokkeum is delicious, and I would eat it again. I’ve also eaten it just grilled over coals, and that is nice, too.

  8. That video is priceless, Nancie. Raw (as in – still moving octopus?) I have a new level of respect for you. I know for sure I couldn’t even put that in my mouth. The stir fried ones, yes.

    • Hi Marci. Yes, it is still moving. Although the octopus is dead, the tentacles are very sensitive and continue to move for quite a long time. 🙂

  9. I’d love to taste the nakji bokkeum Nancie, but I’ll leave the squiggly octopus to Nancie the Brave!

    • Hi Jan! Will, who took the video, dubbed me Nancie the Brave. I laughed!

  10. I’m not sure that I could have handled the Octopus. I think it would have been to squishy for me, but I certainly would have given it a try! Fun post to read about your eating adventures.

    • Hi Brooke. The trick was to chew it really fast!

  11. I;ll continue dipping bread in new olive oil Nancie and leave all that very fresh octopus to you!!

  12. I am in awe…you really were brave to try that, Nancie. I was feeling queasy watching that video. I may have tried all that spicy octopus but not that raw and live one. Good for you for being adventurous. This is way outside my comfort zone. We’ll be in Portugal next month too 🙂

  13. It’s hilarious you should mention this. I was just reminiscing how I tried it in one of the Seoul markets as I was walking through…hilarious. And Nancie, Love your video!

  14. Eww! I love Octopus but only when it is cooked! I don’t think I would be able to eat it raw. By the look on your face you didn’t exactly enjoy it either!!

  15. I am not so sure I could eat this, I am not a huge octopus fan! My 5 year old and husband would though, maybe not the very spicy one as they can’t handle the spice too well!!

  16. Aaaaaccckkk! You are so brave. I am very impressed as the look on your face as you stared at the wiggling octopus on your chopsticks was very doubtful, yet you did it anyways. I’ve enjoyed cooked octopus before, but there’s no way I’m doing sannakji. I once claimed that “I’m not a picky eater” and that my Korean friends could order anything family style for us to share at a restaurant in Malaysia. When they mentioned the wiggling octopus that you have to chew fast before the suckers start sticking to your mouth, I drew the line right there.

  17. OMG, Nancie, I laughed out loud at that video! How small do you have to chew the raw octopus before it stops wiggling? I’m not at all sure I could do that, and I ate locusts just last week. The difference is that the locusts weren’t still moving!

  18. Hahaha! If I had the choice between raw octopus and eyeballs, I’d take the octopus every time!! LOVE your photos – although perhaps I shouldn’t have looked at them just after I’d eaten a (standard = boring) meal of spaghetti with meatballs??!!

    • I avoided the eyeballs! Spaghetti and meatballs…yum!!!

  19. I do not think I have tried live octopus. Maybe raw. Anyway, you are so brave!

    • Hi Charles! Believe it or not, the octopus is not live. From what I understand, the tentacles are very sensitive and they take a long time to stop moving.

  20. Wow, that’s a brave culinary experience! I thought that we were pretty daring, but I’m not sure we could go there.

    • haha! I chewed really fast, and was thankful for the sesame seed oil for dipping!


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