Nakji is the Korean name for the Octopus minor, which has been called either the long arm octopus or the Korean common octopus. Based on its name, it should come as no surprise to learn that the nakji is much smaller than the giant octopus, so much so that its Korean name is sometimes translated as the “baby octopus.” In any case, Koreans are very fond of nakji, which is why there are a number of Korean dishes to make use of this particular ingredient. One excellent example is san-nakji, meaning “sliced raw octopus.”

What Stands Out About San-nakji?

Generally speaking, the nakji is killed before it is cut up into small pieces that are sprinkled with sesame oil as well as toasted sesame seeds. However, there are cases in which the nakji is consumed whole while it is still living.

It is important to note that san-nakji is a potential choking hazard in both cases. In the first case, this is because the tentacles can continue to exhibit a number of reflex actions even without the central brain’s input. As a result, the suction cups on the tentacles are still active, meaning that it is possible for the tentacles to stick to the mouth as well as the throat. Meanwhile, the second case is a potential choking hazard because the octopus is still alive, meaning that it is moving about even more.

How Can You Prepare San-nakji?

On the whole, san-nakji isn’t the most complicated dish that can be found out there. There is nothing more complicated to it than killing an octopus of the right species before cutting it up into manageable pieces. After which, it is a matter of sprinkling it with sesame oil as well as toasted sesame seeds. However, san-nakji isn’t something that interested individuals should be attempting to make on their own, not least because there is a very real danger of diners choking on the tentacles if they are not careful. In any case, those who are curious about how the Koreans eat san-nakji might want to check out this National Geographic video to get a better look at the process.

Are There Variations on San-nakji?

There are similar dishes to san-nakji that can be found in other East Asian cuisines. For example, Japanese cuisine has an entire culinary custom that involves making sashimi from still living animals, which can involve everything from fish to lobster, shrimp, and octopus. Likewise, there is a Chinese dish called drunken shrimp that involves living shrimp immersed in liquor, which has a direct counterpart in Japanese cuisine called odori ebi or “dancing shrimp.”