If you’re wandering through one of South Korea’s many seafood markets and you see a bucket of wriggling phalluses, you’ve found the gaebul. Also known as “the penis fish,” it’s actually a marine spoon worm.
While some diners might slurp down a slice of gaebul for its reputed aphrodisiac effects, most eat this mudflat-dwelling worm because they like the taste. Typically consumed raw, it’s chewy, salty, and surprisingly sweet. (Some say that restaurant-prepared gaebul rinses away the sweetness of fresh versions.) It’s often served with a savory sauce made from sesame oil and salt or a spicier dip consisting of vinegar and gochujang. Those who prefer their penis fish cooked might grill it on a skewer with salt, pepper, and sesame oil.
Even before it ends up on a plate, the gaebul spends its life feeding others. Earning its other nickname, “the fat innkeeper worm,” it creates tunnels that provide shelter for crabs and fish. If that weren’t enough, this “innkeeper” even leaves behind a free meal for its guests: plankton, trapped in a trail of slime.
Need to Know
You might also find the penis fish, by other names, in China, Russia, or Japan.