Korean Dog Soup

Categories: Meat!

cutepup.jpg
_jennieMarie
Do you love me? I love you.
When I lived in Seoul, I ate a number of strange things. Squirming octopus tentacles, pizzas with sweet potatoes and mustard, oxtails in a milky broth, and steamed silkworm larvae, to name a few.

There is one thing, though, that I could never -- would never, for any means -- partake in:

보신탕; 補身湯. Literally, "invigorating soup."

Bosintang. Korean dog soup.

There are supposed medicinal properties of the soup, giving the one who eats it great vigor and virility. It is also supposed to keep you cool in the summer. Dog has been eaten throughout the world for ages -- it's a cheap, readily available food source common to many cultures.

Unfortunately, these mythical, totally unfounded supernatural properties are allegedly achieved if the dogs are slaughtered only after enduring horrible pain and abject fear. The hormones released when the dogs are terrified are supposed to increase the health-boosting properties and give the meat more flavor.

A warning about the hyperlink above: It is a news report on Korean dog markets, and it is terrible to watch if you at all love animals.

South Korean government officials officially outlawed consumption of dog meat in the capital city of Seoul in 1984, but only loosely enforced the ordinance before taking an official stance during the 1988 Summer Olympics, closing down restaurants serving dogs and urging the people to not eat dog meat in an effort to avoid negative sentiment from visitors.

dogsoup.jpg
Kai Hendry
There are still thousands of restaurants throughout Seoul that are serving dog meat soup, though. My friend Phil ate it, and he confessed that the last few bites were fatty, stringy bits of meat that, according to him, both tasted and smelled like wet dog. I also saw a Korean television show while riding the subway that had the host giving dog soup to a dog, to see if the dog would eat it. It didn't.

South Korea is a fantastic country, full of wonderful, friendly, welcoming people and amazing food, but this is an archaic and cruel practice. In truth, young people have been moving steadily away from eating this dish for years.

Like most places, Korea has a number of funny, persistent cultural myths. There is the phenomenon of "fan death," for example. Apparently, being in a room with no open windows or doors while there is a circular fan running will remove all the oxygen from the room, and it will kill you. No joke. Some fan manufacturers print warning labels on their products, much like smoking and drinking warning labels on cigarettes and alcohol in the U.S.

To be fair, though, 41 percent of Americans believe in extrasensory perception, 42 percent believe in ghosts and almost half of our country believes the world was started by just two people 6,000 years ago, so we certainly aren't excluded from the irrational beliefs category ourselves.

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This is my dog wearing flip-up glasses.
Whenever I passed a place that I knew served dogs, I admit I was tempted, on some level. I love to try new things, but this was just one that I couldn't suffer. I always thought about my own dog, Scooter, as a three-month-old puppy, sitting on my teen-aged feet while I read a book in my back yard. He's an old boy, now, but I still love him.

I'll eat pig, cow, seafood and fowl, but I just won't do dog.



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46 comments
Ayxan Mamedoff
Ayxan Mamedoff

Last week I saw an old bozo-like woman who was carrying pictures of the dogs in the cage.saying Dogs are not food....right in the center of Seoul . Always remember English proverb..You are what you eat..so think before you eat something..

trisch
trisch

When my dad was in the military, some of the guys under his command killed, dressed and cooked up a stray dog that lived on the base. Since meat rations were so scarce, they saved the most succulent piece of belly meat for my dad, and presented it to him over a bowl of rice as thanks for being a good leader. Nice gesture. Too bad the dog was the one my dad had been feeding and considered to be his pet.

That story aside, the practice of eating dog, cat, hamster or whatever else is cute doesn't really bother me as long as the species isn't endangered, the taking isn't wasteful, and the animal isn't tortured in the process. The "health-induction" process on the dogs in the soup you mention sounds horrific and would be the key reason I'd refuse to try it. I'd ask what is wrong with that culture, but I currently live in the country that created the craze for shark fin and where people believe powdered rhinocerous horn and pulverized tiger testicles can boost your sexual prowess but where people also believe that swallowing your own mucus can kill you. I much rather believe in ghosts.

KING
KING

I would eat the shit out of that puppy.

Anse
Anse

Folks like to say that Westerners don't eat dog because dogs are our cuddly friends. That's true. But I think we can make a more rational defense of western eating habits. For one thing, all of the mammalian animal species we eat are herbivores; cows, pigs, goats, and sheep subsist entirely on vegetation. I don't know what the significance of this is, exactly, but there seems something important to that fact. Now I know a chicken will eat just about any danged thing you put out in front of it, but its nature is not really carnivorous, either, nor is it for the other birds we tend to eat, except maybe for ducks that eat fish.

I don't know if any of this makes all that much sense, but I look at it this way. Thousands of years ago, Western cultures domesticated some animals for food, hides, etc. Dogs provided services that cows and goats could not; security against predators, management of those herds, and yes, companionship. All of those things are perfectly rational reasons for why we don't eat dog.

But what I find most interesting is the fact that East Asians will eat dog, cat, fertilized eggs that look rotten, and most anything that walks or crawls. They'll even eat eggs boiled in little boys' urine, if a recent blog post is to be believed. But they think cheese is disgusting.

That's funny.

Chuck
Chuck

Man, I couldn't care less about dogs, but I don't think I could do it...and using that puppy pic is just wrong. I'll eat a lot of stuff, but for some reason there's certain things like cat, dog, rat, roach, tarantula...I wouldn't touch them. I just went to FuFu cafe two nights ago and had pigs blood and intestines! For some reason my brain won't allow me to want to do it.

Wyatt
Wyatt

A few people here are saying that dogs are just like any other animal. I don't think Koreans or whoever else eating them is somehow abjectly evil, but you have to bear in mind no animal has a history of co-existence and bonding with humans that even approaches that of the dog. That might not be true across all cultures, but I still don't feel like it's illogical or silly to hold dogs in a special regard.

FaneuilD
FaneuilD

Can you please confirm for my son that I wasn't lying when I told him that some Koreans also enjoy 'cat juice', a beverage made from older cats cooked under high pressure steam. I'm sure the euphemism is along the lines of power libation or some such.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

I never ate it, but it's certainly not "under the radar" in any way. In the Daegu market you can see whole, skinned dogs hanging for sale just as if they were in a butcher shop.

That said, I do think it's a LOT more common in NORK.

Epikwhite
Epikwhite

When I lived in Jeju, Korea, I had dog soup several times, as well as steamed dog. The only thing that weirded me out was eating meat off a rib bone. While I wouldn't eat it here, I'm glad I took the opportunity to be adventurous while there.

Dogma
Dogma

This should be under the liberal politics blog.  Dog=good food.

Corey
Corey

 Funny what's acceptable to western minds, cows are somewhat cute and you probably have eaten that, doves are very cute, but also good eating, I've owned pet fish and crabs and I eat those too. I don't eat dogs, but I also don't care that Asians do when they likely have a glut of stray dogs/cats/vermin etc. Sure as hell beats eating armadillo or possum, which people do here. If it's edible I guess everything is fair game, and agreed these are odd topics for a mainstream food blog for a large publication, one thinks they could easily find more appetizing topics to write about.

Clumsy Plumsy
Clumsy Plumsy

Seems like a good time to clarify some of the misconceptions I've seen posted here:

1) Not all East Asians eat the same things (okay, this one is directly addressing Anse's comment).

2) Many of the foods that Westerner's consider weird (bugs, reptiles, fermented food, etc) were historically eaten out of necessity, but now may be be part of their cultural tradition. But with the rise in the standard of living in such countries, more and more are just as "picky" as Westerners in what they'll eat (also for Anse).

3) But as others have pointed out here, dog is not eaten out of necessity, but for superstitious reasons (mostly among the older population), just like how other countries may eat bear or tiger genitalia or drink snake blood or turtle shell tea.

4) The countries that do eat dog are aware of the benefits of owning a dog. In Korea, for example, dogs are just as popular as pets as they are everywhere else. No, they don't eat their pets. Traditionally, the dogs used for food are a special breed and are raised specifcally for food (there may be cases of unscrupulous "farmers" procuring dogs by illegal means, if you get my drift... I've never heard of it, but never say never). I don't condone or condemn people eating dog in principle (I wouldn't do it), but agree that the way they are raised in this case is deplorable.

That's my soapboxing for the day, thanks.

RPaul
RPaul

Funny! (Except that dogs are omnivores, just ask my watermelon and celery eating chihuaua). And my Asian honey and her family love cheese.

LW
LW

I agree regarding the puppy pic - you're just using it to create knee-jerk reactions. Sensationalistic journalism. I hardly expect objectivity in a place like Houston Press, but the way you wrote this piece just comes off as biased, close-minded, and extremely judgmental. Cruel, archaic practice? Yeah. For you. Male, white(?), and Western. To the editors, or whoever controls the articles - as a loyal reader, I recommend you to stop posting drivel like this. It deteriorates the quality of publication.

Sam Brown
Sam Brown

The evolution of dogs (selective breeding) has provided them with an insight and intelligence that is unique in its understanding of human emotions, body language, etc.  I do put them in another category, even though I once watched my own dog eat drywall and give me a look like, "What?  this shit's good..." 

Sam Brown
Sam Brown

I can not actually confirm that.  Sounds delicious, though.

Megan
Megan

I'd be curious to know when it first became practice and the circumstances surrounding it.  My husband took History of Food in college, but I don't know if they covered this.

Wyatt
Wyatt

Regardless of whether you liked this post or not, do you think food coverage is meant only to be "appetizing," and not to explore issues associated with what we eat and how we eat it?

Hbeard85
Hbeard85

No odder than the Urine Soaked Boy Eggs from a little while ago. In fact, it sort of fits in with the recent posts about Asian food with 'magic powers' hooey.

Wyatt
Wyatt

The fuck does his gender and whiteness (which I'm guess is just a given for you?) have to do with anything? If the farmers are actually treating the animals worse because of some belief that will imbue the meat with more magical properties, yes, that shit is cruel and archaic.

Wyatt
Wyatt

True. Yeah, I wasn't just saying "Dogs are cute LOL" - they've been bred to have a level of understanding with humans that other animals don't come close to possessing. Well, maybe cats, but we don't need to talk about that.

Corey
Corey

 This is a publication, and one that I believe likes to have readers and an audience. Were I of a weak stomach, or queasy, or just a picky eater, and saw this article I likely wouldn't continue to read articles from the HP, yeah the urine eggs were further down the gross scale, this obviously doesn't bother me either, but it would a lot of people, namely dog owners (poor souls). I will also point out there are new restaurants, new styles of cooking and cuisine that could use some coverage, versus this sensationalist tripe or trying to cover the gross angle. Seems like a square peg in what is a round hole of normally well written food and dining blogs here at the HP. They could easily do better. 

Terry Alexander
Terry Alexander

And I thought that was an odd topic also. I just mentioned it now because if it's going to become a trend, I'm not sure I will continue to play along with Sam.

It's almost as if he's trying to out Andrew Zimmern, Andrew Zimmern.TA

Wyatt
Wyatt

 And yes, torturing an animal to release its magic powers - by definition, is cruel and archaic.

Wyatt
Wyatt

Oh, Jesus.

South Korea is not considered a Third World/developing country. Not sure where you pulled that out of, but I have a good idea.

We're not talking about cases in which they're eating it out of necessity. I don't think anyone would fault an impoverished person for eating a dog because they had no other source of protein. But that's not what's being discussed here.

And out of curiosity, where do you draw the line with your relativism? Eating dogs is one thing. What about forced female circumcision OK with you? Terrible treatment of servants in Saudi Arabia - just their culture, or are you willing to impose your values on them like an evil imperialist?

LW
LW

Gender and whiteness have something to do with it because, and I'm not going to beat around the bush here, being male and white is a generally a step up the ladder in our current society. Chances are some poor shmuck in some corner of the third world is going to end up eating a lot of things he's not going to relish eating, more than a white male is ever going to have to eat because of circumstances. Cruel or archaic? I still maintain these are Western social belief systems imposed upon other foreign countries. The only reason the younger generation are moving away from it is because of Western ideals becoming so pervasive.

Come on now
Come on now

I agree it's irrelevant, but he's clearly white. I mean, who else would put flip up sunglasses on their dog...and it's a golden retriever! Named Scooter!! Case closed.

Corey
Corey

 Dog owners tend to be control freaks who expect absolute devotion from a pet. If a cat happens to like/love you you're doing something right, where as a dog offers omnidirectional love.. (prepares for the oncoming onslaught of pro dog comments)...

Megan
Megan

Cats have learned to understand humans so they can manipulate us.  The day the evolve enough to enslave us is a bad day, indeed.  (Or they'll evolve into LaserCats.  And then only Lorne Michaels can save us.)

JecklHyde
JecklHyde

 Don't worry about me, Corey. I just don't want you arguing with yourself over this matter.

Corey
Corey

 I'm not going to argue semantics with you, enjoy your dead end tangent.

JecklHyde
JecklHyde

 Ok, Corey, you come here to read about food and eating. So you read Sam's piece and it makes you think and you write the comment; "Funny what's acceptable to western minds...." and continue for a paragraph.

And then I guess you change your mind, saying that the piece is gross and irrelevant and blah blah blah. Have you ever thought about volunteering for the Romney campaign?

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

I disagree.  They have all had a negative vibe to them, and are typically juvenile.

jeezuie
jeezuie

I read all of Sam's posts, because they're provocative, informative, and funny.  Ain't that America.

Corey
Corey

 No sarcasm, but I have enjoyed a number of his articles, just not this one.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

 Sam just really isn't any good at this.  I'm still waiting to read something from him that offers some benefit to the readers.

Corey
Corey

Pardon my condescending tone... Genius you missed the point entirely, I come here to read about food, something worth eating, not effing dog soup, it's amateurish and sensationalistic writing that has virtually nothing to do with food at all. Sorry given their normally good to stellar writing this offers no insight, nor any real food related content other than being rather gross. Sorry you can't see the forest for the trees, or just want to be purposefully obstinate in either case...

Jeandefluerette
Jeandefluerette

Right on Corey! Whenever I hear of a grisly murder or horrible child cruelty case, I make a mental note about where I saw or heard that story, and then boycott that medium in the future. It works well. And has saved me time; I'm hardly getting any news these days!

Wyatt
Wyatt

 I didn't find this to be a gross-out piece at all, but oh well.

Sam Brown
Sam Brown

Yes, if you are looking for an explanation-- for literally anything, it would seem-- he is the source that you will want to turn to.

Jeandefluerette
Jeandefluerette

 The purpose of this blog is to post positive reviews of restaurants?Who knew? Thanks Fatty!

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

 I'd just like to see, ya know, an actually positive review on a restaurant?  I'm hoping we'll see one someday, as I believe that is the primary purpose of this blog.

gdcookin'
gdcookin'

Yeah, it's like Sam is adventurous and curious or something.

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