Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dongbu Looks Like Dung, But Tastes...

Always on the lookout for odd Korean food, I found one food that even my Korean friends did not know.
While exploring the newly christened S-Mart grocery store near my apartment, I discovered what appeared to be a bag of dried moose poops. It's called Dongbu (동부), which ironically sounds similar to the Korean word for poo, "ddong" (똥).
What does "Dongbu" really mean? My friend Suyeon Jung attempted to contact Jungdun Foods, the Daegu based company that produces Dongbu; however, they declined to answer any of her questions. One friend, Jerry Park said "dong" means west. Another friend, Junsik Park, supposed that "bu" could mean bean. "Western bean?" It could look like a large kidney bean, but poop is far more fun.

And while it looks like poop, it happily neither smells or tastes like poop. In appearance and texture it is reminiscent of Boston Baked Beans, the more familiar candy-coated, peanut, poop-like snack. The difference is that Dongbu has a dry, cookie center (they call it fried hard tack) instead of a peanut, and a thinner shell. Imagine a round, crunchy animal cookie with a chocolate shellac that does not taste in the least like chocolate.
It doesn't taste so bad either. Junsik had never heard of it when I mass messaged him and my other Korean friends about Dongbu. His first question upon seeing it in person was, "Is it good or not?" I asked him to decide for himself. He picked up the bag, opened it, and cautiously sniffed the opening before taking one out and eating it. "Just a snack," he exclaimed laughing, as if he had expected something else — perhaps poop? It was good, he said.
Not everyone agrees, though. I showed Dongbu to my friend Nanhee Kim as well. "I've never eaten [it] before," she said surprised. "Can I try this? It looks like [a] bean, red bean." She didn't like it.
There is more to the food than taste, though. Oh, what puerile fun can be had with a bag of Korean, candied, cookie, moose poops!

A few strategically placed Dongbu pooplets in the right classroom at a certain English academy which shall remain namelessand by break time teachers and students were joyfully preparing "poop packages" for each other and asking me for "ddong" to eat or perhaps gift. Interestingly, the students, experts in all things snack food, who I asked had never seen Dongbu before. One student even said it tasted like wood. She must have liked it, because she kept on asking for more. Perhaps the moose that produced that particular bag had a very fibrous diet.

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