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Boshintang (보신탕) Posted by on Oct 22, 2008 in Cuisine

What is boshintang (보신탕)?  For those of you who have a weak stomach, read at your own risk… 

Boshintang (보신탕) is a Korean stew that is infamous for its primary ingredient.  Can you guess what it is?  I’ll give you a hint.  It’s man’s best friend, but it’s not the horse.  If you haven’t guessed it already the main ingredient in boshintang (보신탕) comes from a particular breed of dog called 노란개 or noranke (yellow dog).  These dogs are specifically raised for human consumption and killed for their meat.

Before I go any further I should mention that it is actually illegal to kill any dogs for human consumption in South Korea.  The law banning boshintang has been in effect since 1986.  Therefore, restaurants that serve boshintang (보신탕) usually do so illegally and secretively.  Since boshintang is illegal, many of these restaurants do not have formal health and safety inspections to inspect the food.  If you ever decide that you want to try boshintang (보신탕), you do so at your own risk.

I personally have not tried boshintang (보신탕), but people I’ve talked to say it tates like roast beef, except much softer.  I think it should also be noted that only a minority of the South Korean population consume boshintang (보신탕).  Many South Koreans abhor the idea of a dog being served as food.  One of the things that I stress about when I teach my students about Korea, is that they need to be open minded about learning new cultures.  This doesn’t mean that I am recommending that everyone try boshintang (보신탕); rather I want people to understand that from a different perspective, it’s all relative.  For example, Hindus and Jainists would be repulsed by the American consumption of beef; for Hindus and Jainists believe that cows are sacred.  Additionally, if you’re thinking that the consumption of dog meat is only carried out in Korea, I would disagree because Western countries such as France and Sweden have been known to consume dogs as well.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that boshintang (보신탕) is not a typical meal in South Korea.  You will have to search hard to find places that serve this particular dish.  There are also a lot of ingredients that go into making boshintang (보신탕); including red peppers, onions, garlic, soy sauce, and sesame seed.  Naturally, boshintang (보신탕) does not come cheap.  Reportedly a small bowl may cost $10 on up in U.S. dollars.

If the thought of boshintang (보신탕) creeps you out, don’t worry, there are plenty of other options available that don’t include dog meat.  In the future, expect some post on other meat options. Until then, 안녕 or annyung (bye- informal).

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