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Penis fish are harvested as food in some countries in case you were wondering

PortandTerminal.com, December 16, 2019

Thousands of fat innkeeper worms recently washed up on a California beach. They are known colloquially as exactly what they look like; penis fish, and apparently they’re delicious

LOS ANGELES, CA – By now you may have already seen the photo of Drakes Beach in California where, last week, thousands of mysterious-looking “penis fish” washed up onshore following a winter storm.

“A fierce storm and heavy waves likely washed away several feet of sand to expose the worms”, biologist Ivan Parr wrote in a blog post for the magazine Bay Nature Magazine. Once exposed from their sandy burrows, the worms were washed ashore where they were easy pickings for hungry gulls. And who can blame the gulls? Don’t these critters look delicious?

Gulls feasted on the thousands of penis fish that washed up on a California beach following a series of winter storms

What you may not know is that a closely related cousin of the penis fish is harvested and eaten by people in some countries. Furthermore, those who have dined on the worm have said it is chewy, salty and surprisingly sweet.

Penis fish on sale at a fish market in Korea

The fat innkeeper worm or Chinese penis fish is found in the Bohai Gulf of China and off of the Korean and Japanese coasts. In Korea, the worms are called “Gaebul” and are usually harvested during the cold season from October to February.

There’s no way around this one so we’re not going to mince words here. There’s a creature called the “penis fish” and it’s delicious.

BBURI Kitchen (Feb. 27, 2016)

Catching Gaebul mainly takes place on South Korea’s west coast. In this region, where the sea is especially shallow, vast tidal areas allow for an easier “harvest”.

Harvesting Gaebul. Photo: BBURI Kitchen

What does Gaebul taste like?

Preparing Gaebul for consumption

In Korea, Gaebul is usually eaten raw after being gutted, cleaned and chopped. Dipping it in a sauce is apparently the preferred way to consume them raw.

Raw, sliced Gaebol served and ready to be enjoyed on the styrofoam rectangular tray

Koreans claim that the real flavor is released while chewing on it. The pink, wriggling seafood has a slightly salty and fishy taste, similar to that of clams. There is a surprisingly sweet note to it as well, especially when it has been freshly rinsed with seawater. Many people suggest that this sweetness is partly lost at restaurants that use tap water in the cleaning process.

When the fisherman cut, gutted and handed the gaebul to us right there on the mudflat, each chewy bite was amazingly sweet thanks to the saltwater it had been rinsed in.

Bburi Kitchen

In China, various recipes make use of Gaebul as a special ingredient. Especially in the Shandong region, Gaebul can often be found in dishes either stir-fried with vegetables, or dried as a powder to be used as an umami enhancer.

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