The moment you take a step inside Chisan Halmae Chip in Daegu, South Korea, you are taken with some hefty odor that you think you’ve never smelled before. That’s probably right, because it is more than likely that you have never smelled this before, assuming that you are an average uncouth Angelena. But at a same time, you may also think that you have actually smelled this somewhere before, if not the exact same odor. That is probably also right, because according to what people say, the smell of the dog burning is just like the smell of the long pig burning, because, well, you are what you eat. Think about it. These dogs eat pretty much the same thing as we humans do; more or less, for the most part of history, they ate what we would call now the leftovers – people still want to take a doggy bag for their leftovers. And it is why we are both called omnivores. We may think that we have domesticated dogs, but it may perhaps be more accurate to say that dogs have domesticated us, which is especially true in some forms of Western cultures; those that consider killing dogs for eating or any other purposes as cultural taboos. What was once considered the undeniable right of the domesticating species, i.e. to manipulate the environment in a way that would positively affect the survival rate of the domesticated species, which would in turn positively affect the survival rate of the domesticating species – in this case, the human– has now been shriveled to a daunty, pusillanimous catchphrase: a companion animal. What was once considered the naturally given prerogative of man as the domesticator has now been folded under the empty slogan of animal rights, and now we face a dilemma that faced a certain famous Danish prince 400 years ago, or something very close to that: to eat, or not to eat, that is the question.
Chisan Halmae Chip is also called Ori Maul, which in Korean means the Duck Town. I know this may sound quite ironic and even unreasonable to some, especially considering the rambling tirade that I just had about human canine consumption. But rest be assured, there is nothing wrong with this name, since this place also sells duck dishes as well. In fact, if you can sort through the alien characters on the picture of the menu below, you will see that the left side of the menu is all canine dishes, whereas the right side of the menu is all duck dishes. But since the mallardian varieties are not the subjects of our discussion here, we will leave the right part of the menu alone here.
On the other hand, the left part of the menu displays a full array of…well, 5 different canine entrees. From top to bottom, they are respectively Puppy Back Ribs; Boiled Meat –literally, water meat–, large and small; clear-broth dog soup – “the real soup, ” as they call it in the menu–; spicy dog soup; and spicy dog casserole. Mmmmm, yummy…..
Picture by Kkangji (http://blog.naver.com/this1074)
I have not personally tried out all the dishes here yet, but I must say, their puppy back ribs are just incredible. In Korea, they say that hundred hearings are less than one seeing. So instead of bombarding you with my hundred words long rambling description of the wonderfully chewy and moist texture of the marinated long pig flavor exploding in my mouth, I will show you some pictures of the dishes, in courtesy of the Daegu food blogger Kkangji (http://blog.naver.com/this1074):
The sweet and savory soy-sauce based marinade covering the ribs masks up that characteristic “long pig” smell of dog meat very well, which may really turn off some first time dog eaters, so this may very well be an ideal dish for all those queasy yet adventurous uncouth gourmands out there. Plus, it also looks a lot like pork back ribs, so I’m guessing that it would be probably easy to trick people into eating these without them knowing what they are really eating, if you are the mischievous type – though really, I’ve never tried that before. You don’t need to do that in Korea. I mean, have you ever felt any need for tricking others into unknowingly breathing in a particular gaseous mixture of 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen, for any reason at all?
I’ve also had the clear-broth soup, partially shown at the lower right hand corner of the picture above, which was not bad at all, but really, nothing to write home about, either. To my uncouth tastebuds, it tasted just like Solong Tang (a popular Korean style beef broth soup), except that it had pieces of dog meat in it instead of thinly sliced beef pieces.
I’ve never had the opportunity of having boiled meat at Chisan Halmae Chip, but Kkangji tells us that she enjoyed every bit of the dish, even though she herself could not dare to touch the paws, which is considered delicacy by many experienced dog eaters in Korea.
Picture of boiled dog skin and paws at Chisan Halmae Chip. © Kkangji (http://blog.naver.com/this1074)
All in all, Chisan Halmae Chip was a very pleasant experience, as any visit to a good dog place is for me. The hefty pricetag may turn off some people, but it is not really that much more expensive compared to other places around; and as far as I know, this is the only place in Daegu that serves those delicious marinated puppy back ribs!
I would like to end this story with a lovely picture of me and my dear late Punchy, who has become a delicious barbecue on a particularly sultry day last summer. R.I.P. Punchy. I dedicate this story to you.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons — living or dead, — is entirely coincidental.