Young Chinese K-pop fans hunt for penis fish

By Park Sae-jin Posted : February 25, 2016, 17:49 Updated : February 25, 2016, 17:49

[Photo by Namkung Jin-woong]

South Koreans chewing on wriggling raw penis fish, or spoon warm, were often seen as weird and disgusting on YouTube, but it now has become one of the best-selling items among young Chinese visitors at a main fish market in Seoul.

Urechis unicinctus is a species of sea spoon worm whose phallic appearance has earned it its nickname of "penis fish".

It's eaten commonly in Japan and South Korea.  In Chinese cuisine the worm is cooked stir-fried with vegetables, or dried and powdered to be used as an umami enhancer. In particular, the worm is considered an important ingredient in Shandong cuisine and has numerous recipes for using it.

At South Korean fish restaurants, this spoon worm served with salt and sesame oil as a delicacy along with other sea creatures.

This year young Chinese K-pop fans add to vigor at Seoul's Noryangjin market crowded with fish vendors and restaurants to sit, eat, and drink.

Market operators say the number of Chinese visitors to Noryangjin a day has soared from about 100 in 2013 to more than 1,000 this year, inspired by the fantasy-romance TV drama "My Love from the Star" which became a cult hit in China.

The drama showed actor Kim Soo-hyun buying a platter of spoon worm in Noryangjin for actress Jun Ji-hyun. Kim is one of the most popular South Korean actors in China with a huge fan following for the role of an alien on the show.

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