During my second trip to Tto Tto Wa, the Korean fried chicken joint I reviewed this week, I was determined to blow it out. I'd tried dumplings, chicken feet and some other dishes -- none of it as good as the spicy chicken, mind you -- and wanted to work even further toward the boundaries of Angela Kim's menu.
So I decided to try the chrysalis. Kim -- who was starting to become curious about this strange guy coming into her shop, taking pictures with his iPhone and asking a ton of questions -- explained that the silk worm pupae, known a beondegi in Korea, were typically eaten while sipping soju. This was important intelligence, because I had just ordered 3000 ccs of Coors Light and there were only two of us at the table. She warned that mixing the two -- beer and soju -- could cause me to get very drunk. I told her that sounded about right, and ordered a bottle of soju and the chrysalis anyway.
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The soju arrived first, in a green glass bottle served with two small glasses for sipping. It was sweet and tasted of alcohol, but it burned less than vodka or other potato spirits. It's actually a nice sipper, punchy and smooth at the same time.
Then the chrysalis arrived, on a massive plate with a serving spoon, wafting an intensely earthy aroma. I grabbed one of the little critters with my chopsticks, hesitated briefly, popped it in my mouth and chewed. It had a soft, meaty texture and a nutty flavor, not unlike the grasshoppers and crickets I've had in tacos before. It was intense though, and I wasn't sure I was into it, so I did what any food addict would do and tried another.
Sitting in that tiny booth, munching on pupae and sipping on soju, I almost laughed. It's a little goofy grubbing on bugs, but it didn't take long to figure out why they were appealing. Alternating between little salty bits of baby butterflies and peppers with sips of soju was enlightening. Watching my dining partner squirm on the other side of the table was fun.
We didn't finish the chrysalis. I had about 20 or so and called it a day, but we did finish the beer and soju. I made sure of that.