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 Are you tired of eating the same few meals over and over again? Feeling adventurous? Part of the reason you came to Korea was to try new things right? Well once again I’ve got your covered. Gobchang (곱창), the intestines of cattle and pig,  is the perfect combination of an unusual yet addictively delicious taste making it a great way to push your boundaries when it comes to exploring new foods.

So What Exactly is Gobchang?

Gobchang is a term used for both the small and large grilled intestines of a cow or pig. Koreans have been eating gobchang for a lot time. In the past, it was mostly eaten by those who couldn’t afford more expensive meats.  However, gobchang is now considered a delicacy and is usually more expensive than other meat.

Gopchang is divided into So-gopchang (소곱창) and Yang-gopchang (양곱창). So-gopchang indicates the small intestine of a cow while Yang-gopchang refers to its first stomach (rumen). A cow has four stomachs: The first is called the rumen (Yang, 양); the second the reticulum (Cheonyeop, 천엽); the third the omasum (jeolchang, 절창); and the fourth the abomasum (Makchang, 막창). Koreans eat every part of the stomach and they each have their own unique taste and texture.

Gobchang is served in many different ways. Common ways are in soups (곱창전골), grilled bbq style (곱창구이), and mixed with lettuce and spicy sauce (야채곱창). However this article will mainly be exploring grilled gobchang.  Most gobchang restaurants have an option call the modeum platter (모듬=All). This allows you to sample each of the different parts of the intestine that the restaurant offers.

Left to right: Intestine Soup (곱창전골), grilled intestines (곱창구이, intestines mixed with veggies and sauce (야차곱창)

From left to right: Intestine soup (곱창전골), grilled intestines (곱창구이), intestine with veggies and sauce (야채곱창)

Types of Gobchang

First up is the so-gobchang (소곱창), or small intestines.  This is normally what you get when you order gobchang.  It definitely has a bit of an acquired taste and is quite chewy. When cooked right, the outside becomes crispy while the inside remains soft and juicy. It goes well when dipped in sesame oil and salt.

Next we have makchang (막창), the lowest part of the intestine also commonly known as the entrails. This is my least favorite part because unlike the other types of intestines, makchang doesnt hold in flavor as well.  It is also quite chewy and best eaten with sauce.

Then there’s the yeomtong (염통), or heart.  I know, I know.  Sounds bloody, squishy and just plain inhuman. But remember the whole reason why you came to a gobchang restaurant was to try new things right?  In my personal experience, it’s the foods that sound the most unappealing that end up being the tastiest. And heart is a prime example of this. It both looks and taste the most like meat.  It’s not as chewy as the intestine and has a much more briny taste.

Finally we have my personal favorite, daechang (대창). Daechang is the large intestine.  It is much softer than the other parts and is best eaten after it has soaked up all the grease from cooking the rest of the intestines.  It has a very squishy texture and is full of flavor. Unfortunately daechang is also the most expensive part of the intestines.

Raw liver (생간 ), reticulum (천엽) and raw beef (육회) are also usually served as a side dish along more commonly seen korean foods such as kimchi (김치) and bean sprouts (콩남물). The raw liver has an especially interesting taste; it’s as if you are biting into a piece of cold meat that’s bursting with blood vessels.  Definitely not for everyone but worth giving it a try.

From left to right: Raw liver (생강), reticulum (천엽), raw beef (육회)

Lastly, after you’ve polished off the last of your yummy intestines, don’t forget to order a serving or two of fried rice (bokkeumbab, 볶음밥).  This tasty mix of rice and seaweed mixed with the leftover grease and leftover bits of intestine is the perfect way to end your meal.

And remember, intestines are a type of food that Koreans call anju (안주), which is food made to be eaten with soju (소주).  So if you’re having trouble stomaching the stomach in front of you, knock back a few shots first and unleash the inner ahjussi in you!