Nothing says North Korean cuisine like gasoline-baked clams. No, seriously. Laying a bed of clams on a gravel pit, dousing them with gasoline from a bottle and lighting them on fire until cooked through is actually something they do in North Korea.
We recently had the chance to speak with a Japanese traveler, who goes by the alias Kuzo, who actually sampled gasoline-baked clams during a trip to North Korea last month.
Kuzo claims that while lighting clams up like fuel-drenched charcoal may not seem like the safest method of preparation, gasoline-baked clams surprisingly carry no trace of gasoline and are rather tasty.
According to Kuzo, here’s all you need to know about North Korean gasoline-baked clams:
・They Are Not Usually Eaten During Winter
Kuzo tells us that as was in North Korea at the end of January and gasoline-roasted clams can only be prepared outside, he had no choice but to endure -10℃ weather as he waited for the clams to cook. Understably, North Koreans usually eat this dish in warmer seasons.
・The Clams Are Roasted For 5 Minutes Using 2 Plastic Bottles Worth Of Gasoline
After purchasing the clams at a local market, Kuzo’s tour guide spread them over the ground at the back of the hotel, drenched them in gasoline and lit the match. After the fire caught, the guide continued to add gasoline from two 500ml plastic bottles to keep the fire going, sometimes causing the shellfish to become engulfed in a pillar of fire.
After about 5 minutes, the fire burned out and the clams were done.
・Gasoline-baked Clams Are Tasty, Though Slightly Raw
“We warmed our hands over the fire since it was so cold. You usually eat the clams outside, but -10 was just too cold so we brought them back to the hotel and ate them inside,” recalled Kuzo.
When we asked about the taste, he replied: “Contrary to expectations, the clams were incredibly delicious! I was convinced they would stink like gasoline and be inedible, but they were among some of the best clams I’ve ever had. They smelled nothing of gas and you could actually taste how fresh they were. They did seem a little undercooked though…“
・There Is A Risk Of Poison, But Booze Up And You’ll Probably Be Fine
While clams are harvested fresh from North Korean seas, eating undercooked shellfish does carry the risk of bacterial poisoning. This doesn’t stop the North Koreans though, who always make sure to have a bottle of soju (distilled rice liquor) on hand in the case someone nabs a winner:
“The guide told us that, while it is rare, there are some people who become poisoned from eating gas-baked clams and they claim that it’s the people who didn’t drink soju with their clams who get sick. It may be that those who drink weak alcohol like beer are more likely to get poisoned.”
・You Might Be Lucky Enough To Find A Crab Among Your Clams
Occasionally, there will be a baby crab mixed in with the clams and those who find one are considered lucky—and wouldn’t you know it, Kuzo found one on his plate despite it being winter!
・Do Not Bake Your Clams In Petroleum
Anyone wanting to try gas-crabs at home should make sure to use gasoline and not petroleum. Kuzo tells us that accroding to the guide, burning the clams in petroleum leaves a strong odor while gasoline does not.
That being said, we recommend our readers to refrain from gasoline-baking of any kind unless under the careful supervision of an experienced North Korean.
Special thanks to Kuzo for the photos, video and interview.
[ Read in Japanese ]