Ttongsul, or “feces wine”, is a Korean drink made by pouring soju, a distilled grain alcohol, into a pit filled with chicken, dog, or human feces, and leaving the mixture in the pit for three to four months until it ferments. It is then extracted from the pit and drank straight, with the belief that it can cure illness and help in the aid of bone fractures.
It sounds like the stuff of urban legends, but Ttongsul is indeed a real beverage that, while by no means popular, can still be found if you know where to look.
How can we be sure? After nearly six months of extensive research, RocketNews24 was able to track down a private Ttongsul vendor in South Korea and procure a bottle of the elusive feces wine ourselves.
Arriving in Korea, our Japanese correspondents telephoned our contact and were instructed to a specific location where the transaction would be carried out. We’re not sure if current Korean law forbids the open sale of fecal beverages, but the whole process seemed very clandestine; brown market, if you will.
The rendezvous point was a restaurant called “Dokdo”—yes, ironically, like the islands—in Jinju, a city in South Gyeongsang Province located about an hour from Busan by car.
As it reached the appointed time, a middle-aged man carrying two large bottles in a black plastic bag approached our correspondents. Their conversation follows (see video below):
Correspondent A+B: Anyohaseyo!
Man: I’m doing farmwork and… Ah, these? 2 bottles, 70,000 won (US$65)
B: He says they’re 70,000 won.
A: 70,000 won.
~Exchanges cash for the bag~
B: I hear there is white Ttongsul as well.
Man: No, there’s no white. It’s got medicine in it so it doesn’t turn white.
B: I see.
Man: It turns this color because there are lots of traditional medicinal herbs in it. This is some really good stuff.
B: Is it something I could make at home?
Man: It’d be difficult.
B: Difficult? Because of the ingredients?
Man: Yeah, I have to bake my kid’s poop in an electric oven at 250℃ for 30 minutes. If I don’t, the stench is horrible. If you do it at home it stinks up the whole house. Your neighbors would probably get upset if you tried making it at home. Then you have to soak it in alcohol for at least 2 months before you can drink it.
B: And you put medicinal herbs in it as well?
Man: Yeah, there’s a lot of medicinal ingredients in there. Ash tree, hanyak, even cat. Putting cat in makes it really good for you.
B: Huh? Cat? What part of the cat do you use?
Man: The bones.
B: What!? The bones….? Has it always been like that?
Man: Yeah, it’s the time-honored way of making Ttongsul*.
B: And this something only you can make?
Man: That’s right. That’s why it’d be difficult for you to make at home.
*It’s unclear if the man meant that all traditional methods of making Ttongsul use cat bones, or if it’s just his own special mixture.
After exchanging goodbyes, our correspondents examined the bottles to find a brown and surprisingly clear liquid that looked similar to brandy. No bits of excrement floating around, and no visible traces of cat bone either (thank god).
Even more surprising was that the Ttongsul smelled nothing like feces. In fact, it didn’t smell of anything at all. We imagine the fermentation process has been perfected over the centuries so the wine is odorless and therefore easier to drink. After all, even if it is tradition, poo is still poo.
We’re preparing a big Ttongsul drinking party at the RocketNews24 office in Tokyo, so be sure to check back later for our taste report! Check our taste report here!
▼ Our intrepid reporters arrive in Busan
▼ Boarding the bus to Jinju
▼ It’s about 1.5 hours through pleasant country scenery from Busan to Jinju
▼ Arriving in Jinju, our correspondents make their way to the drop-off point
▼ Here’s where the deal went down
▼ Feces wine get!
▼ It was bottled in reused plastic soju bottles. If you see bottles like this at your local Korean market, don’t worry, it’s probably not Ttongsul.
▼ Smells like absolutely nothing! As for the taste…we’ll get back to you on that soon!
[ Read in Japanese ]