These teenage girls from Iowa spent just a month in Korea, and they have tried–and liked–more exotic foods than a lot of people I know here.

The learning continued at meal times. They ate what their host family ate, from meals made with new combinations of familiar ingredients to very unusual foods.

One of the most traditional of Korean foods served at just about every meal is kimchee, which can be made with a variety of fermented vegetables. Most commonly, it is cabbage with a spicy red pepper paste.

“I like spicy,” said Emily, noting she enjoyed the dish.

Chelsea doesn’t like spices. She ate the kimchee but kept a glass of water on hand to wash off the pepper paste.

“The girls have been raised to eat everything that’s put on their plate,” said their mom, Cathy. “They don’t refuse anything, because it’s impolite.”

Chelsea and Emily clearly went beyond the meal time rule, though, when they ate food from stands on the streets.

They munched on — and mostly liked — boiled silkworms, fried grasshoppers and sea urchins taken from a shell.

“I didn’t like the texture,” Chelsea said of the silkworms, “but the sauce was good.”

In addition, Chelsea ate a cooked but still writhing octopus tentacle at a sushi bar that suctioned itself to the inside of her mouth before she could swallow. Emily ate dog meat during a meal that was specially prepared when the Han girls’ grandmother visited.

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