The Top 10 South Korean Foods To Try
Korean cuisine is famous all over the world and seems to be quite “in” at the moment as you can see it being featured in many “Asian fusion” restaurants in major cities around the globe. However, it’s still not quite that common and easy to find in the West, especially where there isn’t a large Asian population. Before I met Jeongsu, I never had Korean food and I must say that in the beginning, Korean dishes weren’t quite my favorites. Now, since I moved to Korea however, I’m all for trying new Korean dishes and try my way through Korean cuisine! Here are my favorite meals so far!
Korean BBQ is probably the most famous Korean meal outside the country. There are tons of varieties and you can get all different kinds of meat from pork to beef. Korean BBQ is one of those dishes that also reflect the country’s culture by sitting together sharing food and drink. It’s not only common to eat out at a BBQ restaurant but also at your own home. A BBQ set is an essential equipment in a Korean household. It always includes different sauces and dips as well as the famous Korean side dishes such as kimchi, garlic and onions.
Similar to Korean BBQ, Bossam is a famous dish made from pork belly, boiled in spices and thinly sliced and served with side dishes. The meat and sides are usually wrapped in vegetable leaves such as red lettuce, sesame or napa cabbage, giving the dish its name Bossam, meaning “wrapped” or “packaged.” It’s another dish that’s often eaten with friends and family and soju is served while eating.
Bibimbap is the signature dish in Korea and also popular outside of Korea. It literally means “mixed rice” and is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with vegetables and gochujang (chili pepper paste). Commonly, a raw or fried egg and sliced meat are added and stirred together thoroughly just before eating. In South Korea, Jeonju, Jinju, and Tongyeong are especially famous for their versions of bibimbap. The dish was even listed at number 40 on the World’s 50 most delicious foods readers’ poll compiled by CNN Travel in 2011.
When mentioning Bibimbap as one of the signature dishes of Korea, Kimbap should come next! Looking at it at a first glance, you might mistake this deliciousness for Japanese sushi. When looking closer, however, you will notice that one key ingredient of sushi is missing: raw fish. Kimbap is made from steamed white rice and various other ingredients, rolled in dried seaweed and served in bite-size slices. There are tons of variations from tuna over cheese to meat flavored Kimbap! It’s cheap and fills you up!
Another meat dish famous in Korea is called Bulgogi. It’s deliciously grilled and marinated beef. Whole cloves of garlic, sliced onions and chopped green peppers are often added and grilled with the meat. It’s one of my favorite Korean dishes because the meat is sliced so thin and it’s so soft without any fat! I’ve even eaten versions of bulgogi where the meat was almost as thin as ground beef. Bulgogi has become so popular that you can even find bulgogi burgers at fast food restaurants across Korea.
This dish’s name literally means “cold noodles” and is especially popular during the hot summer months as it is served ice cold. The thin noodles are made of various ingredients but most commonly from buckwheat, potatoes or sweet potatoes. Naengmyeon has many variations, the two most common ones being mul naengmyeon (물 냉면) and bibim naengmyeon (비빔 냉면). The first is served with a cold beef broth, whereas the latter comes with spicy chili paste, or gochujang, to mix the noodles with.
A very popular snack amongst Koreans is tteokbokki. These are small rice cakes fried in a spicy sauce. Fish cakes, boiled eggs, and green onion is often added. While tteokbokki is available year-round, Koreans especially like to eat it in winter as the spicy flavors warm the body. You can easily find it at street markets, such as Namdaemun or Myeongdong in Seoul.
Jeon & Makgeolli 전 & 막걸리
In South Korea, salty pancakes and rice wine belong together like peanut butter and jelly. This must-try combination can be found in cities all over the country at so-called 전집 (jeonjib), pancake houses. There are many types of jeon, containing meat, seafood, vegetables and even flowers. Especially on rainy days, South Koreans like to visit a jeonjib and have a variety of pancakes with makgeolli, rice wine.
Don’t forget to order some soju when out eating in Korea! It’s the country’s national drink and is traditionally made of rice. The alcohol content can vary from 16.7% to 45%. Increasingly popular among young Koreans are the flavored soju drinks (peach, pomegranate, blueberry, lemon…) you can buy at local supermarkets and convenient stores. When going out with Koreans, drinking soju and playing drinking games go hand in hand with one another. Be sure to pour a class for your friends and let them pour your glass of soju in return. Filling your own glass is considered impolite!
If you’re in for something sweet, let me introduce you to the world of bingsu! It’s a Korean shaved ice dessert with sweet toppings such as chopped fruit, condensed milk, fruit syrup, and red beans. There are endless variations from chocolate over strawberry to green tea. Every cafe in Korea has its own version of Bingsu. It is extremely delicious but rather overpriced for the main ingredient simply being shaved ice. Bingsu desserts go for about 10,000 Won ($10) per serving. It’s definitely one of the best South Korean foods to try when visiting.
Hungry yet? 먹고싶어?
Nope, I’m not sorry for posting all these pictures and making you drool. Come to Korea and try your way through the endless amount of delicious Korean dishes which are available to you at a reasonable price! What are you waiting for?
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