Korean cuisines embody a harmony of colorful flavors and nutrition. It represents the Korean culture that welcomes daring fusions for delicious food.
From the fiery fermented Kimchi to the creamy Samgyetang and the stir-fried Japchae: there are several Korean foods to try. Let us have a look at the top must-try Korean foods!
Kimchi, a signature Korean dish, has a history of more than 2,000 years. Its origins date back to the Shilla Dynasty. The name itself refers to fermented vegetables.
It is a delicious fusion of vegetables, with the star ingredient being the Korean cabbage often. There are also radishes, pumpkins, onions, gingers, and scallions.
The cuisine features flavors because of herbs and spices. It may also have salted seafood.
Today, there are more than 200 variations available of this traditional cuisine. It is a spot with white rice, porridges, soups, and rice cakes.
Another must-try Korean food for us is the ever-famous bibimbap. It is a famous Korean cuisine worldwide. So, you will find this at almost all Korean restaurants around. Depending on the region, bibimbap is both a meat-based and vegetarian dish.
The most popular bibimbap variation features warm rice with mixed vegetables, beef or chicken, and a raw egg as toppings. There is a balance of flavors with soy sauce and chili pepper paste.
If you like seafood, you can replace the meat with tuna, salmon, or octopus. It is a hoedeopbap, then.
Red rice cakes (tteokbokki)
You do not know Korean cuisine unless you have experienced street food in Korea. Tteokbokki is traditional Korean street food. It features thick slices of garaetteok (boiled rice cake), fish cake, onions, diced garlic, salt, sugar, and assorted vegetables. The vegetables have been stir-fried in sweet red chili sauce. With an authentic, bright red-orange ensemble, this famous street snack will let you experience local Korean food. If you are in Korea, you can find it at street vendors and independent snack bars.
Bulgogi is a Korean dish with thin slices of marinated beef sirloin. These slices have a distinctive smoky flavor.
Koreans make the beef sirloin in a charcoal burner with sliced onions, green peppers, and garlic.
Before grilling, the cooks marinate the meat for between 2 and 4 hours in a mixture of sesame oil, soy sauce, black pepper, onions, garlic, ginger, and sugar. All these ingredients bring tenderness to the meat and enhance its flavors.
Locals often serve this cuisine with a side of leafy vegetables like lettuce or spinach. You can make your own and wrap your meat slices with it. Give it a try with ssamjang, a spicy Korean paste, and Kimchi.
Korean stew – jjigae
This Korean stew contains meat, vegetables, or seafood in a seasoned broth. It has flavorful ingredients like hot pepper paste (gochujang), fermented miso (gaenjang), soybean paste, or salted fermented shrimp (saeujeot). It is a palate cleanser between heavier dishes. Jjigae has a similar consistency to a western stew.
As there are several varieties today, we recommend the budae jjigae (army stew) version. It features sausages, bacon, and Spam meat with ramyeon noodles and rice cakes mixed with gochujang paste.
Although it is an invite for a tongue burn, the hit of flavors is a must-try.
When talking of must-try Korean foods, never forget the Korean-Chinese fusion dish, jajangmyeon. It has thick handmade wheat noodles with toppings of raw cucumber slices, salty black soybean paste, diced pork, and vegetables.
It is a perfect Korean delight when on a budget. However, this dish is not just a normal one. It is popular because many singles eat it on Black Day, the 14th of April. They wear black attires to consume foods with black color like the jajangmyeon.
Samgyeopsal, another staple Korean dish, is another one in our assortment. If you satisfy your Korean food cravings by cooking yourself, this one may be hard to cook if you are no expert. It requires culinary skills. In this delicious cuisine, you grill chunky slices of pork belly at the diners’ table. You have to then wrap them in lettuce or sesame leaf with dipping sauces and accompaniments. The latter tend to be green chili pepper, button mushrooms, green onions, raw onions, garlic, and sometimes Kimchi.
In Seoul, adults often take samgyeopsal with a shot (or 2) of soju liquor.
Korean Fried Chicken
Korean fried chicken is like a take on the quintessential American fast food, with its unique flair. Unlike the American counterparts, the chicken has a coating of a sweet and spicy sauce. Some restaurants add green pepper inside the batter for a spicy kick. They then double fry the chicken in vegetable oil.
The meat has a very juicy flavor on the inside with a lightly battered skin. It Is crunchy with less grease. If you have a habit of midnight munching, it may become your favorite late-night snack.
Spicy cold noodle (bibim naengmyeon)
Bibim naengmyeon is spicy cold noodles served in a stainless steel bowl with a cold broth. The dish contains julienne cucumbers, pear slices, boiled egg, and slices of cold-boiled beef. The noodles tend to be from sweet potatoes or buckwheat. Some variations also use seaweed and green tea.
This dish is an essential part of Korean history. It symbolizes longevity of life and good health. The noodles are not cut traditionally for serving. However, you may do so for ease in eating.
Ginseng chicken soup (samgyetang)
Locals in Korea believe that your body needs replenishment during summer. So it is a traditional practice to have a piping hot bowl of samgyetang (chicken ginseng soup) when the summer arrives.
This nourishing soup features a small spring chicken stuffed with ginseng, ginkgo nuts, chestnuts, glutinous rice, garlic, and dried jujubes. Cooks put everything together for slow cooking to tender the meat. The thick broth has a slightly bitter yet fragrant taste.
Hoeddeok (sweet syrupy pancakes)
Hoeddeok, or sometimes spelled as hotteok, is a popular must-try Korean street food. It is the sweeter version of a Western pancake.
It is a flat, circular dough filled with a mixture of honey, cinnamon, and brown sugar.
There are also small pieces of peanut cooked on a griller. The delicacy features a crunchy exterior with a soft interior. People often have it during the winter season.
The irresistible flavors make it worth a try once.
Japchae (stir-fried noodles)
Often served as a side dish during lunch or dinner, Japchae is a traditional Korean noodle dish. It features stir-fried sweet potato, beef, thinly shredded vegetables, and soy sauce with sugar. Depending on the chef, additional ingredients may be there, like mushrooms. Japchae has a sweet and flavorful taste. It is also chewy.
Seolleongtang (ox bone soup)
This one is a traditional hot Korean soup made from ox bones, ox meat, and briskets. It is a local dish of Seoul in Korea.
Cooks season it with salt, chopped green onions, ground black pepper, or minced garlic. The broth is of milky white, cloudy color.
You can eat it with rice. Seolleongtang is known for its chewy and soft texture.
Haemul Pajeon (seafood vegetable pancake)
This one is a version of Pajeon, a pancake-like Korean dish made with green onions, egg batter, wheat flour, and rice flour. Haemul Pajeon incorporates seafood into the traditional pancake. Common seafood ingredients are oysters, shrimp, squid, and clams. People generally enjoy it as a main dish.
It is a unique pancake to eat. So, don’t forget to try it out once. There are lighter versions of it as well for snacking in Korea.
You can find stellar Korean cuisine around the world, from street vendors to classy restaurants. If you happen to be in Korea, celebrate these delicacies in their most authentic flavors and form.
Did you know that Korean food is an essential part of their culture? Many foods have origins dating as back as 2000 years. Have a look at the history of Korean cuisine here!