South Korea’s distinctive cuisine seems to fly under the radar in much of the world, and that’s a shame. Steeped in tradition, the foods of Korea run the gamut of flavors with something for every taste.
Korea’s national dish is also it’s most famous throughout the world. While most people think of kimchi as the spicy fermented cabbage dish, kimchi can be made with many types of vegetables, the most popular being cabbage and daikon radish. When you eat at a Korean restaurant, you should never have to order kimchi, as meals are traditionally served with an assortment of small appetizers, called banchan, and a type of kimchi is always included.
The word bibimbap literally means “mixed rice,” and this famous dish is Korea’s version of fried rice. A piping hot bowl gets filled with steamed white rice and topped with assorted fresh and fermented vegetables, ground pork and a sunny side up egg. Top it will a dollop of spicy chili paste and mix it all together. Delicious!
Bulgogi is one of the most common dishes served in Western Korean restaurants, but it’s a favorite in Korea as well. Thinly sliced pork gets marinated in a sweet and savory sauce and either grilled or cooked in a slightly sweet broth bubbling right at your table. Take a slice of beef, wrap it in a lettuce leaf with some fresh garlic, a slice of green pepper and some fermented soy bean paste and eat it like a taco.
Jiggae isn’t a single dish but a category of dishes most similar to a stew in the Western culinary world. The most popular varieties are kimchi jiggae and soondubu jiggae, a spicy stew made with soft tofu and eggs.
Typically eaten as a side dish, japchae consists of cellophane noodles made from sweet potatoes mixed with beef and vegetables and tossed in a sesame oil and soy sauce marinade. Definitely one of the top foods to try in Korea.
Every country has their own take on street food, and in Korea, you’re bound to see stalls along the streets of Seoul selling steaming bowls of dukbokki, especially at night. Savory rice cakes get braised in a sweet and spicy sauce along with fish balls and carrots. Most Westerners love it.
7. Yangnyeom Tongdak
Say goodbye to KFC forever, because once you try Korea’s version of fried chicken, you’ll never want to go back. Korean fried chicken restaurants manage to get an unbelievably crispy batter on their chicken before it gets coated in a sweet and fiery hot sauce. It’s sometimes topped with sesame seeds and eaten alongside pickled radish. For those who can’t handle the heat, most fried chicken restaurants offer a variety of spice levels, or you can order your chicken dry with the sauce on the side.