From street food to comfort food to drinking food to temple food – the cuisine in South Korea is diverse and delicious. Cooking meat yourself, eating food off sticks, and eating kimchi for breakfast are all food experiences you can expect to have in South Korea. These 19 reasons highlight why South Korean food is some of the most delicious around.
1. Kimchi All the Time
Say it: [kim-chee]
Read it: 김치
What it is: Spicy pickled vegetables. Typically cabbage, cucumbers, and radish, though any veggie can be kimchi.
Why it’s Delicious: It’s salty, it’s spicy, it’s vinegar-y. It is an acquired taste at first, but once you have jumped aboard the kimchi bandwagon, you will be looking for it everywhere!
2. Cook Your Own Meat (Korean Pork BBQ)
Say it: [dweh-jee bool-go-gee]
Read it: 돼지불고기
What it is: Marinated pork cooked at your table over charcoal or gas grill. Wrap the cooked meat in lettuce for a little meat sandwich.
Why it’s Delicious: Cooking the meat yourself in the middle of your table is a fun and immersive experience. Biting into a juicy morsel of pork combined with hot rice and roasted veggies is an amazing culinary experience.
3. You Can Eat a Whole Chicken for Dinner
Say it: [sam-gey-tang]
Read it: 삼계탕
What it is: Samgyetang aka Ginseng chicken soup. A whole young chicken stuffed with ginseng, glutinous rice, dates and other veggies is boiled to perfection.
Why it’s Delicious: This is exactly what you want to eat when you are sick. It’s your Grandma’s chicken noodle soup, Korean style.
4. Kimbap = Healthy Fast Food
Say it: [kim-bap]
Read it: 김밥
What it is: Classic Korean fast food: Rice, veggies and meat rolled in seaweed and sliced.
Why it’s Delicious: Kimbap is one of the most common things you will see in Korea. There are so many variations, you can pretty much pick and choose what you want. My favorite is fried shrimp kimbap, and I have an entire post dedicated on how to eat in a kimbap restaurant.
Say it: [mahk-oh-lee]
Read it: 막걸리
What it is: A sweet alcoholic drink made from rice. Traditionally a drink for farmers, and Korea’s oldest alcoholic drink. Now, makgeolli is making it’s way into every social circle, and is served at most restaurants.
Why it’s Delicious: It’s sweet, milky, and comes in a ton of flavors. It’s low in alcohol and a great drink to share with friends.
6. Haemul Pajeon is the Best Comfort Food
Say it: [hay-mool pah-juhn]
Read it: 해물파전
What it is: It’s best described as a Korean pancake. Various bits of seafood (haemul) and green onions (pa) are coated with flour and egg and fried. Some are fluffy and huge, while others are thin and crispy.
Why it’s Delicious: The small bits of seafood with the crispy, fried pancake plus the added flavor of the green onions is an incredible combination. Pajeon pairs perfectly with makgeolli and is the ultimate Korean comfort food.
7. KFC (Korean Fried Chicken)
What it is: Fried Chicken, Korean style
Why it’s Delicious: Fried chicken in Korea is similar to fried chicken in America, but with some differences. It is super moist on the inside and extra crispy on the outside. It is best when served with beer. Chicken and beer even have their own celebrity name: Chimaek (Chi for chicken + maek for maekchu(beer)).
8. The Best Stirfry — Chuncheon Dalkgalbi
Say it: [choon-chun dahk-gahl-bee]
Read it: 춘천 닭갈비
What it is: Chunks of marinated diced chicken, scallions, potato, tteok (rice cakes), and gochujang (red pepper paste) are stir fried together in a big pan in front of you. It originates from Chuncheon in Gangwon Province, but found all over.
Why it’s Delicious: The dish is inexpensive and super tasty, and you can add things to it like noodles, or cheese. After the meal, if you have any room, order some rice to stir fry with the remaining sauce and vegetables in the pan!
9. The Most Amazing Street Food – Hotteok
Say it: [ho-tuhk]
Read it: 호떡
What it is: Sweet/Syrupy Pancakes
Why it’s Delicious: A hot fried disc of dough oozing with cinnamon and sugar? You can’t go wrong. Eating hotteok on a cold winter day is sure to warm you up.
10. Fried Everything – Twigim
Say it: [twee-gim]
Read it: 튀김
What it is: Fried snacks (typically sweet potatoes, peppers, shrimp, octopus)
Why it’s Delicious: When made fresh and eaten hot, twigim are a fattening and tasty snack. It’s just deep fried food, which is delicious no matter where you are.
11. The Ultimate Summer Treat – Bingsu
Say it: [bing-soo]
Read it: 팥빙수
What it is: Your childhood snowcone on steroids. Bingsu is shaved ice mixed with sweetened red beans and chewy rice cakes, then topped with condensed milk.
Why it’s Delicious: This is the most refreshing treat in the summer. The condensed milk combines with the shaved ice to make a milky paste that tastes incredible with the sweetened beans. There are tons of variations as well that include fruit, chocolate and ice cream .
12. Eggs Baked INTO Bread
Say it: [Gey-rahn-bang]
Read it: 계란빵
What it is: Egg Bread
Why it’s Delicious: Essentially a piece of sweet bread with an egg baked into it. It may seem strange, but these small bites are strangely addictive.
13. Dumplings. Enough Said.
Say it: [mahn-doo]
Read it: 만두
What it is: Dumplings
Why it’s Delicious: It seems like most countries have their own form of dumplings, and Korea is no different. Dumplings here are commonly found stuffed with meat, kimchi or seafood.
14. A Special Kind of Sundae
Say it: [soon-day]
What it is: A popular street food. Pig intestine stuffed with glass noodles, vegetables and meat served with a side of lungs, liver and stomach.
Why it’s Delicious: For the unadventurous eater, this may seem like something you would never taste. I urge you to give it a try. It’s very similar to sausage, but the majority of the dish is glass noodles and not meat.
15. Side Dishes Galore
Say it: [bahn-chan]
Read it: 반찬
What it is: Side Dishes
Why it’s Delicious: When you go to a restaurant in Korea, your table will be filled with many dishes of varying foods. Veggies, eggs, meats, seaweed, kimchi – every restaurant is different. It’s quite possibly the best part of any Korean meal.
16. Bread Shaped Like Fish
Say it: Bungeoppang
Read it: 붕어빵
What it is: Bread, filled with sweet bean paste or cream, baked in the shape of a fish.
Why it’s Delicious: When eaten hot off the press, this fish bread is tasty and filling. It’s the perfect after dinner treat – crispy hot sweet bread with a delicious filling!
17. The Most Traditional Food – Bi Bim Bap
Say it: [bee-bim-bap]
What it is: White rice, a variety of vegetables, egg, and sometimes meat. Combined with gochujang (spicy red paste)
Why it’s Delicious: This is one of the most classic and well known Korean foods, but for a reason. The simple combination of rice, vegetables, meat, egg, and spicy sauce is so perfect. All of the elements combine together making every bite delicious. When served in a traditional pot (dolsot), it’s even better!
18. Hearty Winter Food
Say it: [kahm-jah-tahng]
Read it: 감자탕
What it is: Pork Bone Soup
Why it’s Delicious: A stew made with pork bones, potatoes and other veggies. The tender pork meat, combination of spices, and good balance of vegetables makes this a very popular and satisfying dish. Typically, a restaurant serves it to you ready to be cooked down. Then once you are done eating, fry up some rice in the pot!
19. Pork Cutlets Done Right
Say it: [dohn-kahss]
Read it: 돈까스
What it is: Pork Cutlet
Why it’s Delicious: Donkas, though traditionally Japanese, is a staple of Korean cuisine. A piece of pork is breaded and fried and served with brown pork sauce. It often comes with rice, kimchi, and a cabbage salad. This is not your mom’s pork chops, that’s for sure!
Have you every tried South Korean food? What is your favorite?
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