How can one not think of food when Korea is mentioned? Let’s take a look at a list of representative K-food, and see if your favourite food made the list!
Hanjeongsik is a full-course Korean meal with an array of savory side dishes. The most lavish of hanjeongsik traditional originated with the banquets served in the royal palaces or the homes of aristocrats. The types or dishes served in hanjeongsik vary significantly according to the season or region.
This is a signature Korean dish of rice mixed with vegetables, meat and gochujang (chilli pepper paste). Bibimbap is usually served with raw or fried egg. Jeonju is famous for its version of bibimbap, which is prepared with soybean sprouts. Other famous variation of this dish is 돌솥 비빔밥 Dolsot Bibimbap, where it is served in a sizzling stone pot.
Tteokbokki is usually served as a snack. The basic ingredients consists of rice cake, fish cake and gochujang (chili pepper paste). Other ingredients added to tteokbokki include boiled eggs, fried dumplings, vegetables and cheese. A famous version of tteokbokki with instant noodles (ramyeon) is called 라볶이 rabokki. In Seoul, there is a street dedicated in selling tteokbokki, also known as 신당동떡볶이골목 Sindangdong Tteokbokki Town.
Kimbap is a popular snack for those looking for a quick and easy meal. It is often eaten during picnics and outings, served with danmuji (pickled radish) or kimchi. The literal translation of this dish is seaweed rice. This dish is made of steamed white rice and could include various vegetables or meat, rolled with dried laver seaweed and served in bite-sized pieces. It is a well-loved snack by all, and could be easily found on the streets or in convenience stores. Popular variations of kimbap include 삼각김밥 samgak kimbap, 충무김밥 chungmu kimbap and 참치김밥 chamchi kimbap.
The literal translation of this dish is cold noodles, and true to its name, this dish is served in ice broth with buckwheat or starch noodles, egg and cucumbers. Naengmyeon is usually served in a large stainless-steel bowl and a mixture of sauce are usually added before consumption. Other variations of naengmyeon are 물 냉면 mul naengmyeon and 비빔 냉면 bibim naengmyeon.
Fun fact : Park Myung-soo and Jessica (Girls’ Generation) had a song named after this dish, which was wildly popular in South Korea.
Ramyeon is probably the most well-loved snack by all around the globe. Anyone can follow the instructions on the back of the ramyeon packet and whip up a good meal in no time. Popular additions while making your ramyeon include eggs, cheese, onions, tofu, sausage and… basically anything else you wish to eat.
The name japchae means a mixture of vegetables, and it’s primary ingredient is glass noodles, sesame oil, and other assorted vegetables such as carrots, onions, spinach and mushrooms. Japchae is usually served as a side dish, though it could be a main dish as well.
In Korean, Kalguksu means knife noodles. This dish got its name from the way its noodles are made, unlike conventional noodles which are spun or extruded, they are cut with a knife. Kalguksu is usually made with anchovy or chicken broth, and various other ingredients like zucchini, potatoes and spring onions are added to it.
보쌈 Bossam (steamed pork with vegetables)
Bossam is Korean steamed pork. It is usually prepared by boiling pork belly in doenjang (fermented bean paste), spring onions, and garlic, and is served with vegetables or kimchi. When eating, the thinly sliced meat is often wrapped in vegetables like lettuce or cabbage. Bossam is a popular combination to go with alcohol, and it often consumed as a late night snack.
족발 Jokbal (Pork Hock)
Another popular late night snack to go with alcohol would be 족발 Jokbal. Jokbal is pigs’ feet cooked with soy sauce and spices, making for a nutritious and chewy dish. Just like Bossam, it is sliced and often wrapped in vegetables like lettuce or cabbage before it is eaten. One of the most famous streets in Seoul for jokbal is 장충동 족발 골목 Jangchungdong Jokbal Street.
Bulgogi’s literal translation means fire meat. Bulgogi generally refers to grilled marinated beef, and is cooked using traditional grilling methods. Other variations of bulgogi also includes dalk bulgogi (grilled chicken) or dwaeji bulgogi (grilled pork). It is served with a side of vegetables to wrap the meat with, and is often dabbed with 쌈장 ssamjang (thick, spicy paste) and eaten together with other side dishes.
Samgyeopsal refers to grilled pork belly slices, and is normally served in barbecue restaurants. Unlike bulgogi, samgyeopsal is neither marinated nor seasoned. It is also served with a side of vegetables to wrap the meat with, and is often dabbed with 쌈장 ssamjang (thick, spicy paste) and 기름장 gireumjang before consumption.
흑돼지 Heuk Dwaeji
Heuk Dwaeji is a specialty dish found only in Jeju Island. Heuk Dwaeji’s literal meaning is Black Pig, and could refer to black pork. Jeju’s Black Pork is said to have a unique and distinct taste compared to other regular pork, and is a well-known dish in Jeju Island. There is a street in Jeju which specializes in selling Black Pork, and it is called Black Pork Street.
된장찌개 Doenjang Jjigae
Doenjang Jjigae is a stew made from fermented soybean paste and contains tofu with other ingredients such as seafood, mushroom and vegetables. It has a deep and rich flavour due to the fermentation and aging of soybean over a period of time. It is one of the most popular stew dishes in Korea, together with Kimchi Jjigae. Doenjang Jjigae is superbly easy to prepare, and it tastes good too!
김치찌개 Kimchi Jjigae
This is one of the most common stew in Korea. Kimchi jjigae is usually made with kimchi and several other ingredients such as tofu, onions, scallions and doenjang (fermented soybean paste) or gochujang (chili pepper paste). Popular variations of this dish includes 참치 김치찌개 Chamchi kimchi jjigae, which is made with canned tuna, and 부대찌개 Budae jjigae, made with instant noodles, tuna and ham.
Samgyetang is a traditional meal where a whole young chicken is stuffed with glutinous rice, and boiled with Korean ginseng along with other medicinal herbs down to a thick, glutinous soup. This dish is usually served during summer, as Koreans believe that the nutrients from the soup can regain the loss of stamina and sweat during the hot summers of Korea.
Galbitang is a soup made from beef short ribs, Korean radish and glass noodles. Like Samgyetang, Koreans believe that Galbitang is highly nutritious. Making the soup would require some effort and time, but the end result is a very satisfying clean and clear broth which could be enjoyed anytime.
Juk means porridge in Korean. It is a staple “get-well” dish, as it is believed that porridge helps digestion because of its soft texture. It is primarily made by grains such as rice or beans, although it could also be made according to one’s liking. There are lots of varieties of Juk, and some of the more famous ones in Korea are 전복죽 Jeonbokjuk (Abalone porridge), 팥죽 Patjuk (Red Adzuki beans porridge) and 호박죽 (Pumpkin porridge).
Mandu are dumplings. It is a popular dish in Korea, and it is made by wrapping minced meat and vegetables such as spring onions, garlic and ginger in a thin piece of dough. There are a wide array of popular mandu dishes such as fried mandu, boiled mandu, steamed mandu, and mandu soup. Mandu tastes good with anything, and could be added in many dishes, such as tteokbokki or ramyeon.
안동찜닭 Andong Jjimdak
The name Andong Jjimdak means steamed chicken of Andong. This dish originated from Andong (where else?), and is made with garlic, onions, ginger, potatoes, vegetables and glass noodles. Andong jjimdak is also considered a nutritious dish due to the high protein content from the chicken, and various vitamins provided by the vegetables in the dish
닭갈비 Dak Galbi
Dak galbi is another popular chicken dish where the chicken is marinated and stir-fried with gochujang (chili pepper paste), sliced cabbage, sweet potato, spring onions, onions, and tteok (rice cake) together on a hot plate. Additional rice or ramyeon could be added to this stir-fried dish, and add some shredded seaweed to top it off.
낙지볶음 Nakji Bokkeum
Nakji Bokkeum is a stir-fried octopus dish. The octopus are chopped and marinated with gochujang (chili pepper paste), soy sauce, garlic, salt and sugar, then stir fried with various vegetables. This is a spicy dish and people usually mix noodles or rice together with it.
Jjajangmyeon is a Korean Chinese fusion dish, and is mainly served in Korean Chinese restaurants. The sauce is made from black Korean chunjang including caramel, and onions. The noodles come with meat and vegetables. Jjajangmyeon is a representative Korean Chinese dish together with Jjamppong. It is usually served and eaten with danmuji (pickled radish).
This is another representative Korean Chinese dish apart from Jjajangmyeon and is well received by all Koreans. Jjamppong is a spicy seafood noodle which includes squid, shrimp, mussels and various vegetables.
Tangsuyuk is a Chinese sweet and sour pork dish adapted for Korean palates. It is a popular Chinese delicacy in Korea, and almost everyone loves it. Tangsuyuk has a slightly tangy taste and could be made with pork or beef. This dish is a popular combination together with Jjajangmyeon.
Chimaek is short for Fried Chicken + Cold Maekju (Beer), and is a word usually used among the younger generations. Korean fried chicken tastes good on its own, but it tastes even better when paired with cold beer. It is a heavenly pairing as late night alcohol snack. Chimaek is easily available anywhere at any time of the year. Chimaek is so good, even Jeon Ji Hyun craves for it in My Love From Another Star.
Not to be confused with the usual fried chicken, Dakgangjeong is made by deep frying bite sized pieces of chicken till they turn crispy, and glazing them in a sticky, sweet, tangy and spicy sauce. It is one of the popular street food found in Korea, but take heed when consuming, as it can be highly addictive 🙂
Jeon is a common snack, and it refers to many pancake-like dishes in Korean cuisine. Jeon is made with various ingredients such as sliced meats, poultry, seafood, and vegetables depending on the style and mixed with flour batter or coated with egg batter and then pan-fried with oil. 파전 Pajeon, green onions pancake, and 김치전 Kimchijeon, kimchi pancake, are among the most popular jeon around the globe.