Korea has so many delicious surprises for visitors that it would be nearly impossible to try them all. That hasn’t stopped us from trying though! Allow us to introduce to you some of our favorites and help you to decide what to eat when you’re next in Korea.
#1 Tteokbokki, Odeng and Sundae
We’ll start off with some local favorites, tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), odeng (fish cakes) and sundae (blood sausage). The great thing about these are, they taste great, are generally pretty cheap and you can find them almost everywhere including street stalls. While waiting for your spicy fried rice cakes, do as the locals do and help yourself to a skewered fish cake. No need to ask, just keep your skewers and the vendor will collect payment before you leave. Your rice cakes should be ready now and you may choose to add Gochujang (a bitter sauce) like some of the locals do.
On to the blood sausage next, and a word of warning with this is one, it certainly splits opinion amongst tourists who have a love/hate relationship with it. For Koreans however, the sundae is a staple food, prepared in a number of different ways from fried, deep fried, steamed and many more. It is also often added to soups and rich dishes.
Kimbap are seaweed wrapped rice rolls, kim (seaweed) and bap (rice). Kimbap fillings are usually made from different kinds of vegetables like cucumber, carrot, radish with egg and a choice of meat. The ingredients are mixed with sesame oil, salt and garlic. Kimbaps taste really good and are certainly quite different to other countries’ rice rolls, definitely worth a try!
One of Korea’s most famous dishes is jjamppong (seafood noodles). If you like spicy food then you’ve got to give this a try. Each bowl of noodles comes with a nice big variety of different seafood, all served in a hot and spicy soup. Some restaurants will even throw in pickles and bean paste.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll remember that bap means rice, well, bibimbap means “mixed rice”. Bibimbap varies from place to place, but generally is a mix of vegetables, seaweed and bean sprouts on rice, topped with a egg, sesame oil, sesame vinegar and seasoning. The ingredients are all mixed together to become bibimbap. Make sure you also try the bibimbap served and mixed in a hot stone pot too, which gives the rice a slightly chewy, crispy texture, lovely!
Another famous Korean noodle dish is jajjangmyeon (black bean sauce noodles). The noodles are covered in a thick dark sauce made from chunjang (a salty black bean paste) and accompanied by vegetables and usually pork. Jajangmyeon is much loved by Koreans and is often served on special occasions. It’s also the dish used on Black Day, a kind of Anti-Valentines Day, to commiserate singles!
#6 Dak Galbi
Ideal for a group to share, dak galbi is a spicy chicken stir fry with rice cakes, sweet potato, onion, cabbage and other vegetables, some places will also add cheese! When you’re done with the chicken the chef will take the remainder of the plate, with leftover sauce and vegetables and turn it into fried rice. Making absolutely sure, you and your friends leave completely full and satisfied.
An absolute favorite amongst Koreans, samgyeopsal is grilled pork belly, and the average Korean reportedly consumes around 21 kgs of pork belly per year! The samgyeopsal is grilled alongside garlic and onion. Once cooked the crisp and tender pork belly is often wrapped in fresh lettuce or sesame leaves and topped with kimchi, garlic and pickles and dipped in a spicy sauce for a bit of kick!
The Chimaek is a combination of the words for chicken “chi” and beer “Maekju”. There are a number of chimaek styles and variations, but it is basically a Korean style fried chicken, served nice, brown and crispy, and as the name suggests it goes perfectly with a refreshing cold beer!
A steaming hot bowl of ginseng soup with served with a small whole chicken stuffed with rice, or “samgyetang”, will certainly warm you up on a cold wintery trip to Korea. Interestingly though, samgyetang is traditionally a summer dish reserved for the very hottest days, as the locals attempt to fight fire with fire and keep their energy up and balance their body temperatures with the outside heat!
Time now for our favorite summer dish, naengmyeon (cold noodles) are so enjoyable on a hot summer’s day. Naengmyeon are prepared by rinsing cooked noodles in icy cold water, and mixing with oil, vinegar, soya sauce and vegetables. There are spicy and non-spicy versions, dry options and ones served in a cool broth. The ultimate summer refresher!
Some ideas for foodies:
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