Korean Food: 30 Dishes You Need to Try

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With gochujang popping up on every other Pinterest recipe and hot food trends list it seems to be the year of Korean food.

I’d love to go to South Korea to learn that Korean food is more than kimchi and all you can eat barbecue and I was thrilled to receive this guest post about what to eat in South Korea.

30 Korean Food Dishes to Try

Spicy, savory, and delicious, from the traditional to Western-influenced cuisine, South Korea has a wide variety of cuisine for the adventurous traveler.

It can be a fantastic place for foodies even you are backpacking as you can travel Seoul on a budget.

The following are 30 delectable South Korean taste combinations to whet your appetite.

Bibimbap

Translated literally as “mixed rice” and originally called goldongban, this dish was traditionally eaten on the eve of the lunar new year.

A colourful blend of vegetables, sesame oil, gochujang, sesame seeds, soy sauce, fried egg are mixed together with rice and make a perfect comfort food.

 

Gimbap

This seaweed rice roll is filled with a colourful array of fresh ingredients, such as vegetables, beef, crab meat, and/or tuna. Yet it can change depending on your taste.

They are evenly sliced up, just like sushi, and make for a small, yet filling meal.

Bulgogi

The thought of Korean barbecue immediately excites the appetite.

Thinly sliced beef is marinated with garlic, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and pepper, then barbecued for a tender, mouth-watering dish. 

 

Kalbi

Generally prepared at a customer’s table, these short ribs are first marinated in soy sauce seasoned with garlic and sugar, then thinly sliced and cooked over an open flame.

This fast cooking method sears the flavors of the marinade into the meat, while making the meat moist and melt-in-your-mouth tender.

MAKE IT AT HOME: Gochujang ribs

Nakji Bokkeum – Stir Fried Octopus

Chop up a dead octopus – the live ones you can use for another main dish, then stir fry with onions, carrots, scallions, and a gochujang (red pepper paste) marinade seasoned with garlic, soy sauce, and salt.

The results are a wonderful blend of spice that makes this one of the best comfort Korean food.

 
The Ultimate Guide to Korean food: 30 dishes you need to try in South Korea or at your favourite Korean restaurant. There's so much more than just kimchi.

Japchae

An interestingly flavourful alternative to stir fry, Julienned vegetables are lightly cooked and flavored with sugar and soy sauce and, then served on with starched sweet potato noodles.

Kimchi Jigae

When you think of South Korea, kimchi is one of the first things that comes to mind, simply because it is staple in so many different dishes.

Fermented and seasoned cabbage is pickled in the same way that sauerkraut is.

Variations of fish and shrimp are generally added and seasoned to taste. Add in rice and you have a comforting soup blend.

LEARN: How to Make Kimchi

 

Tteokbokki

This classic street food goes back to the royal court of the Joseon Dynasty (1460).

Made from a soft rice cake (pasta) and fish cakes, topped with a sweet, yet spicy gochujang.

Hoeddeok

Continuing with the pancake theme, this Korean relative of the Western pancake is a blend of pancake meets wonderfully filled sweet bread.

One edge this has over its western cousin is ultra-sweet flavour combination of honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, and small pieces of peanut cooked on a griddle.

Mandu

Rumored to have been brought to Korea by the Mongolians back in the 14th century, these dumplings are filled with a delectable combination of finely minced meat, ginger, green onions, garlic, and tofu.

They are often served with a side of kimchi, and a soy sauce, vinegar, and chili blend. 

 
Korean food: Soondubu jjigae, also known as tofu kimchi soup, is just one of 30 traditional Korean foods you should try in South Korea.

Soondubu Jjigae

High quality tofu is gently added to an intensely hot broth composed of gochujang and garlic paste.

This is then simmered with a variety of combinations consisting of meat and/or seafood and vegetables.

Naengmyeon

This Korean food cold noodle dish starts with handmade noodles made from buckwheat.

However, there can be varieties of flours and starches used. These are either served by mixing them with a healthy portion of gochujang (Bibim Naengmyeon) or added to an icy broth with light vegetables and meat or seafood (Mool Naengmyeon). 

Jjigae

Similar to a standard Western stew, this is generally made with vegetables, meat or seafood, and seasoned with saeujeot (salted and fermented shrimp), gochujang, doenjang (soybean paste), and soy sauce.

Haejang-guk

Known as “hangover stew” for its obvious properties as a morning after concoction. 

It is made of dried Napa cabbage, vegetables, and meat in a hearty beef broth that is slow simmered for an appetizing stew.

Chimaek

Fried chicken has become a South Korean food staple in recent years. Especially fried chicken that has been spiced to South Korea’s hot chili paste standards.

Add that to a mug of beer and this combination is known as Chimaek.

 
Korean Food: Soondae is a traditional blood sausage and one of 30 things to eat in South Korea,

Soondae

Eaten since the 19th century, this blood sausage variation is a popular street food.

Boiled or steamed pig or cow intestines are stuffed with a flavourful combination of spices, rice, and noodles.

And it is especially delicious when combined to make a soup.

Patbingsu

This unique and sweet dessert is the perfect treat on a hot summer day.

Made of condensed milk, red beans, shaved ice and topped with fresh tropical fruits, you will be surprised at the refreshing combination energizes on exhausting summer afternoons.

Sangyeopsal – Pork Strips

This traditionally common grilled pork belly meat is prepared sans marinade or rub.

Simply seasoned with salt and pepper it’s then mixed in sesame seed oil. Finally the pork strips are wrapped in lettuce with slices of garlic, grilled slices of onion, kimchi and green onions. 

 

Hobakjuk – Pumpkin Porridge

This popular traditional breakfast and comfort food is made from steamed pumpkin, glutened rice (prepared by soaking in water)and rice dumplings, which add just the right amount of texture.

Seolleongtang

Another comfort food with a little bit of a tangy kick. Seolleongtang starts with seasoned-to-taste brisket, oxtails, and a blend of salt, ground black pepper, red pepper, chopped spring onions, and minced garlic.

The mixture is then slow-simmered for 8-10 hours to create a creamy, savoury soup.

 
Korean Food: Samgyetang, also known as Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup, is one of 30 things you must eat in Korea. Discover the other must eats.

Samgyetang – Ginseng Chicken Soup

This soup is made with chicken, garlic, scallions, Korean ginseng, jujube (Korean red dates), and spices.

Yet this meaty and creamy soup has a savoury taste and incredible aftertaste. 

Sannakji – Live Octopus

These small, raw still moving octopi are cut up smaller and served while the tentacles are still squirming around on the plate.

However, the taste is very chewy and you will want to make sure the suction cups on the tentacles do not get stuck.

Not only would that be awkward, but highly uncomfortable. 

Planning a trip to Korea? Here are tips on where to stay in Seoul.

 

Jokbal

Seasoned pig’s feet (trotters) are seasoned with ginger, soy sauce, and black taffy.

It simmers to steaming perfection for a tender and mouth-watering taste treat.

Gejang

Documentation of this crab condiment has been found as far back as the 17th century.

It is prepared by marinating raw crab in a soy sauce with a chili pepper powdered base.

It’s fermented for at least six hours.

After fermentation, it is quickly boiled with a combination of sesame oil, sugar, finely sliced scallions, ginger, fresh red chili pepper, and garlic. 

Andong jjimdak – Steamed Chicken 

Chicken is steamed at a high heat in a soy sauce base with sweet potatoes, sugar, vegetables,

Cheongyang gochu, and noodles to create a sweet a delicious sweet and spicy combination. 

 
Korean Food: Gamjatang uses a pig’s backbone as its main flavoring ingredient, and is one of 30 dishes you must try in Korea, discover the others.

Gamjatang

Korean food is well known for using all parts of the animal in its cuisine. Gamjatang uses a pig’s backbone as its main flavouring ingredient.

It is made with rice and a salty broth of potatoes, sesame seeds, onions, and other veggies. The soup is a warm and filling meal for a cold day.

Jeon

This pancake-like side dish is more savory than sweet. Originally a Korean royal court cuisine, it is made with sliced meats, poultry, seafood, and vegetables.

It is mixed with flour batter or coated with egg batter and pan-fried in oil. 
 

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Bindaetteok

These salty flavored pancakes are made from a combination of mung beans, kimchi, and green onions. They are served with vinaigrette dipping sauce.

 

Daeji Bulgogi

This popular staple of Korean barbecue will have your mouth watering as it’s being prepared.

And pork belly is thinly sliced, then marinated in a red chili pepper paste and spiced with garlic and ginger.

After being barbecued, it is gently wrapped in a lettuce leaf and served with rice. 

Nurungji

Traditionally known as a soup to ease the stomach when sick, rice is cooked until it becomes scorched, crisp, and sticks to the bottom of the pot.

In its crispy rice state, this makes a crunchy and tasty snack.

 
Have you had the pleasure of sampling any of these South Korean dishes? What is your favourite traditional Korean food?

 
(Images) (c) Travel Oriented, Nathan GrayMarieYuichi Sakuraba
The Ultimate Guide to Korean food: 30 dishes you need to try in South Korea or at your favourite Korean restaurant. There's so much more than just kimchi.

Join the Conversation

  1. Feeling a little low for not having tasted any of these. 🙁
    Fantastic pictures!

  2. Marcelo dos Anjos says:

    That beautiful temptation, my favorite is the Chimaek , congratulations!

  3. Yummie! Haven’t tried any of those yet as I haven’t been to Korea but when I go I’ll definitely make sure to try as much as I can.

  4. Looks so yum! Have never tried Korean food before…..gonna try it now for sure. Cheers!

  5. These dishes seem so terrific and amazing. Keep up the amazing work. I think Kalbi would be a great pick for me. Thanks for uploading such a great post.

  6. Eating Adventures says:

    I love korean food. Kimchi seems to go perfectly with everything. My favourite was sashimi in busan.

  7. Mandu is definitely a favorite. Bulgogi, galbi, kimchi hot pot, and tteokbokki are sooo good. Oh and street food “corn dogs”. Yum.

    If you have the opportunity to go, do so during Cherry Blossom season. (And be sure to get a cherry blossom latte from Starbucks!!)

    Best vacation ever. Can’t wait to go back.

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