Top 10 Korean Foods Everyone Must Try

When traveling to a certain country or place, it’s a total must that you try every local food available in the area. Food plays such a big role in a country’s rich culture. Trying out even a single local food from a certain place can already tell you a lot about their their culture and traditions. It’s a very easy way to gain a lot of information that you would want to know about a certain country or place that you’re traveling to. Before you go on your travels, make sure to find out more about your destination’s wide variety of foods offered.

This certain thing to do is a must most especially for those with food allergies. Choosing Korea as your destination is a very easy choice. Korea offers a wide variety of local food for everyone to try. If you’re a fan of Korean drama, this is your chance to go out and try all of the most popular foods that are featured in K-dramas. Watching Korean dramas made us crave a lot of Korean cuisines.

Well, if you’re traveling to Korea, no is your chance to do so. Here are some of the must try Korean foods that are really very hard to resist. 

Kimchi (Fermented Vegetables Side Dish)

Throughout the years, Kimchi has been a symbolic food for the Korean people and is mostly found in every meal. Whenever you eat on Korean restaurants, your meal wouldn’t be complete if there is no Kimchi. It is a spicy Korean side dish made from salted and fermented vegetables, mainly cabbage and radishes. A special paste composed of chili powder, garlic, ginger, red pepper, sugar and the unique tang that comes from fish sauce made this dish very unique among all the other foods. Not only is it delicious, it’s also a very healthy dish.

Filled with good bacteria caused by the fermentation of the dish, it makes a person become emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy. This dish is available everywhere you go and it also comes in different available versions and variations to choose from. If you ever want to learn how to make an authentic Kimchi dish, fear not, you can enrol yourself to various Kimchi cooking classes offered all around Korea.

Bibimbap (Mixed Rice Bowl)

Want to go for a more safe option? Go for something that’s very popular and you probably should know it by now. Bibimbap, also known as bi bim bap, is a large rice bowl mixed with a lot of various ingredients such as thinly sliced vegetables and meat. The word “bibim” means mixing various ingredients and the word “bap” literally means rice.

This dish is usually served with different sauces on top of it like gochugang or sriracha. You can literally make your own variation of this dish based on your preferences. It is best served with a piping-hot stone bowl which does the trick of slowly cooking the vegetables and crisps the rice inside it and it will keep your food hot. You also can opt to have the more traditional version of Bibimbap with raw beef and egg yolk mixed with other vegetables.

Whatever Bibimbap variation you may choose, enjoy it with it a little drizzle of sesame oil, make sure to mix it all up and enjoy a fulfilling taste of this amazing Korean dish.

Samgyeopsal (Grilled Pork Belly)

Wherever you are right now, I’m posistive that you’ve already hear of Samgyeopsal or Samgyeopsal-gui. It’s a famous type of Korean BBQ that requires you to cook your selected choice of meat in an open grill. Samgyeopsal has been a very big hit among locals in different parts of the world just like the Philippines. In Korea, the meat usually offered for this is the pork belly. There’s also an option of ogyeopsal with “o” meaning five. Ogyeopsal includes the skin of the pork belly.

With this, you can follow your heart’s desire as you cook your selected kind of meat and choose your own preferred side dishes from the different variations offered. This meat is often paired with spinach, fresh lettuce, other leafy vegetables, kimchi, fresh scallion salad and a lot more different side dishes that are offered in restaurants. One way to eat it is to cook the meat, wrap it with lettuce or any leafy vegetable of your choice, add any side dish or sauce and then go ahead and take that big bite out of it that could surely make you literally forget about everything else.

Just enjoy the juicy flavors inside your mouth and that tender hot meat completely blending in with its side dishes. Samgyeopsal restaurants can be easily accessed since its popularity boomed to the market. Korea even celebrates March 3rd as “Samgyeopsal day” so make sure to go to Korea around this time to experience different offers and deals regarding Samgyeopsal. 

Bulgogi (Marinated Beef Barbeque)

This is a dish that doesn’t need any introductions. Whenever you stroll around Korea, you’ll always see this dish in every street. Bulgogi is a Korean local dish that is often cooked on top of a grilled stove or a barbeque. It is mostly made with paper-thin like slices of the most tender cuts of beef such as sirloin, rib eye, and brisket. The beef cuts are marinated with a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, ground black pepper, and other flavorful ingredients.

This dish originated in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula during the Goguryeo dynasty of Korea dating back from 37 BCE to 668 CE. It comes from the words “bul” which means “fire” and “gogi” which means “meat”. Since beef has been considered as a very expensive kind of meat back then, only the wealthy noble class are privileged to enjoy this kind of meat. There are a lot of ways to include bulgogi in your meal. It is usually served mostly with rice and other side dishes like kimchi and egg soup. It can also be served in a hot pot with steaming soup.

Nowadays, it’s a very popular dish in South Korea and you can find this in almost every restaurant and supermarkets even sell pan-ready bulgogi kits. You don’t even have to add this to your list of must try foods since you’d be seeing it everywhere you go. 

Jajangmyeon (Black Bean Sauce Noodles)

If you’re a person who loves noodles, then this dish is the right one for you. Jajangmyeon or jjajangmyeon is a Chinese-Korean dish that originated in Incheon Chinatown by a Chinese restaurant. That place is now the Jajangmyeon Museum. It is a popular noodle dish that’s usually made of noodles that are topped with chunjang (a salty black soybean paste), diced pork (or any choice of meat) and vegetables.

The noodles are usually made of wheat flour, salt, baking soda, and water mixed together and is usually hand pulled or machine pulled to make fine pieces of noodles. The sauce on top of the noodles is usually made with fried black soybean paste, soy sauce or oyster sauce, meat that is pork or beef, seafood such as shrimp, scallions, ginger, garlic, vegetables, and starch slurry. This dish is usually served and topped with different garnish such as julienned cucumbers, scallions, and boiled or fried eggs.

You can also choose to have side dishes served with jajangmyeon like raw onions and chunjang sauce. You can find this dish in the menus of almost all restaurants. Go ahead and indulge yourself with the many flavors that this dish has in your stay in Korea.

Japchae (Stir – Fried Noodles)

Another noodle dish that you must try during your stay in Korea is the famous Japchae. It is a very popular dish in the Korean cuisine that is a sweet and savory mixture of stir-fried glass noodles and vegetables. Japchae means “mixture of vegetables” which is originally a noodle-less dish as it was first invented in the 17th century. This dish was served before with stir-fried vegetables and mushroom.

Japchae before was the favourite dish of one of the Kings from Joeson dynasty, King Gwanghaegun. It was a very prominent food served in the Royal banquet and is always included in the Korean cuisine back then. Without the noodles, this dish was considered as a luxurious and elegant type of food that only people in royalty and high-ranking government officials can eat this. Nowadays, this dish is famous for the addition of glass noodles and is also known as a common modern banquet food. Japchae are usually made with the type of noodle called dangmyeon.

This cellophane type noodle is considered healthy as it is naturally fat free and low in calories because it is made from sweet potato starch. Make sure to have and enjoy this noodle dish during your stay in Korea. You won’t have a problem locating a restaurant that serves this food because there is one in every street. 

Sundubu-jjigae (Soft Tofu Stew)

Are you’re looking for something warm to eat that will make you feel all cosy inside? If you went to Korea during winter and would want to feel warm then this Korean stew is the one that you need to find. This stew is called Sundubu-jjigae or soft tofu stew in English. This stew is usually made out of freshly curdled tofu vegetables, and gochujang or chili paste. It is sometimes added with mushrooms and onion. You could also have the option to add seafood, such as oysters or shrimp, or meat (can be pork or beef) in it.

It’s also a very nice touch to add extra soft tofu on the stew. The tofu will melt in your mouth and give that warmth and comfort as it goes down your throat. This dish is cooked in the same pot where it is served. You can have the option to let them add a raw egg to your stew before they serve it to you while the stew is still a bit bubbly. Once the dish arrives, make sure to blow it before putting it in your mouth because they serve it while it’s still very hot then let yourself indulge in the flavorful stew. If you live in Los Angeles and you are interested in trying this dish, don’t worry. In the early 1990’s, Korean immigrants brought this dish to Los Angeles. There’s a sundubu restaurant in Vermont Avenue, Koreatown which was opened by a first generation Korean immigrant named Hee Sook Lee.

History of this dish shows that a traditional form of Sundubu-jjigae was served way back during the Joseon dynasty. Make sure to add this to your list of foods that you must try to eat in Korea. 

Seollongtang (Ox Bone Soup)

If you are the type of person that loves soup, then you need to try the Seollongtang. It is a Korean kind of broth soup that is usually made out of ox bones, brisket and other cuts of ox meat. It is also known as “snowy thick soup.” It will be served to you as its original broth form and seasonings will only vary due to your preferences. You may have the choice to add salt, black pepper, red pepper, minced garlic, or even chopped spring onions. Some say that patience produces good results.

This soup requires several hours over low heat to meet the required tenderness of the variety of beef bones and marrows. History shows that this dish originated during the Joseon dynasty, when King Seonjong ordered his people to find a dish that can be served to many people while using only a few ingredients. This is the birth of seonnongtang. Many alterations since then had turned the seonnongtang to the modern seollongtang.

Don’t forget to have one of these dishes anytime during your stay in Korea. 

Haemul Pajeon (Seafood Scallion Pancake)

Are you a big fan of pancakes? Did you ever imagine how it would taste like to add savoury to the sweet batter of pancakes? If your answers are yes, then you must try this Korean Pancake. Haemul Pajeon isn’t your typical pancake as it is made with scallions and seafood. It is one of Korea’s favourite snackas and appetizers. The word pajeon came from the words pa which means ‘scallion’ and jeon which means ‘pan-fried battered food”.

The pajeon’s batter is made from a mixture of wheat flour, rice flour, eggs, and of course, the scallion. For a hameul pajeon, seafood is mostly added to the batter like squids and shrimps or can be used as toppings for the pajeon like oysters and clams. It is usually made by placing the scallions on a pan then pouring the batter all over it. Once, the bottom holds together and turns golden brown, the pajeon is flipped to the other side just like a regular pancake. Once the other side is also golden brown, it is removed from the pan to its plating.

Soy sauce is usually placed alongside it as a dip before being served. If you’re a fan of a mix of sweet and savoury, don’t forget to try one of these popular appetizers or snacks. 

Patbingsu (Korean Shaved Ice Dessert)

Of course, this list won’t really be finished without the most important part of a meal, the dessert! Here’s one of the most popular summer dessert in Korea, the Patbingsu or patbingsoo. This shaved ice dessert is usually topped up with chopped fruits, fruit syrup, condensed milk, and red beans. The word patbingsu came from the two words pat which means “red beans” and bingsu which means “shaved ice.”

Bingsu have a lot of different variations but the patbingsu is the most popular one. Some variations of bingsu use green tea, coffee aor yogurt as their toppings.  The earliest forms of patbingsu are known to be from the Joseon dynasty of Korea. It is said to be made up of shaved ice topped with red bean paste, tteok or Korean cakes, and ground nut powder. Records show government officials sharing a dessert like patbingsu. A teahouse in Kagoshima, Japan also adapted patbingsu into their dessert and made the “Shirokuma.”

The name was said to come from the shape of condensed milk as it is poured over a bowl of shaved ice topped with different fruits such as sweet red bean. If you suddenly crave for this dessert in Korea, do not fear, patbingsu can be found in every restaurant, café or store and you won’t miss a street without them. It’s also available in different Koreatown cafes all around the world. There are a whole lot more variety of foods that you can have during your stay in Korea. Don’t let this list keep you from trying out all your options.

This list will guide you to what kind of foods should be on top of your list. I assure you that having one of these dishes are going to make your Korean stay worthwhile and you’ll keep coming back for it.

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