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Authored by Drew Goldberg

The food in Korea is often overlooked by other Asian cuisines such as Japanese, Indian or Thai.  With that being said, I am here to tell you that Korean food is nothing short of amazing!

I’ve been living and teaching English in Korea since August 2013, and I eat Korean food everyday.  There’s not doubt that it’s my favorite cuisine in the world!

Korean Food

Drew Goldberg: Favorite cuisine in the world. No doubt!

Okay, so you might be wondering what exactly is Korea food?  Here is a brief history and overview:

Korean food originated from ancient agricultural and nomadic traditions in Southern Manchuria (a region in North Eastern China) and the Korean Peninsula.  Over the centuries, the food has evolved through cultural and climate change, but the basis has remained the same.

Most restaurants in Korea offer cook-it-yourself BBQ style- where you sizzle the meat on a grill in the middle of the table.  Almost every meal is served with a plentiful amount of side dishes that are a perfect compliment to the main dish.   If you like spicy foods, then you are in for a treat; Koreans use spicy red chili peppers in almost everything.  Also, kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), is served with literally every single meal.

The following are the 5 best Korean foods that will send your taste buds to heaven:

Kimchi:

Before talking about any of the main dishes, it’s important to learn about Kimchi first- because it’s eaten with every meal. Kimchi is a fermented side dish that is made from vegetables mixed with spicy seasoning.

There are hundreds of varieties that can be made, depending on the region that you are in. The main ingredients of kimchi are cabbage, radish, scallions and cucumbers.  Traditional kimchi takes a few months to prepare as it ferments in underground jars.  The taste definitely grows on you as you eat it more often.

Kimchi, Korean food.

Kimchi. 

Bibimbap:

This is probably the most classic Korean dish that you can get.  The word literally translates to “mixed rice” and that’s exactly what it is.

Bibimbap is served as a warm bowl of white rice that is toped with sautéed vegetables, a raw or fried egg, and chili pepper paste (gochujang).  Sometimes, meat (usually beef) is added inside the dish.   Once the plate is served to you, you stir the dish together thoroughly before you attack it with your mouth.  This dish is very cheap (about $3-5 USD) in most restaurants.

Bibimbap, Korean Food

Bibimbap. “Mixed Rice”. 

Beef BBQ:

Known as “so-galbi” in Korean, this is the most common type of BBQ that exists in Korea.   It is made up of slices of beef that is marinated in ganjang sauce or Korean soy sauce.

Beef galbi is the meal that is traditionally served with all the side dishes (called banchan in Korean).  While the beef is being grilled, someone will come to your table with scissors and cut the meal.  Yes, they use scissors instead of knifes in Korea.  It makes life so much easier.

Beef BBQ, Korea.

Beef BBQ, Korea.

Gimbap:

Not to be confused with sushi, gimbap is steamed rice and other ingredients rolled up in dried pieces of seaweed.   It looks like sushi from the outside, but it tastes much different because there is no fresh fish.   Instead, the ingredients consist of cucumbers, spinach, carrots, pickled radish, ham, etc.

There are many different variations of gimbap (just like sushi) but it generally always tastes the same.  The best part about gimbap is how cheap it is! You can get an entire roll (shown in picture) for less than $2.  It’s amazing.

gimbap, Korean food.

Korean food is to die for!!

Kimchi Jiggae:

This is a steamy stew that is made with kimchi and other ingredients such as tofu, seafood (or pork), and onions.  It is one of the most common stews in Korea and it is served almost anywhere.

Kimchi Jiggae is always spicy (sometimes really really spicy) and always served with rice as a side dish.  It’s perfect to eat on a cold wintery day!

Is your mouth watering yet?

Drew is a recent college graduate who has visited 43 countries since the beginning of 2012. His favorite things about traveling are eating the local foods, meeting awesome people and experiencing the nightlife scene. Drew is currently teaching English in South Korea and he blogs about food, culture and nightlife at the Hungry Partier.

Follow Drew on Facebook and Twitter.

    7 Comments

  1. So hard to limit this to only 5 Korean foods to try. Duck bulgogi (오리불고기) is one of my favorites. Baby back rib stew (돼지 등갈비찜), ginseng chicken soup (삼계탕), cold noodles (냉면) in summer… I could go on and on! Korean food is amazing!

    • Sounds like I definitely have to get to Korea myself for some of this!! Not going to lie, my mouth was watering a little as I was putting Drew’s post in to publish!!

    • Yes, it is so hard to limit this to 5 Korean Foods, but these are my 5 favorite! All of the ones that you mentioned are delicious as well, and I eat them on the regular!

  2. According to the Koreans that I have worked with, serving banchan is sort of compulsory in Korean restaurants. So if you are feeling cheap or are low on cash on any particular day, you can actually just order a bowl of rice and you will get a full meal. Of course for the locals, they will feel obligated to return some day to spend properly, but for a cheapo tourist, who cares :D

    • Wow, I’ve never heard of this. I’ll have to ask some of my friends here in Korea. Korean food can be incredibly cheap. You can eat for about $4 and still get banchan. I can’t imagine being that desperate for a cheap meal when cheap food is readily available.

    • It’s going to be a real shock heading back to Australia where everything is so expensive!! $4 for a meal??! I’m there!

    • Yes, this is true.. But it is very rude to walk into a Korean restaurant and only order a bowl of rice.. In fact, many restaurants will turn you down if you try to do so.. But you can order a cheap dish on the menu, and the side dishes keep coming through with no end in sight!

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