Korea is very food orientated, and you will find friends, couples, families and companies love to spend time together over a good meal. In Korea there is no shortage of variety, and you can find just about every type of food without ever searching too long or hard.
Typical Korean food is well known for often being cooked using some kind of spicy chili paste (gochujang), kimchi, fermented bean paste (Doenjang) or all of them together. Korean meals are often served with a multitude of side dishes, called banchan, which include things like lettuce, tofu, soups, savory pancakes (jeon) and different fermented or pickled vegetables.
After spending a good amount of time in South Korea, I have realized that there are a variety of Korea dishes that are eaten at special times or are quite appropriate for different events or even moods! To elaborate more on Korean food I will group them into different feelings.
Feeling social? Eat Korean barbecue
Korean barbecue, either beef or pork meat, is the perfect social meal to enjoy with a group of friends or co-workers that are looking to expand their relationships beyond the office. Korean barbecue is a social meal because it’s a slow meal as you grill your meat a few pieces at a time. In Korea is it also quite popular to drink beer or soju whilst waiting for your meat to cook, making it the perfect social gathering meal!
Feeling sick? Eat Juk
When I feel sick in Korea, I often lose my appetite for anything with bold textures or flavors. Juk is a simple Korean dish, prepared by slow boiling rice and other vegetables until it resembles a soft porridge consistency. You can buy juk dishes specifically for someone who has a cold or flu, which will include ingredients like chicken, ginseng or ginger. Juk is also quite nutritious and is easy to get down when you’re feeling under the weather.
Feeling hungry? Eat Shabu-Shabu
Shabu-Shabu, a hot pot consisting of soup and vegetables with slices of beef on the side is a popular food eaten in Korea, but actually is of either Vietnamese of Japanese origin, depending which Shabu-Shabu restaurant you find yourself at. Both versions of Shabu-Shabu will include three stages to the meal.
The first stage includes a vegatable soup with a plate of beef on the side, a second stage of noodles, and a third stage of fried rice or rice juk. Vietnamese Shabu-Shabu will include rice paper vegetable rolls with your first round of beef soup, where as Japanese Shabu-Shabu has a first round of just vegetable and beef soup.
Both versions of Shabu-Shabu are extremely tasty and you will be stuffed after enjoying the three stage meal.
Feeling healthy? Eat Soondubu Jiggae
Jiggae’s are stews made from a variety of different ingredients. Soondubu Jiggae is both delicious and healthy, as it consists of either beef or seafood and lots of delicious silky tofu, boiled to perfection. This dish is either enjoyed with a side bowl of rice, or eaten on its own. Being made with tofu, this stew gives a real protein kick and keeps you full for hours.
Feeling hot? Eat Naengmyeon
Naengmyeon, commonly known as iced cold noodles, are a refreshing way to cool down in the hot and sticky months of Korea. This popular dish consists of a boiled egg, a piece of meat (sometimes), pickled radish, shredded cucumber and buckwheat noodles served in an amazing sweetish iced broth. This iced noodle dish is unfortunately only served in the summer months, so it’s best to eat as much naengmyeon as you can before it vanishes off the summer menu.
Feeling sweet? Eat Bingsu
Bingsu is a big hit in the hot summer months, but has also been enjoyed in the winter months. Bingsu is traditionally shaved ice with red bean paste, but lately non traditional versions have become more popular by the younger generations in Korea. Popular shaved ice bingu’s include snow ice topped with mango, strawberries, blueberries or even cheesecake. For more sweet toothed dessert lovers, chocolate bingsu’s and ice-cream filled bigus’s might tickle your taste buds. Typically a shared dessert, bingsu’s are a great way to escape the Korean summer heat.
While Korea has hundreds of delectable dishes, it’s not quite possible to talk about all of them. The dishes I listed are my favorite, and I eat them more than any other food in Korea.
If you have been to Korea, what food would you add to the list?