Korean cuisine is said to be one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. It is based on rice, lots of vegetables and meat; so it’s well balanced.
It is filled with tradition too: from the way colors are arranged to the role of the people serving food to the others; often the youngest is the one to have this responsibility.
Traditional meals are also famous for the number of side dishes they use, which make a beautiful feast for the eyes apart from the stomach. They also use a long thin spoon to eat and metal chopsticks . I found them a bit more difficult to eat with in comparison to wooden chopsticks but they are so pretty!
Anyway, eat-away :
This is probably one of the best known korean dishes; which is great because if there’s a korean restaurant in your city they’ll probably have it and you’ll probably end getting a frequent client discount.
It literally means “mixed rice” and mainly consists of warm white rice, a bunch of different fresh veggies, maybe meat, a raw or fried egg and gochujang (korean red chili paste). Now this is the key ingredient and probably the one that will give you trouble if you want to replicate it back home. But once you get it you’re all set and just have to mix all the ingredients together and enjoy.
2.- Silk Worms or Beongdegi
A common street food in Korea. Yeah you read it correctly, this is common. When I was walking around Busan with my korean friend we passed by an old woman boiling a big bowl of what looked like cockroaches to me… and I immediately knew I had to try it. I’m not gonna lie, I was kinda scared. But it turns out it tastes just like protein. Somehow it reminded me of canned tuna but concentrated.
Don’t pass up on it even if you feel it is too different. It’s not bad at all, it’s healthy and it makes for a great photo opportunity to scare off your friends! 😉
3.- Family meal & Kimchi
Now this is a feast. They call it family meal because it is very common to make big portions of “side dishes” at the start of the week ( or even the month) and then serve small portions of them during the whole week. In the end you get to eat a bit of everything so it’s also great for experiencing lots of korean dishes in one meal. There must be some rice, spicy dishes, meat, and big leaves to wrap everything in little rolls before eating. I found it specially cute that sometime couples feed each other these rolls and they place great importance in making the perfect roll.
And of course there must be kimchi. Now, there are over 180 varieties of kimchi. Most of us know the fermented cabbage with red spice because it is the most popular one but if you ever find yourself in Korea; try out some of the other styles too.
Additional fact: Kimchi-related items have been inscribed on UNESCO‘s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by both South and North Korea. This makes kimchi the second intangible heritage that was submitted by two different countries, the other one being the folk song “Arirang“, also submitted by the Koreas.
4.- Pajeon pancake
Basically a green onion pancake that is pretty delicious on its own, but if you are a stronger food person or feel the meal is not complete without some meat; additional ingredients can be either beef, kimchi or seafood.
5.- Cheese Ribs
When in Seoul you should not miss out on this delicious, flavory ribs ( I think there is also other stuff) covered in creamy cheese that wraps around the meat in the most perfect way. You can find this bad boys right in the heart of the univeristy district at James Cheese & Back Ribs.
It’s a very fun experience controlling the heat for the perfect melted cheese, then trying to roll it around the ribs with chopsticks and cutting of the cheesy string with the scissors they provide you. The staff will show you how it’s done at first, from then it’s all you.
Note that if you are coming here they have no individual portions so you have to bring someone with you. Not that I can imagine anyone refusing an invitation to this place. Like they say at the restaurant: “cheese is always right”.
6.- Gyeranppang ( cheese bread)
Oh yay, more cheese! And you though Korea was only rice and veggies. Traditionally of course it is, but culture just like society is ever changing. Nowadays you can find a wide variety of korean street food born from the mixture of asian and western ingredients. This egg and bread rolls are perfect for giving you the power you need to get your morning sightseeing done. But they are also quite good in the afternoon, or at night; really just any time. 🙂
7.-Chicken & Beer
It is dinner time and you are done with university, you lay down your books for a while and head down to one of the many restaurants or cafés that flood university districts . Chances are you are ending up eating Chimaek; it’s pretty simple (fried chicken (chi) and beer (maekju)), but this high-calorie combo somehow managed to crash into the diet of modern South Korea. It has become the staple for comfort food and it’s not dying out any soon. With K-pop stars backing up some of the brands; korean fried chicken is making a name of its own in all Asia.
Shaved ice topped with different toppings its big throughout Asia; but maybe the best one is found in Korea were korean cafés in Busan have created the Sulbing. This literally means “snow ice” and consists of a beautiful mountain of fine ice covered in fruits, and sweetness. There is mango, strawberry, cheesecake and coffee or if you are looking for a little more authenticity there is rice cake with sweet bean powder, red bean, matcha and black sesame.
Now thank you for going through the whole list! I hope you enjoyed it and leave some comments. I know I am missing lots of other korean delicacies ( Bulgogi, Hoeddeok, and Japchae for instance.) After I get some new material and pictures I expect to either expand it or make part 2.
Gamsahamnida ! 감사합니다 !