Korean Foods You Must Try While in South Korea

South Korea is famous for its street food and for good reason too. The country loves everything tasty be it from a high-end fancy restaurant or from street vendors, and you’re sure to benefit from that if you ever go to visit. You can find street stalls of things both sweet and savory, with food ranging from a few hundred won to thousands of won. The South Korean food market caters to every financial status, which makes it more appealing for tourists especially. 

Why Is Korean Food So Popular?

For Koreans, food is more than just about taste. Instead, it is a way to connect, relax, and enjoy. People in South Korea love to socialize over food gatherings. There are dinners with your friends, colleagues, business partners, and family members as well. Group dinners are a very integral part of any office environment too. 

Korean food is surprisingly popular because of the unique blend of flavors it provides. The food also has a nice balance between meat and vegetable, thus harmonizing the carbs and protein aiding a more nutritious diet. The affordability and availability of Korean food have also made it quite popular among South Korean culture. 

Besides, the world is just starting to discover Korean cuisine. This boost is due to K-pop and K-dramas drawing attention towards the country. Today, millions of K-pop and K-drama fans want to try Korean food they see their idols eating. 

Budae jjigae, a spicy stew that originated during the Korean War.

Korean Foods You Must Try While in South Korea

Tteokbokki

Tteokbokki is made of two words, “tteok”, which means “rice cake” in Korean, and “bokki” which means “fried”. The dish is made of rice cakes, stir-fried with vegetables and meat. It is an old and traditional Korean dish that dates back to the mid-1900s. Rice cakes have been eaten in Korea since the period of the “Three kingdoms of Korea”. However, tteokbokki wasn’t sold in the way it is eaten today, until 1953. 

Tteokbokki is easily recognizable by its bright, red color, and cylindrical cakes. There are three types of Tteokbokki available in the market namely the General Tteokbokki, Gungjung tteokbokki, and jja-jang tteokbokki.

General Tteokbokki is made by adding gochujang to the rice cake. Gochujang is a chili paste 

used in a variety of Korean dishes. Gungjung tteokbokki is made by frying rice cakes in soy sauce with beef. If you are a fan of spicy foods, this one should be on top of your list of food items to try when visiting South Korea. Jja-jang tteokbokki means black bean tteokbokki. Jja-Jang sauce or black bean sauce is added to the rice cake. 

There are other, less common variations to the dish too. Seafood tteokbokki and barbeque tteokbokki are some common examples. 

Tteokbokki is commonly eaten at street stalls, called pojangmacha, or at cheap restaurants called bunsikjip. However, tteokbokki can also be bought frozen, packaged, and even dehydrated. You can cook it according to package instructions, and have it at home. Given you can have tteokbokki both at home and outside, it would be fair to say it is one of the best and easily available Korean foods. 

Bibimbap

Bibimbap, pronounced BEE-Bim-Bap, is the ultimate comfort food you can find in South Korea. Bibimbap is made up of two words, “bi bim”, which means “mixed”, and “bap” which translates to “rice”. As the name says, bibimbap is a bowl of rice, mixed with vegetables, meat, sauce, kimchi, and a raw egg. All of the ingredients are mixed just before eating. 

Bibimbap is made of leftover rice. For meat, there are slices of beef. Kimchi and gochujang are served on the side, just to add a little more spice and tanginess. The vegetables that are added to the bibimbap are julienned carrots, cucumber, radish, seaweed, mushrooms, and bean sprouts. 

Bibimbap is usually served in a dolsot, which is a stone pot. The pot is seasoned with olive oil, and heated on the fire. Then the rice is added. The pot has to be heated so that the rice continues to cook in it, and eventually sticks at the edges. The slightly burnt, crispy rice is one of the best parts of the dish which gives it a yummy taste. 

Once you are served, it is recommended that you let the dish rest for about 2-minutes. Then add your chili paste, and mix everything. Don’t mind the raw egg on top as it is all about trying the South Korean foods in their particular manner. Once you mix the egg in, the heat from the rice will cook it. Bibimbap is never eaten with chopsticks. You will be served a spoon with the dish, and that is what you should use. 

Bibimbap is perfect for winter, because of how hearty and warm it is. There is a combination of vegetables- usually five different types- and meat, which makes sure you get the nutrients you require. According to the Koreans, bibimbap keeps you healthy and protects you against illnesses. The best bibimbap can be enjoyed in Jeonju, Tongyeong, and Jinju cities.

Bibimbap is a famous dish in South Korea.

Kimchi

Kimchi is one of the most famous side dishes in South Korea. It is served at almost every meal, both at home and in restaurants. It is a major part of South Korean culture and is enjoyed in various varieties as well. Kimchi is pickled, or fermented vegetables, in a brine of salt, pepper, shrimp paste, garlic, and other spices. 

While kimchi can be made of any vegetable, the most popular kimchi is made of Korean cabbage. The salt brine kills any harmful bacteria in the cabbage. Afterward, the lactobacillus bacteria left in the cabbage, convert sugars into lactic acid. This is called lactic acid fermentation and gives the kimchi its sour, and tangy taste. This combination of flavors makes it one of the best dishes to try in South Korea. 

Since fermentation is what gives kimchi its taste, the longer you leave the kimchi, the better it tastes. Kimchi that includes fish, or any other seafood, will have an umami taste. Umami is the fifth type of taste we experience. The word umami is Japanese, where it translates to “essence of deliciousness”.  We believe that this is unarguably one of the most authentic delicacies particular to South Korea. 

Various forms of Kimchi in South Korea. 

Bulgogi

Bulgogi, commonly referred to as Korean BBQ, is yet another famous dish of the country. Again, bulgogi is made of two different words. There is “bul”, which means fire, and ‘Gogi” which translates to meat. The dish originated in the Goguryeo period, where it was served to the noblemen and royalty. However, today, it is served to regular citizens as well although it is a bit expensive which is why only the upper class can afford it easily. 

Bulgogi is strips of seasoned meat, which you get to grill on the stove. The beef is marinated using soy sauce, sugar, garlic, onion, and sesame oil. Leave the beef slices to marinate for about 1 to 2 hours. Simply grill the meat until it is cooked but is still juicy. The meat is then wrapped inside lettuce leaves and eaten. 

Bulgogi in South Korea. 

Jja-jangmyeon

Jja-jangmyeon is a dish made of noodles NS mixed with black bean sauce. There are a lot of variants of vegetables and meat that can be added. The dish was first introduced in 1905, in Gonghchwan, which is a restaurant in Chinatown. The owner was an immigrant from china. The restaurant is now called the jjajangmyeon museum. The fact that jjajangmyeon has its museum, can tell you all you need to know about how popular South Korean Korean food is. 

The dish may have been introduced to Korea by a Chinese immigrant, but it is .comnow wholly Korean. The name, however, still speaks of its Chinese origins. The word “jjajang”, comes from the word “zhájiàng”, which is the Chinese word for fried sauce. “Myeon” means noodles. Essentially, jajangmyeon means noodles in fried sauce. 

Common South Korean Jajangmyeon.

Conclusion

Korean food is very famous for its taste and availability. If you ever get the chance to go to South Korea, make sure you try out all the good food. Some other good dishes you can have are vegetable pancakes, fish cake, ginseng soup, and japchae. Korean fried chicken, served with a sweet and sour sauce, topped with sesame, is another mouthwatering dish.