By no means am I an expert when it comes to Korean cuisine: I simply haven’t digested enough of it yet – luckily. Despite regularly rotating between my most favourite Korean dishes I believe I have tried enough or am aware of plenty of traditional and modern Korean meals to comply a list. If you can attend a meal at your nearest Korean restaurant that just doesn’t sell the basics, i.e. Korean bbq, kimchi fried rice, korean style spicy ribs and bibimbap (hot or chilled rice, vegetables and egg dish), I hope you can endulge in as many of the mentioned dishes.
- Japchae – Stir fried transparent noodles, otherwise known as ‘glass’ noddles, with a variety of shredded vegetables. The noodles themselves are uniquely made with sweet potato strach. The dish is described as being simultaneously sweet and sour. Common vegetables used include: carrots, spinach, white onion, red bell pepper and shiitake mushrooms.
- Kimbap/gimbap – Rice rolls wrapped in lightly salted seaweed wafers. Kimbap is most comparative to Japanese ‘californian’ rolls. Homemade kimbap is considered to be the best, usually prepared with the guidelines of family recipes that have been passed through the generations. A fair few decades have passed since triangle kimbap was introduced to convenience stores; being popular based on their great taste and cheap costs for students. The basic type of kimbap consists of egg, seafood sticks/imitation crab or fishcake, luncheon meat, carrots, cucumber, partboiled spinach, beef and kimchi. Some notable newer ingredient additions, most likely inspired by the increasing favourability of Western foods among Koreans, include: mayonnaise, cheese, cream cheese, smoked salmon, tuna mayonaise and Japanese chicken or pork cutlet.
- Samgyeopsal – Barbecued pork belly which is even liked by people who don’t usually eat other pork dishes. Great quality Samgyeopsal can be rather expensive so Koreans consider it as a special treat and symbolic of wealth. As it’s still inexpensive in comparison to high grade korean beef, it’s a popular choice in Korean bbq restaurants. The meat can be dipped in a salt based sauce or wrapped within lettuce and sesame leaves with chilli paste.
- Mandu – Dumplings highly comparable to Chinese Jiaozi and Japanese Gyoza. Rolled inside of these deep fried or steamed dumplings is seasoned pork, onions, cabbage and occasionally mung bean noddles. This simple dish positively changed my entire opinion of pork dishes.
- Mul naengmyeon – Literally translating as ‘water cold noodle’ this dish is particularly suitable for the hot weather of Summertime. Buckwheat noodles are submerged within cold water and ice cubes; topped with half of a boiled egg, shredded cucumber and a small amount of chilli sauce. Most of the flavour comes from sesame and a korean version of mustard which you add to the noodles yourself – less than half a teaspoon is most appropriate.
- Jeon – Is the Korean equivalent to a savoury pancake or frittata. There are several varieties of Jeon: pajeon, buchimgae etc. The basis of all Jeon is flour and eggs. Some types contain potato and shredded spring onions whereas others contain seasonal vegetables, white fish or beef. The beef version which tastes similar to sausage patties can be served with hash browns.
- Samgyetang – Alternatively known as ginseng chicken soup. This is a much loved dish by the elderly during the cold months. A whole boiled chicken is contained within a stone pot which keeps the dish piping hot. The chicken is surrounded by a well seasoned broth. The chicken is stuffed with rice, ginseng, garlic and a single red date. It’s very filling and often associated with aiding the recovery of common colds.
- Tteokbokki – Rice cake in a runny spicy sauce with fish cake, eggs, seafood, cheese, deep fried pork, hotdogs and luncheon meat.
- Korean pizzas – Without a doubt they’re just as delicious as authentic Italian pizzas; receiving 10/10 for creativity. Their ingredients are often
overlyexcessive, miraculously equaling to fantastic combinations and calories… or as I prefer to call them ‘delicious points’. Special toppings, crusts and bases include: potato wedges, French fries, chicken tenders, carabonara sauce, seafood, cheese egg tart crust, tortilla wrap base, prawn tempura and cheese burger pizza.
- Dak-galbi – If you are familiar with my blog I am confident that you are bored of how frequent this dish is featured within my blog posts. To keep the summary brief Dak-galbi is a spiced Stir-fried dish consisting mainly of chicken, cabbage, onions, a selectable korean sauce or chilli paste and perilla leaves. Other recurrent ingredients that are chosen by the customer or included within sets are: rice cake, cheese filled rice cake, sweet potato, ramen, rice, cheese, seaweed flakes, kimchi and mixed seafood.
- Budaechigae – A stew first invented as an affordable way of keeping army troops healthy and well feed. It is often named ‘korean army base stew’. Personally it’s one of my favourite Korean dishes, so much so that I ate it as recently as two days ago. Typically Budaechigae is loaded it chilli paste, stock, ramen, different flavours of spam/luncheon meat, sliced hotdogs, white onions, green onions, kimchi and baked beans. With a serving of steamed rice it’s comforting after a long day.
- Korean potato salad – It may come as surprise to non-asians that versions of potato salad span wider across the world than assumed. The significant difference between western and korean potato salad is that fresh fruits are added, e.g. Berries and mandarin.
- Yangnyeom chicken – Simply fried chicken in a sticky spicy sauce with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
- Korean fondue – This combines cheese fondue with Korean spicy meats. The creaminess of melted cheese cuts through the intensity of the spiceses used to marinate the meats.
- Bingsu – Shaved ice one another level. Syrup on shaved ice isn’t exciting enough in Korea. Some of the most favourable shaved ice flavours are strawberry cheesecake, melon and of course anything chocolate based. My preferred franchise for eating bingsu is Sulbing, particularly the one located in Myeondong. Similar desserts deriving from bingsu are shaved ice cream and Almond powder shaved ice.
- Hotteok – Dense pancakes with a honey or brown sugar syrup centre. Edible seeds are often added. They are sold very cheaply as street food all year round, but sell successfully during Autumn/Winter.
- Honey toasted bread – Double layed thick slices of toast dripping with honey, butter and sugar. Whipped cream and grated almonds usually sit on top.
- Deli manjoo – Bite sized sweet breads filled with custard usually shaped as fish or corn cobs. Stalls selling the snack are often located at subway stations and train platforms.
- Gyeongju bread – Small handmade pastries holding red bean paste; they are named after an area along the southeastern coast of South Korea which holds historical value to Buddhism.
- Bungeoppang – If you are familiar with Japanese Taiyaki, this is basically the same snack. Fish shaped batter pumped with red bean paste or sweet potato. Ice cream types are available including Matcha ice cream Bungeoppang.
- Ppopgi/bbopki – Rounded, flat sweets made for sugar and baking soda. This is quite literally the cheapest of the cheapest sweet snacks, make with metal cookie/pastry cutters and a heated plate.