There are two things that come to mind when one thinks of Korean food: the traditional korean barbeque and kimchi! Luckily Korean food is a little more diverse than that, although we will be honest and say that they do seem to want to add their famous Gochujang (spicy red sauce) to almost everything.
Here is a list of some foods you can expect to find in South Korea:
Gimbap refers to a Korean dish of cooked rice (BAP) rolled or wrapped in dried sheets of nori seaweed (GIM). The traditional Korean Gimbap will be filled with vegetables, rolled and sprinkled with sesame seeds before being cut into slices which are both beautifully colourful and also easy to eat. There are many varieties of Gimpak and they can vary from about 2cm to 5cm in diameter.
This variation of Gimpak are small and consist only of unseasoned cooked rice rolled in nori seaweed. They are often served as an accompaniment to a main dish and usually tends to be spicy.
Literally meaning “triangle gimbap”, these Korean rice triangles can be found in most convenience stores and are a great quick and cheap snack.
Seoul’s version of small gimbap, filled with carrots, spinach and yellow pickled radish, these are dipped in a pairing sauce of soy sauce and mustard. The work Mayak translates as “drug”, due to its alleged addictive flavour!
GYERANPPANG / EGG BREAD
We’re not sure if this should be under savoury or sweet… A whole egg is cooked inside a sweet dough bread and although we think it makes a good breakfast food, it is traditionally eaten as a dessert snack!
KOREAN SWEET POTATO ‘FRIES’
Skinny cut and deep-fried sweet potato fries make for a great snack if you’re not feeling very adventurous!
KOREAN STYLE CORN-DOGS
A sausage on a stick is battered in a thick and slightly sweet dough, then deep fried before rolling it in sugar! You can also find them with a sweet cheese inside.
KOREAN FRIED CHICKEN
Also known as KFC, these double-fried bite-size pieces of chicken covered in a sticky sweet and spicy sauce served in a cup with a stick so you can easily walk and munch at the same time. The ones we had from BIFF Square were deliciously sweet while you ate them and then had a surprising afterburn!
This popular combination of Korean chicken and beer (mekju) can be found in many bars and Chimek diners, often for a set price for either a whole or half chicken and beer.
A variety of Korean style tempura, ranging from vegetables to squid and even boiled eggs. Pick and choose and pay accordingly.
These spicy rice cakes (tteok) will be at almost every street food vendor and you can’t miss the bright red (and equally spicy) sauce. This gochujang sauce is made from fermented soybeans and red chillies and packs a punch. The chewy rice cakes are just a vessel for this Korean sauce and serving them on a stick makes for easy eating. We opted for the version where the rice cakes are served with sausages on a stick with a sauce of your choice.
RICE CAKES AND SAUSAGES ON A STICK
You will find these at most markets and although not very exciting, they do make for a tasty and filling snack. We opted for a honey mustard sauce with ours but perhaps sweet chilli would have been better suited.
Korean dumplings can be either boiled or fried and served either with a soy and vinegar dipping sauce or in a soup. They are usually filled with minced pork, glass noodles and sweet onion and may also contain either spicy kimchi or ginger. They are a warm, full of flavour dish which can be enjoyed either from a street vendor or in a fancy restaurant. We had the most delicious dumplings from one of the vendors at BIFF square.
Myeon is noodles, which you will find all over Korea. Naengmyeon is a dish of buckwheat or sweet potato noodles served with cucumber, radish, beef and boiled egg in a cold broth.
These savoury pancakes can be quite filling. You will find different varieties, some consisting of just leeks and green onions, while others will also contain squid, prawns and mussels.
You can find fish cakes in all shapes and sizes throughout Korea. We found that most of the stalls at Gukje market had samples out for one to taste and we were surprised at how sweet and pleasant they were. The Koreans best enjoy their Odeng on a skewer, straight out of the steaming seafood broth.
Deep-fried pieces of a whole chicken (usually with bone and all) with a sweet and spicy sauce, this is a favourite for both a snack or a meal. The sauce is laden with flavours of garlic and ginger and the chicken will often be sprinkled with chopped peanuts to give it some extra crunch. They say that the secret sauce keeps the chicken fresh for a few days, so even when they tell you it’s not spicy, trust us that it is! Luckily it is equally tasty and delicious and well worth sweating through!
TRADITIONAL KOREAN STYLE BBQ
Made famous across the world for the unconventional method of cooking your food in the centre of the table, you will find a Korean style BBQ restaurant on almost every street of Korea. They very from glitzy and glamorous to a relaxed local vibe. Be sure to try the Galbi (marinated short ribs) and the Galbi Jim (braised short ribs).
The Koreans love their seafood and there is no shortage of fresh and incredibly varied seafood available throughout Korea. You will almost always have the option of choosing your seafood from the tank, but if you prefer not to look your food in the eye before you send it to its inevitable death, you can just order off the menu too!