Korean food has become popular all over the world in recent years. The growing trend of K-pop has led to even more interest in Korean culture.
Food has an important role in Korean history as a result of social and political changes throughout the centuries. Every province has its own dishes and ingredients that are unique to their own region. If you travel around Korea, you will be become accustomed to the various meals you should indulge in. For example, Jeonju is famous for Bibimbap and Jeju is famous for Black Pork.
Korean meals predominantly include rice, vegetables and meat. Each meal includes side dishes known as banchan and toppings such as gotchujang, sesame oil, kimchi, doenjang and gotchukaru.
Korean food is an important part of Korean culture and is usually consumed in large groups to promote ‘we’ culture. It’s common to share food from various dishes and order meals for the table to share. Koreans enjoy eating together, and it is popular to see restaurants buzzing every night with plenty of customers.
Samgyeopsal barbecue is probably one of the first dishes you will try when attending your first school Hweshik (company dinner). It is a very popular dish in Korea, and there is an abundance of restaurants selling it across the country.
You usually grill unmarinated, raw slices of pork belly (essentially uncured bacon) is grilled tableside, until all the fat drips off the pan. It is typically wrapped with lettuce or perilla leaf, spicy soybean sauce, grilled garlic, and fried kimchi.
Be prepared to drink soju while eating Samgyeopsal! Soju is a clear alcohol is made from rice, wheat and barley. It is customary to drink shots of soju while eating out samgyeopsal as it’s considered a way to cut the fatty taste and have a good time!
Bibimbap is a really popular dish among foreigners, and is usually a meal a Korean would recommend you to try when first getting accustomed to Korean food. Most Korean food is spicy, so when eating bibimbap you can add as much, or as little, gotchujang (red pepper sauce) as you like.
You can order it in a dolsot (a hot stone bowl) or a regular bowl. The traditional dolsot bowl is fired up hot, and sizzles food as you mix the ingredients together. It creates crusty rice at the bottom of the bowl while you indulge, creating a nice crispy treat at the end!
Ingredients in bibimbap include rice, beef, assorted marinated vegetables, gotchujang and a fried egg on top. There are numerous local variations of bibimbap throughout Korea, be found in Jeonju, Tongyeong and Jinju to name a few.
Jeon is a flat-like pancake made from kimchi, potatoes, onions, seaweed, meat and seafood. There are plenty of kinds of Jeon, such as Pacheon (scallion), Kimchi Jeon, and Gamja-jeon (potato).
It’s customary to eat it after hiking a mountain trail, and is offered at many mountainside restaurants. Jeon is usually paired with Magkeolli (Korean rice liquor), and is highly recommend to enjoy on a hot summers day. Magkeolli is served in a chilled kettle and is sipped out of a small drinking bowl.
Bulgogi is simply delicious, and my personal favorite Korean dish. It is a a dish of thinly sliced sirloin marinated in a mix of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic and black pepper. Bulgogi is usually cooked tableside on the grill or sauteed and served.
Bulgogi is usually prepared with thinly sliced onions, carrots, mushrooms and scallions. It is popular to wrap it up lettuce and top it off with some ssamjang (a thick red spicy paste), and served with rice and grilled garlic.
Over the years, bulgogi has been the star in some more variations such as bulgogi burgers and even bulgogi cheesesteaks.
Sundubu Jiggae is one of the most flavorful Korean soups you could eat. It has the perfect balance between spicy and sweet, and the silken tofu melts in your mouth. It is customary to choose the type of Sundubu Jiggae you want, ranging from seafood, beef, pork, dumpling, soy bean, or even mixed variations!
The stew is also commonly topped off with a raw egg, that you crack tableside. Once mixed into the soup, the hot pot cooks and scrambles it, almost like an egg drop soup. This adds flavor to the dish, however you can do it however you like!
HUNGRY YET?! There are so many other amazing dishes to sample in Korea- this is just the top 5 dishes! Check out some of the seafood Giselle ate on her weekend trip to Taean!
Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email tijanahuysamen1[email protected] to request more information on teaching in Korea!