Top 25 Foods From South Korea To Try In 2023
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In recent years South Korea has become famous for being the land of K-pop, K-dramas, K-beauty, tech giants. But there’s so much more to this East Asian tiger than the above trends: it’s its food, a true pleasure for food lovers.
From kimchi to soju, Korean barbecue, fried chicken South Korea has a lot to offer, and traveling for food is one of the best things to experience the country at its best.
Eating in South Korea is such an experience that food is considered one of the primary elements of socialization: it is no coincidence, in fact, that as soon as you set foot in a restaurant the first thing you notice is the long tables that host many people and that are shared, both by people who know each other and by complete strangers.
Sit down and get ready because in this guide we will show you a list of South Korean foods you have to try.
Read also: how to organize a trip to South Korea
- Top 25 South Korean Foods To Try
- 1. Bibimbap (비빔밥)
- 2. Kimchi (김치)
- 3. Banchan (반찬)
- 4. Pajeon (해물파전)
- 5. Samgyeopsal (삼겹살)
- 6. Tteokbokki (떡볶이)
- 7. Hotteok (호떡)
- 8. Seolleongtang (설렁탕)
- 9. Odeng/Eomuk (오뎅)
- 10. Bungeoppang (붕어빵)
- 11. Naengmyeon (냉면)
- 12. Ganjang Gejang (간장게장)
- 13. Soju (소주)
- 14. Kimchi Jjigae (김치찌개)
- 15. Sannakji (산낙지)
- 16. Tteok (떡)
- 17. Yakgwa (약과)
- 18. Mandu (만두)
- 19. Tokkebi (도깨비)
- 20. Gyeran-ppang (계란빵)
- 21. Bulgogi (불고기)
- 22. Japchae (잡채)
- 23. Gimbap (김밥)
- 24. Korean Fried Chicken (치킨)
- 25. Bingsu (빙수)
- Rules to Eat in South Korea Like a Local
- Traditional Korean Food Resources
- Best Foods To Try in South Korea: Video
Top 25 South Korean Foods To Try
Here are some of the best and most special dishes that can be found everywhere in South Korea and that we have had the opportunity to taste during our trip.
1. Bibimbap (비빔밥)
The dish par excellence of Korean cuisine consists of rice, vegetables of different kinds, minced meat, and an egg that is usually left raw. It is considered one of the healthiest dishes in the world as it contains all the nutrients our body needs and it is usually served inside of stone or aluminum bowls in such a way that it never gets cold. Jeonju is the home of the bibimbap, to the point that a festival is also dedicated to this dish; the peculiarity of Jeonju bibimbap is that the rice is not cooked in water but in a broth.
2. Kimchi (김치)
Kimchi is a spicy and sour dish made up of fermented cabbage (but it can be made with other vegetables as well!). Kimchi has a unique flavor, as well as its high nutritional value and low-calorie content. On top of this, it’s considered essential to any dish.
Read more about kimchi by clicking here.
3. Banchan (반찬)
A series of appetizers served at the table and designed to be shared: ranging from a minimum of 5 to a maximum of 20, but each restaurant serves as many as they want, always including a bowl of soup or steamed rice.
4. Pajeon (해물파전)
The Korean pancake, which the Koreans also call pizza, is a dish that can not be ignored. The most popular version is the one with onions and fish, but also the kimchi pajeon is unmissable. A middle ground between a pancake and an omelette, the Pajeon is really nice to eat after a long walk, accompanied by appetizers.
5. Samgyeopsal (삼겹살)
Koreans love their bbq and in all the restaurants there are special places where you can try your hand at cooking meat and vegetables. There is bbq of all types and all contemplate meat and vegetables, with pork that has the biggest role and the samgyeopsal, the bacon, being another great protagonist. Korean pork is special compared to ours, much more tender and full-bodied, is bred outdoors and on the ground, and often fed with special plants (for example green tea) that make it even more unique.
6. Tteokbokki (떡볶이)
Very stringy and chewy rice gnocchi that are seasoned with a very hot sauce and served in restaurants and on the street. Difficult to avoid them because the curiosity is really a lot, but they are so hot that at the first bite you immediately think to let them go. Accompanied by a bottle of makgeolli, the Korean rice wine, they are perfect.
7. Hotteok (호떡)
One of the best street desserts: pancakes that can be more or less soft and that are filled with brown sugar syrup, honey, chopped peanuts, and cinnamon. They cause addiction despite the calories.
8. Seolleongtang (설렁탕)
A whitish soup prepared using the bones of the ox let cook in water for many hours. It is served with meat and onions, often also chili powder to give more spiciness to the dish.
9. Odeng/Eomuk (오뎅)
A sort of fish pancake served with fish broth: it can be found on the street and in markets all over the country, alongside fried foods of all kinds that can be eaten standing up or sitting down.
10. Bungeoppang (붕어빵)
A mix between the dough of a waffle and the dough of a roll of rice, the Bungeoppang is a classic dessert filled with red bean cream which is given the shape of a fish. It is also found filled with custard.
11. Naengmyeon (냉면)
Cold noodles, served with or without meat, and available all year round but particularly palatable when temperatures are high.
12. Ganjang Gejang (간장게장)
Ganjang Gejang is a fresh raw crab marinated in soy sauce. It is stewed and served whole, leaving to the guests the task of cleaning. With the stock and parts not served, the fish bibimbap is prepared.
13. Soju (소주)
The beverage par excellence in South Korea, a transparent alcoholic drink very similar to vodka and grappa. You drink at the end of the meal but also to accompany the food and is sold in bottles.
14. Kimchi Jjigae (김치찌개)
Kimchi soup is very famous and loved in South Korea. It’s traditionally made with pork, kimchi, and tofu. Definitely spicy, this soup uses a special type of kimchi that is fermented to a certain extent so to get the best flavors out.
15. Sannakji (산낙지)
The famous raw octopus, seasoned with oil and sesame seeds. The octopus still moves when it is served and for this reason, it can cause suffocation: the tentacles, in fact, can attach themselves to the mucous membranes of the throat and cause suffocation, which is why the authorities also recommend being careful when you consume it. It can be made with other types of fish, all raw.
16. Tteok (떡)
The traditional Korean rice cake, similar to Japanese mochi but more glutinous and chewy.
17. Yakgwa (약과)
Wheat flour, sesame oil, honey, liqueur, and ginger juice mixed and fried in oil, before being immersed in honey. One of the sweetest biscuits ever, to be accompanied with something bitter or completely without sugar.
18. Mandu (만두)
The classic dumplings can be fried, steamed in the pan, and are always served with sauces of various types and kimchi.
19. Tokkebi (도깨비)
One of the most loved street foods by Koreans, hot dogs covered with fries.
20. Gyeran-ppang (계란빵)
Egg panini, where the egg is opened directly in the batter which is cooked on an oval grid that allows giving the characteristic shape.
21. Bulgogi (불고기)
Bulgogi is a juicy, savory dish of grilled marinated beef cooked in sauce. Tender parts such as sirloin are used for bulgogi.
22. Japchae (잡채)
Japchae is noodles made with sweet potato starch stirred with various fried vegetables such as carrots, spinach, mushrooms, and onions. The final dish is then seasoned with soy sauce. Also known as “glass noodles”.
23. Gimbap (김밥)
Imagine sushi but in a bigger format and filled with more ingredients and different types of ingredients. Gimbap is a dried seaweed roll with white rice and various ingredients such as spinach, pickled radish, carrot, egg, burdock, etc., and cuts into bite-sized pieces.
24. Korean Fried Chicken (치킨)
Korean fried chicken became a popular Korean staple because of the Asian Financial Crisis of 20 years ago. Today it’s one of the most loved foods and even if it cannot be considered purely traditional, it’s one of the dishes one needs to try when visiting. The combination of beer and chicken, called “chi-maek”, is a classic and it’s definitely risen in importance thanks to Korean dramas.
25. Bingsu (빙수)
Bingsu is possibly the most loved summer dessert. It’s made of ice shavings and can come with sweetened red beans (Patbingsu), a fruit cocktail on top (Gwahil bingsu), and many other toppings
Read Also: Our South Korea Travel Guides
Rules to Eat in South Korea Like a Local
Before you go to the unmissable dishes to taste during a trip to South Korea, here are some rules to follow:
- Do not blow your nose at the table: blow your nose in public is considered rude, do it at the table is really unacceptable. If you can not hold back and you can not go to the toilet every 5 minutes, turn the other side and blow your nose very softly;
- Restaurant service is usually very fast; it is not rude by restaurateurs, rather it is considered attention to the customer;
- The cutlery in South Korea is of two types: the chopsticks and the spoon, both in aluminum. There are no wooden buns like in Japan and there are no forks and knives;
- Do not stick the chopsticks in the rice and, unlike Japan, the bowls should never be raised from the table, even when eating soup;
- Tipping is considered offensive.
The rules to be respected in public are quite special for us Westerners but are linked to Confucianism that still rules Korean society.
Traditional Korean Food Resources
Learning how to cook Korean is a fun task; having the right ingredients and knowing the traditional recipes will allow you to cook Korean at home and feel like you’re in South Korea… while waiting to travel over! These are some resources you may want to check to start learning how to cook Korean food and ingredients to use:
Traditional Korean Gochujang (Chili Paste): a staple in Korean cuisine to be sure your food will taste as authentic as possible. Check on Amazon.
Sweet & Mild Spicy Tteokbokki Pack: if you crave tteokbokki, these are instant and easy to make. Check on Amazon.
Seoul Food Korean Cookbook: this book by Korean American Naomi Imatome-Yun is a great way to start cooking Koreans in the traditional way.Check on Amazon.
Rice Cooker: cook your rice at its best for your Korean dishes by using this rice cooker, highly rated and multifunctional.Check on Amazon.
Best Foods To Try in South Korea: Video
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.