If I had to come back to South Korea, for the food alone, I still definitely would–in a heartbeat.
Back home, there are a lot of Korean transplants and hence Korean restaurants peppered in the city–but admittedly, I was not much of a fan of Korean food, until I got to the country. Everything is just so delicious!
Eat Like a Korean
Food is prepared in a typical bapsang (or ‘meal table’), whatever social class you are in–rich or poor, you will likely find the dinner table setting in this way:
Must Try Foods in South Korea
Kimchi, the well-loved national dish of Korea, is fermented vegetables (radish and cabage) with a variety of seasonings. Before, kimchi was eaten during the winter season when it was a vital source for vegetables.
Now, kimchi is present in almost every Korean meal–breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, midnight snack… There’s literally no escaping you to kimchi while in South Korea.
Kimchi is not only tangy-yummy, but it is also very healthy too. Recently labeled a superfood that prevent the growth of cancer, Korean kimchi is loaded with nutrients and vitamins A, B & C, with its biggest benefit having healthy bacteria called lactobacilli, the same healthy bacteria found in yogurt.
Samgyetang or Ginseng Chicken Soup
Samgyetang, also known as Ginseng Chicken Soup, is hot soup eaten during the summer season. I don’t know why they opt to have this in summer and not on the colder months, but apparently they believe that this soup’s high nutritional content can help regain stamina lost by the excessive sweating we experience during summer days. Like most of Chinese culture, they believe this soup can prevent illness.
The one we had was in a Michelin-star restaurant that served only samgyetang. We didn’t know what the big deal was and why the tour guide was so insistent on us having ‘chicken soup’. But when we got there and tried it, we understood why–the chicken was so soft the meat literally falls off the bones, the sticky rice stuffed inside the chicken was so flavorful as it absorbed the flavors from the chicken and the soup.
They also typically serve the soup with ginseng wine that you can take a shot after the meal, although some (and I tried this) dump the shot into the soup as well.
Korean BBQ is AHHHHMAZING. These are marinated beef or pork slices (sirloin, brisket, ribeye) barbecued or grilled on a griddle. In Korean BBQ restaurants, you cook your own meats (although you will probably find servers cook the food for you to make sure you don’t mess up, maybe if you look too much of a tourist)
Bibimbap, translates to ‘mixed rice’, is a bowl of white rice topped with vegetables, chili paste, soybean paste, soy sauce, and other additions. The dish is then mixed together thorougly before eating.
Basically, bingsu is a Korean shaved ice dessert, or the Korean version of our halo-halo–it’s a milk shaved ice dessert, popular during the summer months, but I could literally have it in any season, thankyouverymuch.
Two flavors are extremely popular: Injeolmi Bingsu (my favorite) and Pat Bingsu. Injeolmi is a Korean rice cake made of glutinous rice (like a small mochi) covered with powdered soybean. Pat Bingsu, also very delicious, is bingsu topped with red bean. Yummm.
On the first day I get married and allowed to gain weight, I would have injeolmi bingsu every day of my life.
Convenience store options
And of course, a trip to their convenience store is just as fun. The options are incredible! I particularly love their spicy Korean noodle brands–Shin Ramyun and Paldo are popular options.
Just as I love their spicy noodles, I also can’t get enough of their ice cream! I like the interesting options they provide us–the Melona is popular in any Korean mart, but I also love their injeolmi, red bean and a personal favorite is their cream cheese ice cream!
Did we miss any of your favorite Korean food? Share yours 🙂