Modern Korean food has so much to offer with its vibrant colors, exciting spiciness, and influence from cultures nearby and afar. Where do you start if you have never tried Korean food before? Although this shortlist does not due Korean cuisine justice, it can be a good jumping off point! Korea Trip Guide has the 5 essential foods to try when you visit Korea.
Spicy, a little bit sweet, a lot of chewy goodness. Tteokbokki is a Korean staple that can be found in restaurants and at street vendors. With a bright red sauce and sticks of rice cake, get your mouth ready for a punch. One of the best parts of tteokbokki is that it can be customized at restaurants! Whether you want the original to keep it simple or you want to mix it up with fish cakes, ramen, or boiled eggs, it’s totally up to you.
Korean BBQ is a meat lover’s dream! The beauty of Korean BBQ is the variety in types of meats. You can grill chicken, pork, beef, or vegetables and they can either be marinated or not to keep more of the original meaty flavors. Another fun thing about Korean BBQ is you generally get to cook yourself. Spend some quality time with a group and grill the meat in front of you as you need. There is no single grill master because you can all be grill masters! With some side dishes, rice, and soju, sounds like a great night with friends.
Donkatsu comes from the Japanese food Tonkatsu which is a breaded pork cutlet. It is flattened with a mallet so that the meat is tender and is easier to cook with a thin layer. Then, the panko-battered cutlet is deep fried until an outer crispy layer is formed. Koreans adopted this dish from Japanese food and it has remained popular among Koreans. There are restaurants that specialize in donkatsu which is usually served with a bowl of rice, a tangy sauce, and some cabbage to clean the palate.
Korean Chinese food, Korean food, and Chinese food are all unique cuisines that should not be categorized as the same type of food. Korea and China had direct lines of trade in their history which resulted in some Chinese influence among Korean cuisine. Korean Chinese food is probably best known for its dark-sauced jajangmyeon which is a bean paste based noodle dish that has a unique texture and color. If you are planning a trip to Korea or even a Koreatown in the U.S., be sure to stop by a Korean Chinese restaurant to get a taste of what Koreans think of as comfort food.
After the Korean War, Americans who were stationed at military bases in Korea craved a taste of home. As a result, there are a handful of dishes that have ingredients that were introduced from the Western world. One obvious introduction was fried chicken. American fried chicken was adapted to Korean tastes and some say Koreans are the ones who have elevated the food. Korean fried chicken has a lighter, less greasy batter that is double fried and sometimes coated with a spicy, tangy red sauce. With a culture that loves the liveliness of group outings and drinking, Korean fried chicken has become the perfect pairing during a night out with friends over beer.