A major advantage of teaching in South Korea is Korean food is some of the healthiest and most delicious food I have ever tried in all of my travels. Whether you come to live here or just to visit, I have compiled a list of HIGHLY recommended foods to try!
1. Pajeon- Korean pancakes, not the breakfast kind. This 'pancake' can consist of different vegetables, green onions being the star character, and can also consist of different kinds of sea food. Enjoy this dish with some mak-goli (rice wine)!
2. Mackerel- Grilled mackerel is one of my all time favorites. I don't really enjoy eating grilled fish with the bones still in it, but the taste of this fish makes me forget about my pickiness.
3. Dak-galbi- Its literal translation is chicken ribs. There are no bones, but this dish is spicy and is grilled with different vegetables on a huge round grill in the middle of the table. You can add noodles, rice, and even cheese to jazz it up!
4. Dweji-galbi- This marinated piece of pork ribs is so good, you'll keep ordering more. It's actually cheaper than a lot of other bbq meat and has so much flavor! Wrap it in lettuce with some rice and sesame leaves and enjoy it with some good ol' soju.
1. Jjimdak- I hear Andong is the place to go for some authentic jjimdak (steamed chicken), but all the ones I have tasted around Korea are delicious to me. The chicken is marinated and steamed in a soy sauce based broth and cooked with some cellophane noodles. This dish can come spicy or mild, depending on how you like it.
2. Bossam- Bossam is steamed pork belly that you can eat with various wraps like lettuce, thin rice cakes, and kimchi. It's not greasy and can be enjoyed with a variety of side dishes.
3. Soondae- People freak out when they hear that soondae is blood sausage. Like all legit sausages, soondae is made with pig intestine lining stuffed with rice, cellophane noodles, bits of pork (not sure if I want to know) and maybe some blood (hence, the dark color). Soondae is a staple food at pojangmachas (street carts) and can be enjoyed with pork liver or lungs. Try not to think about the body parts.
1. Japchae- This dish is made of cellophane noodles mixed with different vegetables and soy sauce. It's really filling and healthy too. Aside from the bits of meat, it's also very vegan friendly!
2. Naengmyun- Although it's served cold, these buckwheat noodles are good all year round. Those who are not into spicy foods can get mool-naengmyun, which comes with cold pork based broth, or bibimnaengmyun for those whole don't mind a kick to their palates.
1. Dwenjang jjigae- Jjigae is soup with concentrated flavor. Dwenjang is fermented soybean paste and tastes awesome in soup with some tofu, zucchini, onion, potatoes, and even clams! It might smell a little funky at first, but it has been a hit amongst the foreigners.
2. Haejang gook- Also known as the hangover soup. This soup is made with pig spine and its spicy taste feels good the day after some heavy drinking. Koreans claim that it washes down the alcohol and helps cure the hangover faster. Does it really work? Don't know, don't care. It's delicious.
3. Galbitang- Sometimes this soup is served with a giant beef rib sticking out of the earthenware pot. It almost seems savage, but the combination of the hot soup and tender meat tastes awesome with some kimchi.
4. Kimchi jjigae- Another way to enjoy kimchi is through jjigae. Some places make it extra spicy and other with extra pork belly. Either way, it's delicious and even easy to make at home!
5. Soondooboo- Like kimchi jjigae, soondooboo is spicy, but with no kimchi. It's main ingredient is curdled tofu and they'll crack an egg in it right before serving it to you. There's even seafood soondooboo, if you don't mind clams, shrimps, and octopus.
1. Bibimbap- This classic dish is a meal on its own. Bibim means mix and bap means rice. Can you guess how it's supposed to be eaten? It's one of the healthiest and most favored dishes of foreigners. You can get all your nutrients in just one bowl.
2. Kimbap- Foreigners call it sushi, but it does not contain any raw fish in it. The only similarities are rice, seaweed, and the fact that it's rolled up. There are different kinds of kimbap, like tuna, beef, and vegetable to name some.
3. Chamchi/ jaeyook dupbap- Chamchi is tuna and dupbap means covered rice. The tuna is cooked with a spicy concoction and is poured over a bed of rice. Like the chamchi dupbap, jaeyook is served the same way, except it's cooked with pork.
5. Ddukbokee- Like soondae (steamed blood sausages), ddukbokee is a staple in the street carts and often enjoyed together. It's spicy and appreciated when a little bit inebriated. It's made with hot pepper paste and some fish cakes.
1. Patbingsoo- These have already gained a lot of popularity back in the states, but it's hard to get tired of it. This dessert is super popular during the summer time, since it's base ingredient is shaved ice or condensed milk. It comes with a variety of toppings including, but not limited to, mochi, ice cream, fruits, and sweet red beans. Koreans have become more creative with their bingsoos and now there are different flavors available aside from the traditional sweet red beans. Now they have flavors like green tea and red wine!
2. Honey Bread- Served almost at all coffee shops around Korea, honey bread is a great alternative to donuts. It is a super thick cut slice of bread topped with different syrups, whip cream, and even ice cream. Like most desserts, it's not figure friendly, but it's definitely something I would cheat on my diet with.
As a teacher in Korea, I often find myself ordering all of the dishes mentioned above when I go out to eat. I hope you enjoy these dishes as much as I do!