Yes, I realize that comfort food is typically associated with childhood, so I guess me having a list of Korean comfort foods makes about as much sense as a Korean teenage girl listing off her favorite childhood death metal tunes. But personally the term comfort food simply means a dish that is hearty and satisfying, while of course bringing a sense of overwhelming contentment. Now for yours truly I generally get that feeling even after eating something as simple and cheap as a triangle kimbap, so for me to narrow down this list was actually pretty difficult. But I have whittled it down to three of my Korean favorites, since the blogging powers at be have told me that readers enjoy lists of three for whatever reason.
This is hands-down my favorite Korean dish. A trip to the dalkgalbi restaurant near my Chungdahm branch is always a magical journey of culinary ecstasy. For the uninitiated, dalkgalbi is diced chicken stir fried with sweet potatoes, onions, cabbage, and rice cakes. The kicker is that all of this is cooked in that sinfully addicting Korean chili sauce known as gochujang. Now naïve and foolish me did not even consider the fact that such a dish could be improved, but my friend Jun (Jun I send a prayer of thanks to you every time I eat dalkgalbi now) showed me that I had only just scratched the surface. Of course cheese is like magical fairy dust (along with bacon) in that it always makes any food better, so Jun not only ordered cheese rice cakes, but also covered the entire dish with melted cheese. To kick up the flavor another notch, he asked for more spice in the gochujang, which left all of us wiping the sweat from our brows by the end of the meal. I get so excited when they add extra spice that it takes all of my restraint to not just channel my inner Emeril Lagasse and scream “BAM!” at the top of my lungs.
While it does not pack quite the same punch of flavor as dalkgalbi in my humble opinion, bibimbap is still a classic comfort food for me. It is a simple dish consisting of rice topped with a variety of vegetables, typically also including some type of diced meat (spam if you’re a plebeian but beef if you are classier). An egg (raw or fried) is added on top, as well as a healthy dollop of gochujang. This dish holds a special place in my heart because it was a staple of my diet back in the dark days of Korean incompetence, where the word 비빔밥 was one of the only Korean words I could easily recognize. Though I no longer eat it with such frequency, bibimbap still always remains a solid option if I am looking for a filling meal.
Continuing on the carb train, we come to my favorite noodle dish in Korea. Jajangmyeon’s distinctive flavor comes from the deliciously salty black bean sauce that smothers the noodles. Mixed in is an assortment of vegetables (typically potatoes and onions) as well as diced pork. The best part of the jajangmyeon restaurant that I frequent is the noodles, which are handmade every day in the front of the store. They are incredibly long, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself slurping up noodles rather noisily throughout the meal. As a notoriously messy and savage eater I of course have no qualms about this at all.
I hope this blog got some of your stomachs’ rumbling, because it certainly has mine growling. That is slightly embarrassing considering I ordered two entrees at Don Enrique’s a few hours ago, but so goes the life of the dedicated glutton. Bon appétit my friends!
Patrick Sheridan grew up in the quiet suburbs outside of Boston but always knew he wanted to explore the world. Studying abroad in Denmark while attending Elon University did not satisfy this desire, so after graduating in 2012 he decided to join Chungdahm Learning and teach English in South Korea. He loves wandering through the various neighborhoods of his city Daejeon, sampling random back-alley restaurants and attempting to communicate with the locals in his horribly broken Korean. He embraces everything Korean and looks forward to seeing everything South Korea has to offer.