‘Korean food is a culture in its own right and, when visiting the country, it’s your duty (no, seriously….) to check it out. These are 9 essential eats in Seoul…’
Kimchi is Korea’s national dish and is made of salted, fermented veggies (mainly cabbage) in a chilli paste. It sounds horrendous, but it’s actually really tasty. Koreans eat it with most dishes – as a side – and you’ll usually be presented with a little bowl of it, regardless of what you order when you eat out.
Kimchi is also a very popular street food and is popular for its taste, as well as its purported health benefits. It’s not to everyone’s liking, but try it and you’ll please your hosts. We loved it.
Bibimbap literally translates to English as ‘mixed rice’ and is the ultimate Korean comfort food.
Served in a bowl, it consists of warm white rice, namul (edible grass or leaves), gochujang (red chilli paste) and soy. It’s often served with a fried or raw egg on top, along with strips of meat.
Spicy Korean Ramen
On our first day in Gangnam, Les and I headed out to a little restaurant and placed an order for two bowls of ramen with pork belly. The lady who served us made sure we understood that the dish was spicy before going off to make it and, to be honest, this should really have been our first clue.
I love spicy food; usually the spicier the better in my book but, Holy Mother of Christ, this was off the scale. It was also amazing, but my entire mouth was on fire for the duration and I felt like I had Kylie Jenner’s lips by the time I’d finished. Much water was consumed.
No trip to Korea is complete without indulging in some world-famous Korean BBQ. This is the traditional practice of grilling meat (pork, beef or chicken) on charcoal. When dining out, you’ll often find the BBQ is actually set into the dining table and it’s a great experience to watch it being prepared.
Bulgogi and galbi are two of the most popular BBQ dishes, made from marinated sirloin steak and short ribs, respectively. Chadolbegi, on the other hand, is un-marinated beef, cut so thin, it cooks in seconds when thrown in a hot pan. Talk about fast food…
This is served as a side with most main dishes and is made from picked daikon radishes. The radishes are flavoured with rice vinegar, turmeric and garlic and are the perfect way to cool down your mouth after a particularly spicy bowl of chilli ramen.
Bulgogi is the classic Korean recipe for grilled, marinated beef. The word literally translates as ‘fire meat’, which signifies the fact that the strips of beef are caramelised on a BBQ (or a griddle, if cooking at home).
Although the dish is extremely popular in the South, it actually originated in North Korea, in the province of Pyongan. No news whether people in the North eat it, though. I believe things are kinda of a secret up there…
You can buy bulgogi in fast food sandwiches and hamburgers are often billed as ‘bulgogi flavoured’, meaning the meat has been marinated in the traditional seasonings. It’s best eaten with rice or in a traditional Korean hot-pot for a more authentic experience.
Deep Fried Corn Dog
Korean street food is fantastic, and this battered, deep-fried, hot dog concoction has to be up there with the best. It’s sort of sweet and savoury at the same time if that doesn’t make it sound too disgusting? It’s like a sausage encased in a doughnut.
I realise I make it sound horrendous, but it’s SO good. Street food in Korea is of such a high standard and the smells that emanate from the stalls make it impossible to walk by without buying something.
You will often find these small tubular, stir-fried rice cakes being served on street food carts. There are many variations to the basic recipes, which sees them served with cream sauce, curry or seafood. Traditionally, they are either served with gochujang (chilli paste) or ganjang (soy sauce).
Tkoek-bokki is a very popular snack food and common ingredients include boiled eggs, spring onions and fish.
Japchae is a starchy noodle made from sweet potato and stir-fried with meat and veggies. It is usually seasoned with soy and sesame oil. Although it’s often eaten as a side dish, as a main, it’s served with rice.
Japchae is a popular dish to serve on special occasions in Korea. In particular, it’s eaten to mark first and sixtieth birthdays, as well as weddings and holiday celebrations.
What are your essential eats in Seoul?