While there is absolutely no shortage of things for you to try, we’ve outlined the top five dishes that will enhance your South Korean experience.
You won’t have to go too far out of your way to try this staple side dish, as it is served at just about every meal. Kimchi is the term for a range of salted and fermented vegetables, most commonly napa cabbages and Korean radishes. It can absolutely pack a punch with its seasonings, which are commonly chilli powder, green onions, garlic, ginger and jeotgai (salted seafood).
The name bibimbap translates to ‘mixed rice’, and that should give you a clue how to eat it. The common version is rice topped with a range of sautéed or seasoned vegetables, raw or fried egg and sliced beef, accompanied with soy sauce and chilli paste. To eat, simply add your condiments, mix it together and enjoy! Keep an eye out for different versions as you travel through the country.
Quite literally, bulgogi means ‘fire meat’ and if you know anything about Korean cuisine, you’ll know that barbecues are one of their culinary specialties. Bulgogi is thinly sliced meat, usually beef or pork, marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, pepper and grilled on a barbecue. Vegetables such as green onions, ginger, mushrooms and onion are often served along with it.
Japchae is a sweet and savoury dish of stir-fried meat, vegetables and glass noodles, typically made from sweet potato starch. Once a royal dish, japchae is incredibly popular in South Korea as a celebration dish served on occasions such as weddings, birthdays and holidays. It’s usually served as a side dish, but you can, and absolutely should, ask for a main size.
Be vigilant if you’re on the lookout for hotteok (pronounced hot-tok) as it is sometimes spelled ‘hoddeok’ (the variations in spelling may throw visitors off the scent of this local favourite). It’s basically a pancake stuffed with a variety of fillings, anywhere from sweet to savoury, and when you try one you’ll understand why it’s so popular. Try the traditional syrupy cinnamon and peanut filling before trying the more advanced flavours such as green tea, corn and bokbunja (Korean raspberry).