Oh I love South Korea, not only for its electronics, craziness, and endless supply of beauty products, but the food – just wow! Welcome to the land of fermented foods, chilli, shared meals, and sweets! My time spent in South Korea was pretty much a food safari first, and a tourist expedition second – thankfully I had my lovely friend Grace who is Korean and was able to point me in the direction of all the delectable goodness! If you don’t like spicy foods you might have trouble here!
Bulgogi (Korean BBQ)
You cannot go past a good old fashioned bulgogi while you are exploring the beautiful country. An array of juicy meats that you can cook to your liking, and a whole heap of different sides – pickled veg, kimchi, salads, seafood – what could go wrong? And it’s not too expensive too (always a bonus!) It isn’t heavy to eat either, so you can eat as much as you can and not feel super sluggish and in need of a nap after.
A huge staple in South Korea, there are over 100 different kimchi’s you can eat and everyone has a different way of making it. I ate it more than five times a day every day while I was there and not one tasted the same as the next. I love pickled and fermented foods and they are super healthy for you! If you don’t like spicy foods there are so many sweet and sour types available. It isn’t hard to find either as kimchi is often served as a side dish to all main meals in restaurants – and usually more than one variety.
A pork bone broth with stewed pork and vegetables like cabbage, potatoes, and spring onions, this dish is super hearty and warming and is a fantastic addition to a cold winters day in Seoul – we were exploring in -10 degrees celsius! It is filled with flavour and is super filling, usually designed to be shared between your friends.
A signature korean dish, it is a simple dish bursting with flavour and comes in so many different forms. Essentially it is a bowl of rice topped with different kinds of vegetables, meats, and often a raw egg which can be mixed in to the dish. It is super tasty, easy to find, healthy, and typically Korean. What more could you want?
Jokbal (Pig’s Feet)
It sounds weird, but I promise you it is delicious! There are many ways that they can be served and it is hugely popular with young people for the collagen benefits it provides. It is a little bit more on the costly side, but this giant plate here fed three people with so much leftover. It is juicy, chewy, and full of flavour. Be daring and try something new!
Big thick noodles in black bean sauce. So simple, so tasty, and a cheap filling meal. It is a really popular noodle dish and can be found all over the country.
It may look like a delicious plate of squid, but this is definitely one for the daring. Sannakji is live squid. Yes, live. It is so fresh that it is literally moving on the plate for a good 15 minutes, with the suction of the tentacles still active. Weird, I know, but I have lived in Japan before and I do love my seafood raw. It is an expensive delicacy, but it is absolutely delicious that we finished the entire plate – once we got over the fact that it felt like we were eating worms! It is salty and chewy and if you are an adventurous eater I couldn’t recommend it more.
Hot food served in plastic bags
This is pretty common in Seoul especially, but don’t be deterred! You can try delicious signature dishes such as Tteokbokki (middle) and Soondae (bottom) for only a few dollars all around the city, even at subway stops! Tteokbokki is a simple dish of rice cakes, fish cakes, and a sweet chilli sauce (which is great if you don’t like spicy) and Soondae which is essentially a pig blood sausage, but filled with barley, rice noodles, and pigs blood instead of meat. Both are super tasty and popular snack foods all around the country.
All the sweets!
Koreans definitely have a sweet tooth as there are so many sugary options available. Schnee Pang (top) is deep fried dough topped with sugar and flavours which, as pretty as it looks, isn’t served to you the way its displayed – it is put in a paper bag and smashed so you can eat the pieces. The bottom is pretty much a caramelised sugar cookie. There are so many tasty treats you can find in all the markets that I couldn’t possibly fit it in to one post!
A delicious pancake filled with honey, cinnamon, nuts, and brown sugar served hot. It is warming on your walk through the markets, delicious to eat, and usually costs about $1 for one!
The weird and wonderful
If you ever visit South Korea, just wander through the local markets, tourist markets, and any street food stalls that you can find as I am sure you will find a huge variety of things – even foods that you may have never tried or seen before! Be adventurous, get out there and see what they have to offer and try some new things. Experiencing the food of a country is a cultural experience and an essential element to travel. Just eat it!
Do you have any favourite Korean foods?