Korean food is quite unique with many dishes heavily relying upon the use of red pepper paste, garlic, ginger, meat and vegetables. Listed on this page are not only typically or traditionally Korean foods, but also foreign dishes which are popular in Korea.
Ingredients and Side DishesEdit
This section includes raw ingredients such as vegetables and meat cuts, as well as sauces, spices, and side dishes (because certain side dishes are little more than raw ingredients).
Korean food involves a lot of small side dishes called Pan Chan 반찬. Many of these side dishes have a very strong or spicy flavor to counterbalance the blandness of rice. Often Koreans will make a meal simply out of a bowl of rice and a few side dishes.
- Bean sprouts Fc Most commonly-used in Korea are soybean sprouts. These are known as kong-namul and are used in soups (kongnamul gukbap, some types of haejangguk, etc.), in bibimbap and as panchan (side-dish) with a meal. When used as panchan they are often flavoured with sesame oil. You may sometimes find mung-bean sprouts, as well as smaller types that are used in the "well-being" dishes that have become somewhat of a craze.
- Bijijang 비지장 This is sold by ajumahs at shijangs, often next to the cheonggukjang. They start with "biji" or tofu lees (okara.) They ferment this in little wheels until it begins to stink like a funky cheese. Now it's ready. Use it in soups, or fry with kimchi. Or don't buy it unless you really like Korean food......
- Cabbage - Nappa or Chinese-type 양배추 The basis of kimchi and a frequently used vegetable in many dishes. Also used as a taco shell in ssambap.
- Chungguk Jang 청국장 Stronger tasting than twenjang, it is also used for soups. The jang is often sold in small wheels consisting of whole fermented beans. You can buy it in stores. Or buy it from women in the market, homemade and with their own distinctive character. I got one in Kimcheon that had overtones of coffee and chocolate, reminded me just a bit of Japanese natto in aroma though not in texture.
- Clams 조개 Found in soups, often with the shell included. Be careful not to suck down a shard of the shell when you eat them.
- Corn syrup 물엿 A thick, clear liquid used as a sweetener for many sauces.
- Dashida 다시다 A flavor salt containing Miwon.
- Dwen Jang 된장 A brown paste made from soybeans. It's not spicy but has a rather strong flavor.
- Garlic 마늘 A lot of dishes are served with slices of garlic. Remember, you have to make sure these are cooked well because raw garlic burns! Then again, a lot of raw garlic is eaten with sundae, sangyeopsal, ssambap, and such. So make sure you wrap a lettuce leaf around the raw garlic slice before eating it, and the bacon fat will cut the burn as well.
- Green Onions 파 Found in all sorts of dishes, cooked and raw. Green onions range in size from very tiny to huge. Similar is 부주 Buchu (a kind of chive)- eat it in jeon (fried pancakes) or as panchan eaten raw with chile and oil and vinegar and salt added.
- Green Pepper 고추 Often served whole as a side dish, along with a little Ssam Jang. Some arents spicy and some are extremely spicy. Usually the small ones are the spicy ones. In Korean there is a saying, "The little Gochus are the spiciest ones," referring to people with a Napoleon complex.
- Kimchi/Gimchi/Kimchee 김치 is the unique staple dish of Korea and is said to stave off anything from SARS to cancer. Its usually made from cabbage that is pickled, fermented, spiced, garnished, buried underground, forgotten, rediscovered, flogged, mashed, seven times cursed, seven times sealed, stripped and chopped.
- Leeks 부추 Also, known as "Korean chives" used as panchan fresh with chile, and in jeon 천
- Miwon 미원 Pure MSG in white crystal form (similar to salt). The use of Miwon is generally frowned upon by Korean traditionalists, but nonetheless is present in a lot of cheap foods (ramen, etc.)
- Onion 양파 Very frequently used in Korean cooking.
- Pickled Radishes 무 Koreans love pickled radishes as a side dish. The type served in the kimbap and fast food places is usually white or bright yellow and always gross. With traditional meals you'll get radish cubes, sometime small whole radishes with part of the greens left on them, or radish shreds. This type of radishes is pickled like cabbage kimchi with lots of chile. Another variety is "mul kimchi" which has little or no chile, doesn't take long to prepare and comes with its own edible broth.
- Rice 밥/쌀 Combine with Kimchi and good fortune will be yours.
- Rice - Glutenous 찹 짤 Also known as sticky rice. Used in some kinds of 떡 (rice cake,) in desserts, etc.
- Red Pepper 고추 Koreans love spicy stuff. And most Korean food gets its kick from red peppers. Often its made into a paste called gochu jang 고추장.
- Red Pepper Powder 고추가루 Kochukaru. Dried and powdered red pepper.
- Ramen 라면 Its pronounced more like 'lamyun' around here. Spicier than the stuff back home. One of the most famous brands is Shin Ramen, which features the 辛 character on the package. Like the meaning of 辛, this ramen is spicy.
- Sesame Leaf 갰잎 Often used to wrap things. Sometimes made into kimchi (which is still used to wrap things. The seed are roasted and ground, or made into oil. It's not the real sesame plant, its products taste quite different.
- Sesame Oil 참기름 Often mixed with salt and used to dip samgyupsal in.
- Soy Sauce 간장 An effective salt delivery system. Various types exist including guk-kanjang, a rather tasteless type added directly to soups.
- Seafood 해물
- Ssam Jang 쌈장 Combine Gochu Jang with Dwen Jang and you have Ssam Jang. Served with Sam Kyup Sal often. Eat with green peppers. Or in Sambap.
- Tofu 두부 Made from coagulated soymilk, this squishy white substance is generally the same as the tofu found in Western countries. When cooking with Tofu, you should keep any unused portions soaking in water and replace that water almost daily. You can buy in in blocks, or in the sundubu form where there's loose curds floating in water, or in a squeeze bottle you can use to lace soup.
- Udon Noodles 우동 Thick japanese noodles. You can buy these in pre-cooked packs, or un-pre-cooked, with flavouring packets.
Click on the names to go to a Google Image search for each food.
- Boshin Tang 보신탕 Dog meat soup. Supposed to enhance male virility and get you through the 'dog days' of summer.
- Bi Bim Bap 비빔밥 Some rice mixed with vegetables, a fried egg, and some hot red pepper sauce. May or may not come with small pieces of beef. The [i]dol-sot[/i] version is cooked in a stone dish and results in a crispy rice shell forming where the rice touches the dish.
- Bokum Bap 볶음밥 Korean fried rice is different from the Chinese type - less greasy for one. Small pieces of vegetables are added - perhaps carrots, potatoes, onions, green onions, etc. Often you'll find ham or some spam-type meat, also added in very small pieces.
- Bo Ssam 보쌈 This is a platter with a lot of boiled pork cuts on it. You wrap these in cabbage or other leaves, along with rice, garlic, and/or other items. Presto, Korean tacos!
- Budae Jigae 부대찌개 A kimchi soup that features an odd collection of meats such as Spam and hotdogs. The name of this soup translates roughly as "Army soup," possibly because the Spam in the soup was associated with the U.S. army. According to some sources, this soup was invented by Koreans who scrounged through the U.S. Army's garbage in the aftermath of the Korean War.
- Bulgogi 불고기 beef in a sauce that is amazingly neither bitter nor spicy. A pretty foreigner-friendly food.
- Cajun Chicken Salad 케이준 치킨 샐러드 This is some fried chicken on a salad covered in honey mustard sauce. You know, just like they do it down on the bayou.
- Cheon 천 A pancake-like dish made from potato starch or flour that contains onions, korean chives (부추) and possibly squid, kimchi or other ingredients.
- Curry 카래 Korean style yellow curry stew.
- Ddok Boggi 떡볶이 Rice cake 'rods' in spicy sauce, commonly sold by street vendors. You can buy the ddeokbokk ddeok in the market and make your own - try it boiled in soup, or with something tasty like peanut sauce (not a Korean concept for this Korean food item).
- Dong Cass 돈까스 Fried cutlet. Either pork or fish or something. I think this food is borrowed from the Japanese "don-katsu."
- Fried Chicken 후라이드 치킨 Tired of that healthy crap? Jump on the heart attack wagon. Koreans love fried chicken. There's KFC and Popeyes, but also a lot of domestic brands.
- Gyeran Tang 계란탕 This is an egg soup. If you don't like eggs, you should steer clear of this. Why? Because its an egg soup, moron.
- Hot Dog A corn dog. Go figure.
- Jajang-myeon 자장면 Adapted from a Chinese noodle dish, the sauce is made with black beans, minced pork and vegetables.
- Kopchang 곱창 Beef intestines, usually cooked with peppers and onions and served with raw liver.
- Kamja Tang 감자탕 The name of this soup is often misunderstood by foreigners and Koreans alike. The word Kamja (감자) is usually used when referring to potatoes. But in Kamjatang (감자탕) the word Kamja (감자) refers to the Chinese version of kamja, which translates out to be lower back bone. The lower back bone of pigs are included in this traditionally spicy dish. Pulling the meat off the bones can take some practice with chopsticks, but the tender pieces of pork are well worth it.
- Kim Chee Jigae 김치찌개 A spicy stew made from kimchi, meat is usually added, pork and sometimes tuna.
- Kim Bap 김밥 Like a sushi roll but no raw fish (though fish cake("Odeng") is often used. Some rice, eggs, ham, vegetables and who knows what else all rolled into some dried seaweed paper and sliced up. Very cheap. You can live off this stuff.
- Mandu 만두 Dumplings. Either fried (군만두) or soggy (물만두). Check out the movie Old Boy for crazy mandu-related hi-jinx.
- Mayoon Tang 매운탕 The name means spicy soup and its pretty accurate.
- Raw Fish 회 You can go to a 회 restaurant and get all sorts of slimy monstrosities from writhing strips of live squid to whole live octopi. (Again see the film Oldboy for live octopi in action) Also there are a lot of Japanese style sushi places in the trendy districts.
- ShabuShabu 샤브샤브In keeping with the cook-it-yourself nature of Korea food, this is a soup where you must cook thin little slices of beef and vegetables in the boiling broth. Originally a Mongolian dish, it's rumored that it was a quick efficient way to feed the troops during Ghengis Khan's days.
- Sam Gyup Sal 삼겹살 sliced pork belly that is cooked on a little grill right in front of you. You dip it in sesame sauce and wrap it in lettuce and you're good to go.
- Seollung Tang 설렁탕 A mild soup made with beef bone broth and some beef, green onions, and translucent noodles in it.
- Soon Dae 순대 Blood Sausages, akin to black pudding. Tastes much better than it sounds. Gut segments containing blood and chap chae noodles (Yam starch noodles).
- Soon Doo Boo 순두부 And a soon du bu to you too (cymbal crash). 'Du Bu' is Korean for Tofu and this is a spicy soup with big chunks of silken white tofu in it. Though some restaurants serve a very bland version of Sundubu, not much more than tofu in hot water, add your own flavourings from the side.
- Twee Gim 튀김 This is fried stuff. Usually shrimp and assorted vegetables. I think its the same as Japanese tempura, but a I could be wrong. Can you guess what 감자 튀김 is? Yeah, just french fries.
- Twenjang Jjigae Fermented soy bean soup, think a richer more pungent version of miso, made with vegetables, tofu and sometimes meat.
- Baek Sae Ju 백세주 This is a nutty flavored liquor. The name means '100 Years Liquor.' Koreans often mix it half-and-half with Soju to make '50 Years Liquor.'
- Dongdong Ju 동동주 Similar to Makkeolli. In fact, I don't know what the difference is.
- Gashiokapi or Kashi Okapi 가시오가피 Flavored with Acanthropus, a medicinal herb. The best brand, DongJjim, is made in a small town in Cholla buk-do. It goes for 3000 won or less, has less sugar and more flavour than the other brands.
- Makkeolli 막걸리 This is is a cloudy, tan-colored liquor that is usually served in a big bowl and drunken in smaller bowls. Lord, it will get you wasted. Though this is called rice wine it is usually predominately made from wheat. There's usually at least a bit of rice in it.
- Korean Beer 맥주 There are a few really common brands: Cass, OB, and Hite. Out of these, I prefer Hite, but they're all very mass-produced budweiser clones. Also available are Hite Stout and Red Rock which attempt to be somewhat more flavorful and succeed very marginally. If Cass is too classy for you, you can try the knock-off brand Cash.
Korea has a pretty strong drinking culture. You'll commonly see people staggering the streets of major cities at 6 or 7 PM. When Koreans drink in groups, they insist on pouring each other's drinks. When drinks are poured, strict observance is paid to the social heirarchary of the group. Older or higher ranking people may pour drinks and accept them with one hand, but younger people must perform these actions with two hands. If it is physically inconvenient to pour a drink with two hands, the second hand may be placed on the wrist or the elbow or even the breast to signify respect. When drinks are poured, they should not be drunken without doing a "cheers" with the group. Often Koreans will say 'Kompay' or 'Kompai' while doing this. When the glasses are clinked together, younger people should clink their glasses on the lower part of an older person's glass to show respect. Then, when the glass is drunk, the younger person should slightly turn away and cover his/her mouth while drinking. As the night progresses, Koreans will tend to become 'forgetful' about doing cheers every time. But a polite person will still keep a close watch to see that his/her partners always have a full glass
Foreigners, however, are generally excused from these requirements. When drinking with foriegners, Koreans. tend to simply require that a foreigner do a few cheers and not drink alone, but with little concern for the finer points of etiquette.