I swear I’m not being bias because I’m Korean… but I’d honestly have to say that South Korea has some of the best food in the world! From amazing street food, to some of the freshest seafood… you can find pretty much any and everything there!
When you plan your trip to Korea be prepared to EAT, EAT, EAT and DRINK, DRINK, DRINK… alcohol, that is. Did I mention that South Korea is the number one country in the world for alcohol consumption? They currently drink twice as much as Russians and four times as much as Americans. What can I say… Koreans LOVE to drink!
While you probably won’t be able to eat everything that I wish I could recommend to everyone in one trip… (unless you plan to be there for a few months)… Here are some of my absolute favorite Korean foods that everyone must try when in South Korea! Don’t be alarmed, I know most of these things are pretty foreign to most people but I always say keep an open mind! You never know until you try it!
BOSSAM (boiled pork wraps)
Sounds a little weird right? But it is oh sooo good. Perfectly steamed slices of pork belly accompanied with a bunch of different sauces. You wrap the pork belly in a piece of napa cabbage and you can add kimchi, slices of garlic and top with a spicy bean paste. The perfect snack to have with a group of friends!
Sure, you can find some decent Korean BBQ here in the states but it does not compare to what they serve in Korea. I won’t get into detail with this one but TRUST me.
JOKBAL (pig’s feet)
My dad took me to this small alleyway where they had a huge stall of pig’s feet just sitting there. At first, I thought this was… to be honest, a little sketchy, but once we got our food… I was in heaven. It was so delicious! A huge plate of sliced pig’s feet, a stew and soju (Korean alcohol) for less than $20! Can’t beat that!
NANGMYUN (cold noodle soup)
If you go to Korea in the winter, they probably won’t be serving this… as it can get to negative 20 degrees! But if you visit in the summer, this is the best dish to cool you down on a hot, summer day. The broth is made from a beef broth and has buckwheat noodles, topped with a perfectly cooked hard boiled egg, kimchi, cucumbers, fresh pear and sliced meat. Mmm.. I wish I had a big bowl in front of me right now.
HAEJANGGUK (hangover soup)
Haejangguk is known as the “hangover soup”. Everyone flocks to the restaurants that serve this after a heavy night of drinking. It is said to cure your hangover. I can’t say that it works… but it is really yummy regardless. It consists of napa cabbage, bean sprouts and some other vegetables in a hearty meat broth. Sometimes it comes with pieces of congealed ox blood. Don’t be scared! It’s really good!
The best dumplings I’ve ever had in my life. Enough said.
KALGUKSU (handmade noodle soup)
Kalguksu can be made from a few different broths. Some are made from chicken broth and some from clams. I like both, so whatever your preference is. The noodles are handmade, so you can already taste the difference. Every recipe is different, but it usually is topped with sliced meat, sliced omelette and green onions.
Korean street food has to be one of the best, probably after Japanese street food. It’s super convenient if you’re on the go and super cheap if you’re broke. They have everything from spicy rice cakes, sausages on sticks, roasted chestnuts, dumplings, fish cake soup, ramen, etc… the list goes on! Street food is a great place to stop for a quick bite in between your drunken festivities.
Although, not found in Seoul (the capital), not too far of a train ride, you will find yourself in Busan, South Korea’s second most populated city where they have some of the freshest seafood I have ever had! Jagalchi Market is their famous seafood market. They have rows and rows of seafood… from crabs, fish, shrimp, to some things that I have never even seen before! You pick out your catch and they bring it up to you in the restaurant. Can’t get any fresher than that! Make sure you try the sashimi style for the fish and then they take the head and bones of the fish and make a spicy stew for you to eat with rice at the end. It is the BEST.
I can’t forget to mention Korean alcohol! There are a few different types… the most popular, well known one is called soju. Soju is a clear, colorless distilled beverage made from rice. It is usually taken straight as a shot but it’s become very popular to mix with juices and sodas. But be cautious, it tastes delicious but it will definitely creep up on you! Then we have makkoli. Makkoli is a slightly sweet alcoholic beverage that is made from rice or wheat. It has an off-white milky color. This is my favorite. Another popular alcoholic beverage in Korea is called bokbunja. Bokbunja is a dessert wine made from raspberries that is typically served chilled. This one is really delicious and sweet.
There’s also tons of beers to choose from as well. So, if you’re not a hard liquor person, don’t worry, they’ve got everyone covered.