I was born in South Korea, the land of the morning calm. At least that is what we called ourselves for generations. Today South Korea seems to have transitioned to a new identity - the home of KPop and Kdrama!
Visit Korea and you will see it is a country of many faces. To the north side of Seoul there is tradition and history. You will find museums, palaces and old style Korean homes called hanok. There are also unique and artsy shops, cafes and restaurants that give typical Korean asthetics a modern twist. Then go to the south side of Seoul, and you will experience the younger, hip, and vibrant face of Korea. Here is where all the Kpop entertainment companies exist along with modern and very trendy restaurants and cafes.
Then there are the rural areas which present yet another face. Away from the big cities there are mountains and farmlands with beautiful temples still existing.
Planning a trip to South Korea? Take my advice and be sure to try these the Korean dishes!
If you are meat lover, you must sample authentic Korean BBQ. Korean BBQ can be grouped into two different types based on flavor. The first group includes the most classic and traditional marinated dishes like Bulgogi (thin slices of ribeye steak) or Kalbi (short ribs). The second group includes un-marinated pork belly, short ribs and various other parts of the cow or pig with all the fixings which you can get from a Gui Jip (BBQ House). If you are limited to only one meal in Korea, I would say you need to have this one meat dish.
If you prefer seafood, not to worry, you will also have plenty of choices. You can order Gui (broiled fish) or Hwe (raw fish and seafood). The Koreans love eating raw squid, baby octopus, abalone, sea squirt, and fish. If you order a plate of sashimi, you get a whole table full of food including rice, side dishes and even a stew that’s made from leftover fish bones.
This is a Korean pickled (fermented) vegetable dish that is made with Korean red chili pepper, garlic, fish sauce and other seasonings. It is uniquely Korean so you should definitely give this a try. It is most commonly made with napa cabbage but can be made with other vegetables like radish or cucumber. Korean restaurants almost always serve this side dish.
Bibimbap is a rice bowl topped with mixed vegetables and meat. Dolsot Bibimbap means the dish is served sizzling in a hot stone bowl. I personally find the burnt rice at the bottom to be the best part of all – the rice tastes so crispy, nutty and delicious! Add some gochujang and sesame oil to the rice and then mix it all together to enjoy all the different vegetables Korea has to offer.
For a special treat, try a variation called SanNamul Bibimbap; this includes greens that come from all the beautiful mountains of Korea. It is not always available, but if you find yourself near the mountains there is likely to be a restaurant that specializes in this dish.
To make this version of chicken soup, Koreans boil a whole chicken along with various herbs and ginseng. This hot soup is especially popular during the hot summers because...maybe Koreans are crazy? Ha ha.
Actually, because the Korean summers are so hot, our ancestors made it a tradition to consume this famous chicken soup at the beginning, middle and end of the summer (based on the lunar calendar). Since you can easily lose an appetite and become weakened when the temperature rises, the periodic consumption of a protein filled soup like this helps you regain strength and endurance.
Similar to a Japanese sushi roll, Kimbap is a Korean rice roll. But instead of seafood, these rolls are filled with strips of vegetables and meat, usually beef. These rolls are typical lunchbox items or eaten as a snack.
This Korean spicy rice cake is the ultimate traditional Korean street food and snack. It is made from rice cake sticks that are cooked in gochujang sauce. They have a little bit of a spicy kick but, oh boy, this is such an addicting dish if you like chewy texture.
You can find these on the street or at a Bunsik restaurant that probably also serves Kimbap. These two items go wonderfully well together as a meal.
Fried chicken is not really a traditional Korean food. It only became popular in the late 1980s, and then it really took off after Korea’s IMF crisis in 1997 when many office managers were forced into early retirement; they started selling fried chicken to make a living.
Korean Fried chicken is extra crispy because it has a light coating and is double fried. It is served either with no sauce or with sauce (yangnyeom chicken) and then sometimes with green onions (padak). Though you might say America is the place for fried chicken, in my opinion you should still give Korean Fried Chicken a try because there is something just really special about it. While crispy, it remains juicy with less fatty and oily residue. In Korea this dish is also usually served with some condiments like pickled radish which really helps to cut the greasiness from your palate.
I appreciate this opportunity to share my love of Korean cooking with you and hope you will have the chance to travel and visit South Korea soon!
JinJoo Lee lives with her husband in San Jose, California, USA. She gives instruction on how to make authentic Korean sauces and dishes on her blog Kimchimari.com. You can also follow JinJoo on Twitter @JJKimchimari.
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