Korean Fried Chicken is one of the few Korean dishes you should sample when visiting South Korea. // © 2017 Creative Commons user Arnold Gatilao
Feature image (above): Bibimbap is a staple in Korean cuisine. // © 2017 Creative Commons user Kevin Lam
When we speak of Korean food, at least in the U.S., we are invariably referring to a Korean barbecue feast that comes with a mountainous pile of marinated meat and a plethora of delicious sides whose names we can’t quite pronounce or even remember.
Well, that and kimchi.
Like with any other cuisine, there’s more to Korean food than these mainstream dishes. And others, however lesser known, are just as pleasurable to sample. Stir your appetite with these 10 Korean dishes.
Rice is a fundamental part of every Asian meal, and rice bowls make a frequent appearance in Korea. In Korean cuisine, there’s “bibimbap,” which means “mixed rice.” It is essentially a bowl of warm white rice topped with sauteed veggies; “jang,” a fermented sauce; and thin slices of meat, usually beef, that you mix together before digging in.
Also known as the Korean pancake, this addicting dish, which involves pan-frying an ingredient soaked in egg or a batter, is a big favorite among Korean locals. Made with kimchi, buckwheat, Korean zucchini or scallions, “buchimgae” is widely considered a comfort food. There are several variations of this dish, with people adding their own desired savory fillings, such as squid, bacon and potatoes.
Fried chicken is also popular among Korean people. A favorite dish is “dakgangjeong,” which is essentially a deep-fried chicken dish. The chicken pieces, which can be a whole chicken cut into small pieces or just chicken wings, are crispy yet sticky and sweet thanks to the spicy-sweet sauce they’re smothered in.
What’s better than a warm, hearty rice bowl? One that’s served in a hot stone pot. “Dolsot bibimbap,” a popular variation of bibimbap, is served sizzling in a hot stone pot and with a raw egg on top. It makes for a more comforting version of bibimbap and is crunchy on the sides and at the bottom.
For a snack, a light meal or a packed picnic, “gimbap” is just the ticket. The Korean version of a sushi roll, made from cooked rice and wrapped in seaweed, is stuffed with a combination of fillings. These fillings can include cheese, carrots, luncheon meat and spam or, less commonly, spicy cooked squid and spicy tuna.
“Japchae” is South Korea’s version of a typical Asian noodle dish, stir-fried with veggies in sesame oil. Savory and sweet, this sweet-potato noodle dish is typically served as a side dish in many Korean households. However, it can be enjoyed as a main dish on rice, especially when served with beef.
It might be ideal for cold days, but people in Korea consume this stew any day, at any time. The comforting bowl, made of kimchi (the older and more fermented, the better), tofu, slices of pork or seafood, onions, scallions and sesame oil, is flavorful and comforting.
“Naengmyeon” is lighter in flavor than Vietnamese pho, and it’s served cold, which might be a bit strange to those who are used to eating warm noodles. However, this buckwheat noodle dish — served in a mild, cold broth — is a North Korean specialty (and it is served in the south, as well).
Whenever someone offers you ox-bone soup, don’t think. Just say yes. Light yet savory, “seolleongtang” is often served with rice and side dishes. This slightly milky soup made of ox bones, brisket and other ingredients is a local dish in Seoul. That alone makes it worth a try.
Similar to gnocchi but chewier in texture, “tteokbokki” can be a bit of an acquired taste due to its texture and the fact that it may come with fish cakes. This rice cake dish, which is smothered in spicy “gochujang” sauce, is a staple in Korean households. It’s so common, in fact, that it comes in different variations these days.