After a few people came to Korea for the first time and I was bubbling with things for them to do and especially eat, I knew that this post needed to be written. I’m obsessed with food and I love eating. I’ll try almost anything at least once. This list is definitely not an exhaustive list of everything delicious in Korea; that’s just impossible to do. This is just a list of what kinds of food I would definitely force my family members to eat if they came to visit. That means what I find especially delicious will easily find itself at the top, it’s just the nature of the game. Soju & makgoelli are also on this list, despite being drinks.
I’ve grouped them into fives, the ones at the top are more important than the groups at the bottom. Meatless items have an asterisk (*) and full-blown, no fish and no meat vegetarian items are doubly starred (**). I’ve linked each item either to my own post, a Wikipedia entry or occasionally elsewhere to clarify what exactly it is.
Are you ready to eat? You’ll need a very, very empty stomach and perhaps a solid week to even manage all of these items. Here they are!
- Patbingsu**: Ice, condensed milk, sweet red bean, rice cake, maybe nuts or other additives and you have one addictingly delicious dessert. That link leads to a guest post in which I raved for several paragraphs, in detail, about the food I’ll miss the most from Korea.
- Instant Ramyeon noodles** from the convenience store, because when in Korea…
- Hwae*, or sashimi (Wikipedia has such a weird spelling for this word, please disregard) is basically sushi, just without all of those unnecessary extras like rice or avocado. Raw fish, dip in spicy sauce, and eat.
- Samgyeopsal or Korean barbeque is meat-tastic and delicious; technically samgyeopsal refers to thick pieces of bacon that you grill at your table, but the same shops will also sell several other cuts of meat like rib or beef. Eat with lettuce, spicy sauce, garlic and other additives for a mouth-flavor explosion.
- Bibimbap(**) is a very typical cheap lunch with a rice base and several different kinds of vegetables that you mix together and maybe add spicy pepper paste to. You can ask for no meat, if you’re a veggie, and some versions already replace the meat with a kind of vegetable.
- Hoddeok** is the sweet dessert of my dreams during the winter. It’s fried rice cake, filled with cinnamon and other nutty flavors on the inside.
- Ddeokbokki* is a street food that’s especially good at night, after a few glasses of alcohol, with fried foods to dip in the sauce. Think hot rice cake and little bits of fish cakes covered in liquid spiciness.
- Soju** tastes terrible but it’s a rite of passage, however don’t underestimate the alcohol content in it. It’s like vodka’s weak and grosser cousin that for some reason grows on you.
- Makgeolli** is amazing when done right and an unfortunate decision when done wrong. Kind of like rice water with sugar and alcohol.
- Sweet filled rice cakes**, preferably purchased from an elderly Grandma on the street are usually filled with things like honey, sesame seeds, or red bean. It’s always a surprise when you bite into one!
- Fried chicken with sweet chili sauce. Self explanatory.
- Mandu, or Korea’s version of dumplings, are addicting. Three typical kinds: kimchi (spicy!), pork and vegetables, or seafood.
- Grilled eel* is exactly what it sounds like, and it’s yummy.
- Raw beef and I promise you won’t die. Really. Mix with raw egg for the most tasty results.
- Cold noodles(**), but proceed with caution because there is a large variety of tastes and some are quite strange, for best results, get a solid description in English (some noodles are in a beef broth, some are not).
- Kimbab(*)(**), it looks like sushi but can have meat, tuna or simply vegetables inside instead of raw fish. It’s perfect for being on the go.
- Dakgalbi is chicken, grilled at your table with spicy sauce, cabbage and rice cake. For some strange reason it’s really good.
- Pork bone soup sounds terrifying, but it’s absolutely delicious. See the link for a more complete description: number 4, “Haejang Guk”.
- Coagulated blood soup also sounds terrifying, but tastes so yummy if you can get over the fact that you’re eating blood jello. Don’t worry, there are noodles and vegetables too!
- Squiggling, moving octopus* that you should chew very well before swallowing. This isn’t on the list for the taste, no it’s here because of the experience.
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