10 foods to try in South Korea

Discover a taste of South Korea with our essential must-try list of dishes. Treat your tastebuds to a hearty bibimbap or a traditional bulgogi barbecue

Seoul panorama at night

This list barely scratches the surface of must-try Korean cuisine, but includes some essential dishes to tick off your foodie list, whether you're visiting the country or a Korean restaurant. Linda Lee is the restaurateur behind fine-dining Korean barbecue restaurant Koba, street-food style On The Bab and On the Dak and Seoul-style ‘table and market’ Mee Market in Soho. 
 

Top 10 foods to try

Bibimbap

Bibimbap bowl with metal spoon
Probably the best-known Korean dish, this originated on the eve of Lunar New Year when it was traditional to use up all the vegetables and side-dishes in the house. A hot stone bowl is filled with cooked rice and topped with vegetables, pickled Chinese radish, carrot and mushrooms. Great care is taken to make the dish look attractive. Egg yolk and raw beef are also popular additions; when stirred through they cook against the hot stone. 

Try our cheat's bibimbap for a speedy twist on the classic. 

Kimchi 

Kimchi in bowl with chopsticks and napkin
Kimchi is lacto-fermented Chinese leaf (baechu kimchi) seasoned with chilli and enjoyed at almost every meal in Korea – usually as a side-dish. 

Make our quick kimchi for a spicy, tangy side. 

Kimchi fried rice

Kimchi on rice in bowl
For this dish, kimchi is used as an ingredient. To make it, fry diced pork in oil then add chopped kimchi and cooked rice, mixing together as you cook. Toss in some sesame oil and spring onion, and serve with a fried egg on top for a simple but hearty meal.

Sundubu Jjigae

Seafood stew in bowl topped with spring onions with rice in bowl and spoon
Jjigae is a type of rich, spicy stew. This seafood and silken tofu version is called sundubu and served like bibimbap in a hot stone bowl. 

Bulgogi 

Beef strips in bowl with vegetables and sesame seeds
Bulgogi is a traditional style of Korean barbecue. Beef, pork belly or chicken are marinated in soy sauce, sugar and pear juice, then cooked on a hot-plate on the table.  

Try it for yourself with our make-at-home bulgogi recipe

Toppoki

This popular, filling dish of dduk (ricecake), fishcake, and quail's eggs is cooked in a gochujang- based sauce, (a spicy, fermented red chilli paste). Typically bought from snack bars and street-food stalls, this is a savoury, soupy and very satisfying snack.

Japchae 

Glass noodles in bowl with vegetables and spoon
A glass noodle with a chewy texture (made with sweet potato) often stir-fried with crunchy vegetables, sesame oil, pepper and sugar and added to jorim (a broth-based sauce). 

Kan poong gi

Deep-fried chicken with spicy sauce, sesame seeds and peanuts on tray
Koreans love fried chicken, and this spicy, garlicky way of preparing it is very popular. Pieces of chicken are marinated, double deep-fried and covered in a kan poong chilli oil-based sauce. 

Yook hwei

Raw ground beef topped with egg yolk
A Korean version of steak tartare seasoned with sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, spring onion and Korean pear. Topped with an egg yolk, this is a subtle and sophisticated dish. It is often topped with pine nuts. 

Miso sobaegi

This umami-rich vegetarian dish of steamed and fried aubergine is topped with enoki, oyster and shiitake mushrooms, which have been cooked in a miso sauceand sprinkled with cress, deep-fried rice and sliced red chilli.

Mandu

Dumplings in steamer
Korean dumplings that can be steamed (jjin-mandu), fried (kun-mandu) or boiled (mul-mandu) and filled with chicken, veg or meat. 

Take a trip to our travel hub for more essential foodie travel advice and tips. 
 

Enjoyed these suggestions? Check out our other country guides...

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Comments, questions and tips

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Young Lim's picture
Young Lim
7th Feb, 2018
Great article! Thank you for mentioning Korean dishes. Kudos to BBC and Lee!
Mike Lee's picture
Mike Lee
7th Feb, 2018
Is this really a quality of an article from THE BBC? This writer has very little knowledge about Korean dishes. It is funny to see that this writer repeatedly use 'CHINESE' blah blah to explain Korean dishes. Absolutely wrong information. Are you serious? Come on BBC. You are better than this.
Michael L's picture
Michael L
7th Feb, 2018
I think this article is a good read for a Western audience. These are the types of dishes I would serve to a non-Korean friend to give them a taste for the cuisine. Also, you are nitpicking. The author used the term "Chinese" twice. It is my understanding that napa cabbage, and arguably daikon radishes, come from the geographic area that is today known as China. You did, however, miss the author's use of the term miso. Although miso was imported into Japan from Korea (I read this in a Japanese history book, and Japanese people have a thing about claiming they invented everything, so I presume this to be true), I commonly refer to dwenjang as Korean miso to non-Koreans because it is easier for them to understand. No harm, no foul, and certainly no disrespect to my ancestors.
David Hadway's picture
David Hadway
7th Feb, 2018
I thought the article was fine as an introduction to Korean food. Yeah, I wish that there were some more 'adventurous' dishes represented here, but no biggie. As far as the use of Chinese to describe some vegetables, I don't really see the issue. We say Chinese parsley for cilantro, hahaha. , Some folks use Won Bak or hakusai for Napa cabbage, its just that. As long at it tastes good and maybe introduces something new to people I'll all for it!
David Hadway's picture
David Hadway
7th Feb, 2018
Sorry for the grammar, long day and no food.
Young Lim's picture
Young Lim
7th Feb, 2018
David, No apology needed here! Great Job!
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