Often spicy, packed with flavour, and always colourful, Korean cuisine doesn't just wow the senses–it steamrolls them. However, the vast array of dishes can leave new visitors lost and forlorn somewhere between bibimbap and bulgogi. This article seeks to simplify the process just a little, by pointing out the 5 must-try dishes. Make the time to enjoy them on your trip!
Note: you will notice that we do not cover Korean barbecue. While an essential and internationally popular facet of the cuisine, the topic is too big to be addressed as only one point on a list and will receive its own article.
Cover picture: Korean meal table from https://www.flickr.com/photos/koreanet/4553953910/ by Republic of Korea. License: CC BY-SA 2.0
Hotteok is the Korean spin on Western pancakes. Think of your well-known Sunday morning breakfast. Then picture them stuffed with a thin powder rich in cinnamon, honey, and peanuts. Grill it just enough to make the outside crispy, but leave the inside so soft it melts in your mouth. The result is Hotteok–the perfect winter street food to warm your insides. Be sure to give them a try!
Ah yes, Kimchi. The Korean food. Kimchi is an iconic staple of Korean cuisine, known around the world even to those who haven't tried it, and for good reason. At its core, Kimchi is a side dish made from fermented vegetables–cabbage and Korean radishes are the usual selection–and mixed with scallions, ginger and other seasonings. Its weight in Korean cooking cannot be understated, and no dinner is complete without a helping of this classic.
Bibimbap is the ultimate food. Simple rice is mixed with glorious condiments, including sauteed vegetables, mushrooms, soy sauce, beef, a fried egg, and good ol' gochujang, or chili pepper paste. Just as yummy both cold and hot, the heavy vegetable and protein content make it both healthy and incredibly delicious. No trip to Korea is free without a taste.
Time for our noodle dish! Japchae combines a chewy glass noodle base with stir-fried sweet potato, shredded vegetables, beef, and some sweet soy sauce to produce an eclectic world of flavour. While once served only for Korean royalty, it's now a popular dish for celebrations like weddings and holidays.
5. Korean Fried Chicken
Last, but oh-so-definitely not least is Korean fried chicken. The cuisine's unique spin on the ubiquitous dish has reached acclaim all around the world. Korean fried chicken is coated with a more delicate sauce, made with sweet chili and soy sauce as creative spins. Korean fried chicken with beer is called Chimaek, and it has been made popular by scenes in famous Korean dramas.