Eating the local cuisine is one of the best ways to experience a country’s culture. Like most cuisines around the world, traditional Korean food has been influenced over the centuries by conquests and the conquerors. Traditional Korean foods include subtle elements from Japan, Mongolia and China that have enhanced the flavour of Korean cuisine. When you visit South Korea you will find plenty of traditional Korean dishes from barbeque (gui) to stews (jjigae) to soups (guk) to side dishes (banchan) and something sweet (dijeoteu) that will surely please your palate.
If you are wondering what to eat in South Korea, then here are 10 traditional Korean food dishes that you must try.
One of the more popular Korean food dishes, this dish (pictured above) consists of thinly sliced meat strips that are marinated to have a sweet or spicy, smoky flavour. Bulgogi is prepared with either beef or pork and is generally grilled but also is prepared by roasting, broiling or in a stir-fry manner. Bulgogi is believed to have been part of the Korean diet since the Goguryeo period from 37 BC and was called neobiani during the Joseon Dynasty.
Kimchi is probably the most recognizable traditional Korean food in the world. Napa cabbage is more commonly used for kimchi although various vegetables can be fermented to make kimchi too. There are numerous ways to prepare kimchi based on flavouring elements during the fermentation process that can range from radish to fiery pepper to ginger. Kimchi dates back to the Three Kingdoms of Korea that ruled from 37 BC to 7 AD and is recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity Item.
Haejangguk aka Hangover Stew is a delightful cure for the morning after drinking Soju. The hearty soup is generally derived from beef broth that includes dried Napa Cabbage as well as other vegetables. Around the country there are three main types of haejangguk that include an ox bone broth, another with sliced squid served cold and the third is prepared with a raw egg. When you are in Seoul the Cheongjin-dong neighbourhood is famous for their style of this exquisite dish. The soup dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty beginning in 918 AD.
Samgyeopsal, also known as pork belly is a typical Korean food that is grilled before eating. Traditional samgyeopsal is not marinated or seasoned before cooking but in recent years, Koreans have been marinating the meat with slices of garlic, onions and green peppers. The meat is very popular as South Korea cuisine and even has its own holiday which is the third day of March.
- Tip: If you are searching for the best bibimbap, then travel to the capital city of Jeonju in the North Jeolla Province where you will find a version that dates back to the Joseon Dynasty.