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Best Things to Eat in Korea | A Local’s Favorites

As a Korean-American, there are so many things to eat in Korea and many of these foods were typical in my household. I grew up eating Korean food at home and when visiting family in South Korea. If this is your first time visiting South Korea, you might be overwhelmed with the idea that most Korean foods are not vegan-friendly or you have heard they are extremely spicy. Yes, some of that may be true for most of them, but don’t be afraid to try some of these dishes. These are some of the most popular things to eat in Korea. I wanted to share my favorites with you so they are my favorite 10 things to eat in Korea.

If you want to know about dishes to eat in Busan, be sure to check out this Busan 2 Day Itinerary.

Korean street food at Gwangjang Market | Things to eat in South Korea
Korean street food at Gwangjang Market | Things to eat in South Korea

Popular Things to Eat in Korea | Foods you must eat in South Korea

Korean Barbeque | Things to eat in Korea
Korean Barbeque | Things to eat in Korea

Korean Barbeque – The  most popular things to eat in Korea

My personal favorite is Samgyeopsal (삼겹살)!! Samgyeopsal is pork belly.  They are not marinated (which in some American restaurants (which I won’t name) they marinate, GROSS!!).  The Korean way of eating Samgyeopsal is with sesame oil and salt. You dip it in the sauce before you wrap it.  Galbi (갈비) is also very delicious which is a rib. Additionally, Korean BBQ is typically eaten with lettuce, rice, meat, and sauce.  You place the rice in the lettuce, you add the meat and add Doenjang (된장), Gochujang (고추장) or Ssamjang (쌈장). Doenjang (된장) is a bean paste, Gochujang (고추장) is a pepper paste and Ssamjang (쌈장) is a mix of both.

Types of Korean barbeque meat to try

  • Samgyeopsal – Pork Belly
  • Bulgogi – Marinated Beef
  • Gopchang – Pig intestines 
Jjajangmyeon (짜장면) | Things to eat in Korea
Jjajangmyeon (짜장면) | Things to eat in Korea

Jjajangmyeon  (짜장면)

Also, known as black noodles.  This is considered to be Chinese, however, I have only seen this meal at a Korean/Chinese restaurant.  You might be hesitant to try it because it does look different. This dish isn’t spicy. Furthermore, the black sauce is poured over noodles and you mix it together.

Mandu and Kalguksu
Mandu and Kalguksu | Things to eat in Korea

Mandu

This is pretty much the Korean pot sticker or dumping.  This is very popular during the New Year. I like it fried, but oftentimes it is put into a soup.  Enough said!

Bibimbap (비빔밥) – Popular things to eat in Korea

Pretty much the Korean version of a burrito bowl, LOL.  This has all the fixings, veggies, meat, eggs, rice, and a spicy sauce.  It is usually mixed prior to eating.

Japchae (잡채)

This Korean dish is made with sweet potato noodles. This is one of the most popular things to eat in Korea.  Moreover, if you have had Filipino food, I like to think of it as the Korean version of pancit. I know most of you will probably say you can’t compare Japchae to that, but I just want people who are not Korean to know what to expect when eating it.  Additionally, there are veggies, meat, and other ingredients depending on who makes it.

Dak bal (닭발)

This is one of Korea’s famous spicy chicken feet dishes. The chicken feet fall off the cartilages which makes this dish very good. It should be served with ice-cold beer and is usually eaten to help with collagen reproduction. You will see many older women eating it to help get firmer skin. This dish can be quite spicy and reminds me of buffalo wings for some reason. 

Things to eat in Korea – Korean Street Food

Korean Pancake or Jeon (파전) – Kimchi, Seafood, or Regular

This is a very popular traditional Korean street food dish found in South Korea. Many families and restaurants make this dish because of how easy it is to make. This dish is made of rice flour and depending on the kind you want, kimchi, seafood, or just plain vegetables. My favorite by far is the Kimchi Pancake.

Bindae-tteok | Things to eat in Korea
Bindae-tteok | Things to eat in Korea

Bindae-tteok (빈대떡)

Similar to the Korean Pancake, this is a mung bean pancake usually filled with meat and veggies. This is another traditional Korean street food item you can easily find at Gwangjang Market. This is one of my favorite street food growing up. It can be a little greasy and heavy, but these are cheap and easy to eat. 

Tteokbokki (떡볶이)

This is a typical street vendor food but can be found in restaurants as well.  It is rice cake put in a spicy sauce or broth. Veggies are sometimes added.

RELATED: Myeongdong Street Food

Things to eat in Korea – Soups and Stews 

Kimchi/Kimchi Jjigae (김치찌개)/Soft Tofu Stew (순두부찌개) – Traditionally one of the things to eat in Korea

If you have tried kimchi and you love it, then you will definitely love this soup! Kimchi Jigae is a kimchi stew.  I typically like to put my rice inside this soup for the flavor. There is a lot of flavor to it. Soft Tofu Stew is similar to the kimchi jjigae with added ingredients like meat and tofu.

Doenjang Jjigae (된장찌개)

If you can’t really do spicy foods, then I suggest you try doenjang jjigae. It’s similar to a miso soup except added with bigger chunks of tofu, zucchini, and some other vegetables as well. It’s a bit different tasting that miso soup but still some similarities. It’s usually served at some Korean BBQ places and it’s totally worth eating. 

Naengmyeon (냉면)

Also known as a cold noodle soup.  It is made of long, thin noodles and served cold.  Moreover, this is a very popular meal during the summertime!  Additionally, there are two different types one called mul-naengmyeon, which is served in an icy cold broth made from beef or chicken and the other called bibim-naengmyeon, which is served in a spicy sauce.

Budae Jjigae (부대찌개) | Things to eat in Korea
Budae Jjigae (부대찌개) | Things to eat in Korea

Budae Jjigae (부대찌개) – Also known as Army Soup | Favorite things to eat in Korea

When Korea was poor, the US military helped provide aid to South Korea. They provided all the varied types of processed meats like ham, spam, hamburgers, and more. Since this was often the only type of meat Koreans could come by at the time, they created a soup called budae jjigae or army soup. It is a spicy red soup filled with all these types of meat and sometimes added with cheese, tteok, mandu and more. This soup is absolutely delicious and worth trying because of its long history. It’s recently become a pretty popular dish recently in Korea and made a comeback. 

Samgyetang (삼계탕)

This soup is typically eaten on the first day of the dog days of summer. Samgyetang is chicken soup to help replenish energy and reminds me a lot of chicken noodle soup without the noodles. It’s just a basic chicken broth soup with a whole chicken. 

Galbitang 갈비탕

This soup is primarily made with beef short ribs, hence the name Galbi. It is also filled with a variety of vegetables and typically topped off with some sliced omelet style eggs.

Cheonggukjang (청국장)

This is a spicy fermented soybean paste stew. This soup is more commonly eaten during the winter months, however, sometimes people are unable to get over the bad small from fermented soybeans. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s still delicious nonetheless. 

Seolleongtang (설렁탕)

Seolleongtang is also known as ox bone soup. This delicious soup has the meat literally falling off the bone which makes this soup so delicious. This soup has more of a milky broth from simmering for long periods of time. The bone marrow is what makes this soup absolutely delicious. 

Tteokguk (떡국)

We typically eat this soup during the Korean or Lunar New Year. Tteokguk is a sliced rice cake soup and a traditional Korean dish. This soup is of milky consistency and tastes absolutely delicious. It is a staple that is eaten quite frequently in Korea. 

Mandu guk (만둣국)

Similar tasting to tteokguk with its milky consistency. This delicious soup is filled with mandu and sometimes filled with tteok or rice cake as well. This dish is served during new years as well since Mandu is typically made homemade during the new year holidays. 

Things to Eat in Korea – Desserts

Bingsu (빙수)

This is a popular Korean dessert.  Some are similar to Filipino Halo-Halo and others are completely different.  Some have tteok (떡), which is a rice cake and others do not. Bingsu is shaved ice with fruit and different types of toppings. This is a popular food to eat in Korea for people that have a sweet tooth. Additionally, this is one of my favorite things to eat in Korea.

Hotteok (호떡)- My personal favorite thing to eat in Korea

This is a sweet treat filled with brown sugar, sunflower seeds and sometimes nuts.  This is very delicious and often sold at street food vendors.

Songpyeon 

Rice Cakes usually filled with sweet red beans or a sweet sesame brown sugar filling. They are delicious and usually served around Chuseok as a typical Korean Thanksgiving dish. 

Sikhye (식혜)

This is a sweet rice drink that is served as a dessert. It contains grains of cooked rice and in some cases pine nuts. This drink usually is served after a meal because it helps promote or aid digestion because of fiber and anti-oxidants. 

Bungeoppang (붕어빵)

One of my favorite childhood sweets, this breaded fish is filled with sweet red beans. You can find them in a lot of street food vendors who sell them for very cheap. They are absolutely delicious when served hot and fresh. Usually, they sell them 3 for 3,000 won ~ $3USD. 

Where to eat in Seoul, South Korea

Is this your first time traveling to Korea? Be sure to check out my posts about South Korea below.

What are some of your favorite Korean dishes to eat? Leave your comments below. 

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