Korea is an overflowing extra-large Hamilton Beach crock pot of food filled with anything and everything you could possibly dream of.
Gobs of rice? Check.
Succulent meats? Check.
Pigs blood? Check.
Live octopus? Check.
Silkworm pupae? Check.
Skate fish fermented in its own urine? Check.
For a Korean food rookie (or even a picky eater), some of this is pretty daunting stuff. The idea of octopus tentacles gluing themselves to your throat isn’t exactly the most appealing. To be honest, I don’t think that’s an ideal situation to even the darkest tourist roaming the lands.
By now, most of us know about Korean barbecue and almost everyone’s jumped on the K-bbq train or seen it pass them. Instead, we wanted to share our five favorite go-to easy-breezy non-spicy, non-moving Korean foods that’ll definitely leave you wanting for more. Let’s get right to it so that you can go out there and chomp on these delectable foods yourself.
This is the mac n’ cheese of Korean foods because all kids grow up eating it and it’s the tutorial for Korean foods. I fell in love with it the first time I had it and almost exclusively ate only this for two months.
Now I hate it. Not really. I just burned myself out of eating it and although I enjoy the occasional bibimbap, I’ve leveled up.
Traditionally, it’s a base of rice with different vegetables on top in a very specific order. To finish it off, it’s topped off with raw egg yolk and gochujang (a chili pepper paste).
If you come to Korea and do any sort of cultural tour or excursion you’ll probably be making bibimbap. Jeonju, a city in the south, is famous for its bibimbap, which means you’ll most likely be wearing some sort of traditional Korean garb (한복) while making this.
As per Korean food standard, it’s not too flavored so you can really taste the veggies. Everything works really well together, especially when they top it off with gochujang and oil. It’s a super beginner dish that doesn’t leave anyone’s palate out and there’s no way you won’t like it.
Unless you hate vegetables in which case… just leave Korea and also grow up?
2. Dak Galbi
My number two favorite food here and a smashin’ time if you’re looking for a customizable garbage plate. I just dream about Dak Galbi (닭갈비).
How can something that literally translates to “Chicken Meat” be a bad thing? It’s one of those so-simple-it’s-perfect foods. I mean it’s just… saucy chicken and cheese with the option of almost any topping you can imagine.
Ramen noodles? Got ’em.
Rice cakes? Chew, chew away.
Sausages? Do you even need to ask?
Veggies? Sure, but why? Bibimbap’s got you covered on that end.
Extra cheese? Is that a serious question?
This all seems like a lot but it’s a dream come true if you’re on the lookout for those post-Thanksgiving-dinner bloats. Self-induced coma included. Go try it because trust me when I say, there won’t be any #ragrets.
Good morning Baltimore. This dish makes me sing every happy song to grace Spotify’s Top 50 playlist.
This isn’t one of the most well known Korean foods but it needs to be. Even though this picture doesn’t look great. But let’s be real. How good does hamburger helper look and how good does it taste? It’s perfect for people who think they can’t enjoy Korean food because of the spice fest.
Imagine chicken noodle soup but less salty, creamier broth, and flavorless gummy bears that look like marshmallows. Okay, I’m selling it about as well as a door-to-door salesman selling men’s berets but if there’s one thing I’ve learned while traveling is how hard it is to describe ethnic food in English.
This is the perfect winter food to eat while sitting in a warm house and watching a scary movie. I don’t think any chicken noodle soup out there will ever satisfy my soup needs after this. Tteokguk is absolute perfection because it’s the rice cake that just brings it all together.
They’re so soft and supple, like tiny little baby hands swimming in a chicken flavored pool. How could anyone find something wrong with that?
This dish holds a special place in our teensy-weensy hearts because it’s the first food we had during our first night in Korea. It’s probably the most “adventurous” of all the foods on here but only because generally, it’s pretty spicy.
I guarantee you this is going to be the first thing you’ll see being sold once you step foot in Seoul. If not the first thing you see on the airport runway upon landing, with the airport marshall waving you over.
Tteokbboki is rice cakes shaped like hole-less penne noodles. The rice cakes are floating around in a spicy sauce that’s made with gochujang (red pepper paste) and cooked on a large flat flying saucer type pan by the magical wizard elderly Koreans.
It’s perfect in the winter to warm you up and the rice cakes have the coolest texture in the world. I’ve never had anything like it and I constantly crave it. The best and cheapest way to get this is on any street food cart for around $2-3. It’s available in restaurants or grocery stores, prepacked of course, but none of it compares to the street cart version of it.
If you leave Korea without having this it was a wasted trip. So jump on a plane and head on over to the closest tteokbokki cart for a mouthwatering experience.
Last one for you newbie Korean food consumers. These lil’ dough boys are dumplings shape-shifters that can be either steamed, pan-fried, or deep-fried.
It’s probably one of the most versatile dishes out there. A snack, main dish, in soups, by itself, there are so many ways to eat it. Not only that but the things bursting out of the mandu seams are endless!
Tasty meats like beef, chicken, and pork
You can buy five for $10 or ten for $2. It just all depends on their quality. As a general rule of thumb, a place serving only mandu is going to be significantly better than a place with a menu the size of a Jane Austen novel.
So there you have it. The five must-try foods if you ever find yourself in the Land of Kimchi galore. If there’s one thing to remember, it’s that no one talks about the simpler foods that exist in the world.
We all eat PB & J sandwiches but no one in France is talking about it like it’s the craziest delicacy since Kobe beef cooked rare. The same thing applies to Korean food. Live octopus and silkworms are going to make headlines but there’s much more to this Kuisine (get it?) than that.
We don’t want you to be scared of it but rather share with you some of the simpler but delicious and hearty foods that won’t leave you on an episode of “Untold Stories of the ER”.
What are some of the craziest foods you’ve tried or wanted to try? If you’d like to know more about beginner Korean foods, let us know and we’ll write another post! Leave a comment or email at firstname.lastname@example.org