When you travel to a foreign place, especially somewhere where the food is so vastly different from your home country’s cuisine, just deciding what to eat can be the most daunting decision of the day.
Korean food is phenomenal, and if you have never had it before, I recommend easing yourself in with some Korean BBQ as opposed to the recommendations I provide below. Disclaimer: Both Zach and I are pretty daring and adventurous when it comes to eating exotic foods, and we enjoy spicy things. The recommendations below may be a little spicy for some, but in my opinion, they are so worth trying.
Here are three foods you have to try when you’re in Korea (Korean BBQ is a given):
1. Tteokbokki (떡볶이). I remember the first time I had tteokbokki with one of my best friends in Seoul, Sungho. He took me and my colleague Riley to a hole-in-the-wall joint in Myeongdong where we ordered hands-down the best tteokbokki I’ve ever had. With disclaimers of how spicy it was, he ladled the tteokbokki into my bowl. It was love at first bite. Ever since then, I get tteokbokki any chance I get when I’m in Seoul.
Tteokbokki is comprised of rice cakes in a rich, gochujang (고추장) (spicy red pepper paste-based) sauce. You can add a lot of different vegetables to the tteokbokki stew-like concoction. I always like to have mine with ramen (라면) mixed in.
Don’t go to Korea and miss out on this delectable dish!
Pro tip: If you don’t like the spicy gochujang sauce, just eat tteok, or rice cakes. They are phenomenal. Some of the best are in Tongin Market (통인 시장).
2. Kimchi Jiggae (김치찌개). I stumbled upon kimchi jiggae by accident when I was wandering around the neighborhood where my Korean family lives. I smelled one of the most savory scents wafting from a little mom-and-pop shop. I immediately went in and ordered the kimchi jiggae because my Korean-American friends had told me it was to-die-for. They were right.
Think of kimchi jiggae as your favorite homemade stew. For many Koreans they love their mom’s kimchi jiggae the best. This might be equivalent to the affinity you have for your mom’s homemade chicken noodle soup. For me, kimchi jiggae is a comfort food and great to warm the bones on a crisp winter day or on a hot summer day. (It’s that good!)
Fair warning, you have to like kimchi, which is essentially fermented cabbage, and you have to have a certain tolerance for spicy foods.
3. Chicken and Beer (치맥). This one will be a universal favorite. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t like an assortment of chicken and beer. It is common in Korea to order chicken and beer to enjoy along the Han River. The view of Seoul from the Han River, especially at night, is really beautiful. Zach and I had a lovely date at Yoido, an area along the Han river, where we ate the most delicious chicken and beer.
I’m not a big beer drinker, but Korean beer is pretty light, so I’ll usually drink a little. My husband really likes it and usually orders either Hite or Cass. For those who don’t like beer, but want to enjoy a uniquely Korean alcoholic beverage, soju (소주), especially the flavored ones, can be pretty tasty.
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
~ Matthew 6:26
Shop the Look:
Photo Credit: Allen in Seoul at Flytographer. Again, I cannot recommend Flytographer enough!