One of our favorite ways to experience a new country is through food. It's a wonderful way to learn about the culture and enjoy some delicious flavors along the way. Korea in particular takes great pride in their traditional dishes and love sharing them with others. Here are 16 of the foods we most recommend trying in Korea.
Checkout our food tour video from Gwangjang Market!
Bingsu is an iced dessert made with shaved ice and topped and can be topped with sweetened red beans, condensed milk, fruit syrups and cereals. The texture of the Bingsu can be coarse or fine depending on how long it has been frozen for. As Korea temperatures tend to get quite hot in summer months, bingsu is a wonderful summer treat. Note: our personal favorite is mango bingsu!
Haemul Pajeon (seafood and green onion pancake)
Haemul Pajeon is Korea’s version of a savory pancake. It is made with a batter of eggs, flour, and chopped green onions topped with seafood such as shrimp, squid and clams. Think of it as a cross between a frittata and a pancake.
Beongdegi (silkworm larvae)
Beongdegi is Korea’s version of street food. It consists of boiled silkworm larvae seasoned with chili pepper and salt. Beongdegi has a crunchy texture and a mildly spicy flavor.
Gogigui (Korean BBQ)
Gogigui is Korea’s most famous BBQ, with a variety of different meats and side dishes available. The meat is usually cooked over an open flame at the table.
Bungeoppang is Korea’s fish-shaped pastry filled traditionally with sweet red bean paste, but nowadays they also serve them with fillings such as custard and nutella. It’s a popular snack among Koreans and very fun to eat. You van find bungeoppang at night markets and on the streets throughout the cities.
Banchan is an array of side dishes served with rice and Gogigui. Common banchan includes kimchi, pickled eggs, potatoes, mushrooms and more. Most restaurants serve a selection of 8-10 different types of banchan which are all set out in small dishes on the table for everyone to share. Most places change out the dishes seasonally depending what veggies they can get fresh.
Bibimbap is a Korea dish made with rice, vegetables, and an egg in a bowl. It can be served hot or cold and often comes with gochujang (red chili paste) to add flavor. I know Koreans would probably be appalled if they heard me say this, but bibimbap is Korea's healthier and older take on a rice bowl from somewhere like Chipotle. We highly recommend trying yukhoe bibimbap at Yukhoe Buchon at Gwangjang Market. Yuhoe Buchon has a Michelin star and is super affordable! Get there early and give it a try!
Chimaek (Korean fried chicken and beer)
Chimaek is Korea’s favorite snack food and a must try if you're looking for something to eat in Korea. The combination of fried chicken and beer, know as "chimaek," is popular among all age groups. Korean Fried Chicken (KFC) usually consists of small pieces that are double-fried to be extra crispy.
Kimchi is Korea’s most famous dish and a must-try if you're visiting Korea. It is made with fermented vegetables, spices and chili pepper. Kimchi has a distinct spicy flavor that can be quite strong for some people.
Mandu is Korea’s version of dumplings. It can be boiled, steamed or fried and comes in a variety of fillings such as pork, kimchi, seafood, and vegetables.
Gyeranppang (Korean egg bread)
Gyeranppang is Korea’s version of egg bread made with a batter of eggs, milk, and flour. It can be eaten plain or topped with sesame seeds and sugar for extra flavor.
Hotteok (Korean sweet pancake)
Hotteok is Korea’s version of a sweet pancake. It is made with dough filled with cinnamon, brown sugar and chopped nuts then fried in a pan until golden.
Tteokbokki is a spicy Korean dish and is made with pieces of soft rice cakes in a chili sauce. It can be served plain, with vegetables or seafood depending on the desired flavor. It can also vary in level of spiciness from almost sweet to extra spicy.
Dalgona (Squid Games cookies)
Dalgona, or as the rest of the world knows them, "Squid Games Cookies," are Korea’s version of crackers and come in a variety of shapes. The cookies are made from just sugar and baking soda and are crispy and thin to eat.
Kimbap, often known as Korea’s version of sushi, is made with cooked rice and seaweed rolls filled with ham, egg and vegetables. Kimbap can be found in convenience stores, supermarkets and restaurants all over Korea.
Moment of truth: we never found a coffee shop in Korea that served especially noteworthy coffee. We had several shops serve us decent coffee, but nothing to write home about. However, Korea has some of the most beautiful and aesthetic coffee shops we've ever seen! We highly recommend Cafe Onion in Anguk which features tables with traditional floor seating, or Cerulean Insa which is 1/2 modern glass cafe and 1/2 tranditional hanok home.
We absolutely loved Korea food. While some don't because almost every meal is served with kimchi, we rather enjoyed it. Some of their food definitely leaned on the unhealthy side, but most of it was rich in veggies and rice and it's no wonder that the Koreans are some of the healthiest people on earth!
Like this article? Checkout our other travel guides for South Korea!
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We're Chris and Sara
A creative husband and wife duo from a small-town in Tennessee with passion for all things travel. Checkout the links below to join us on our past, present, and future adventures!