South Korean Dishes

Details of some of the national and regional specialities in South Korea...

South Korea has many distinct regional cuisines, each of which reflects the local climate and geography. In the northeast of the country the land is mountainous and the local dishes are rich in native roots and wild ferns. In the southern valleys where rice is grown, the most famous local dish is a large bowl of rice with finely sliced meats and vegetables served with a spicy sauce.

A few of the highlights and national specialities are:

  • Bulgogi sauce: usually very hot and served with meat. Traditionally the sauce is made from garlic, sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil, although there are many variations. Bulgogi means “fire meat”, and “fire” refers to cooking over an open flame or barbeque. Meat, usually sirloin or other cuts of beef, are marinated in the sauce before being cooked. Pork and chicken are also cooked in this way
  • Galbi or Kalbi: a variety of grilled meat dishes. Galbi means “ribs” and these dishes are usually made from marinated beef or pork ribs. The meat is usually roasted or cooked on a barbeque and served with lettuce or other leafy vegetables
  • Gochujang: a red pepper paste that is a staple in South Korean cooking. It is warm, sweet and spicy and goes well with meat. It is used in many spicy dishes
  • Gopchang Jeongol: spicy beef tripe and vegetable stew cooked in beef broth – a uniquely Korean dish
  • Hangwa: traditional Korean cookies. There are many types which vary depending on the recipe and ingredients used
  • Hwachae: a traditional fruit punch made from seasonal fruits, such as watermelon and honey water or juice which is popular during the summer
  • Juk: a porridge made by boiling grains with water for a long time. There are many varieties including pine nut juk, sesame juk and beef juk
  • Kimbap: a seaweed wrap filled with vegetables and egg
  • Kimchi: in its simplest form it is fermented Chinese cabbage with red pepper powder. There are different varieties of Kimchi, some using different vegetables. It is a staple eaten at most meals, commonly as a side dish but it is also used in soups and noodles
  • Kong kuk su: a soy milk broth and noodle dish
  • Korean Sundae: a black pudding type of sausage which contains noodles. The exact recipe varies around the country and it is used in a variety of dishes. It is also eaten as a snack
  • Mattang: a traditional South Korean dessert made from sweet potato, potato, sugar and nuts
  • Naengmyeon: a cold beef broth with buckwheat noodles

Fresh fruits, such as pears, clementines and melon are commonly eaten for dessert. Other popular desserts eaten as a treat or for a special occasion include green tea ice cream and mattang, a traditional South Korean dessert made from sweet potato, potato, sugar and nuts. In summer, hwachae is a popular dessert. It is a traditional fruit punch made from seasonal fruits, such as watermelon and honey water or juice. It is very refreshing in hot weather.

Breakfast

A traditional breakfast in South Korea consists of seaweed soup with turnips, as well as rice and kimchi which is often served with fish. There are also a wide range of breakfast cereals and breads available for those wanting a more western-style start to their day.