Korean Dishes Every Tourist Should Try

by | Feb 11, 2022 | Korea | 1 comment

Korea is famous for its amazing food, and with the Korean wave going strong as ever (and arguably still gaining momentum), it’s no surprise that K-dishes are taking over culinary scenes in many international cities. Even though you might have sampled Korean food such as kimchi or bibimbap at a local haunt in your own area,  nothing compares to having a dish in its native country.

There are so many underrated meals that are still a rarity outside of Korea. I didn’t think my taste buds could mature anymore after living in Bangkok, but Seoul quickly proved me wrong and introduced me to a whole new set of exciting flavors and textures of these Korean dishes. Below are my absolute favorite Korean dishes and meals that I’d encourage anyone visiting the ROK to try.

Korean Dishes: Yukhoe (육회)

Plate of Yukhoe by Elise Brunsvold
Plate of Yukhoe by Elise Brunsvold

I never craved raw beef until I moved to Seoul. It’s a taste I hardly expected to develop, but here we are, and I have zero regrets about it. Yukhoe is a raw beef dish—somewhat similar to its French cousin beef tartare that consists of cold, cut-up meat, seasoned with sesame oil, garlic, black pepper, salt, and sugar.

Traditionally served with egg yolk, pine nuts, and sliced Korean pear, Yukhoe is usually treated as an appetizer or side dish, although there are some restaurants that serve massive platters of it alongside salmon sashimi (a dream come true for me).

It’s a refreshing, flavorful food that pairs well with Korean alcohol and, strangely enough, Korean barbecue. For those who enjoy a rare steak, I highly recommend giving Yukhoe a try.

Korean Dishes: Samgyetang (삼계탕)

For those who consider chicken noodle soup comfort food, samgyetang would be a Korean dish right up your alley. This ginseng chicken soup includes a small, whole chicken that’s stuffed with rice, garlic, jujube, and, of course, ginseng. Samgyetang is served piping hot, and it’s ironically seen as a perfect health food for the scorching summer months.

Personally, I crave it in the bone-chilling winters here. It’s a hearty dish with a rich broth and plenty of chicken to keep you full; yet it’s also light, with exceptionally healthy ingredients. Kimchi and a beer perfectly complimented the clean taste, making for a perfect meal.

Korean Dishes: Bossam (보쌈, 褓-)

By jyleen21 from Pixabay
By jyleen21 from Pixabay

If you ever visit Korea, you have to go to a makgeolli house. And if you ever go to a makgeolli house, you have to order bossam. Bossam is pork shoulder or pork belly that is boiled in brine and served thinly sliced.

In Korea, it’s popular to eat this dish when gathering with family to make kimchi for the year (no easy feat). Bossam is typically consumed in cabbage wraps with spicy radish salad, raw garlic, salted shrimp, kimchi, and ssamjang, which is a salty, spicy dipping sauce.

Bossam is incredibly tender and goes well with the strong flavors and crunchy textures of the other wrap ingredients. There’s something magical about enjoying this dish with makgeolli and Korean pancakes during a long, slow dinner with friends. It’s addictive and gone before you know it.

Korean Dishes: Gamjatang (감자탕)

While people around the world depend on fast food to cure hangovers, Koreans turn to gamjatang. Popularly referred to as “hangover soup”, this filling dish is both spicy and savory, containing pork bones from the spine or neck, potatoes, vegetables, and cellophane noodles.

A great gamjatang restaurant will include pork bones with quite a lot of meat on them, so you usually have fun picking the hearty chunks off using your chopsticks. It can be an overall messy meal, but it’s delicious and soothing for even the worst hangovers.

These dishes are just a taste of what Korea offers. There’s plenty more to eat, drink, and explore when you visit Seoul and other parts of the country. But don’t just take my word for it — visit Korea and have an amazing time trying everything for yourself!

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by: Elise Brunsvold