Your Guide to the Best Korean Food: 66 Dishes & Drinks!
So much of Korean food was about patience as the volcanic soups settled down, building the diners’ anticipation with the bright colors of the red pepper and green onion, the smells.Nancy Jooyoun Kim, The Last Story of Mina Lee
Guys, FINALLY! Wondering what to eat in Korea? Whelp I’m finally writing my personal guide to the BEST Korean food you’ve got to try.
I know, I know the fact that this wasn’t written like two years ago at least is quite the oversight. For a while it was because I wanted to make sure I collected enough photos of the Korean food I wanted to talk about but I kept forgetting to take pictures… Then, I dunno, I just kept forgetting about the post! It’s hard to think “Ah yes, notes on this dish” when you’re ready to just start shoving food into your mouth.
Anyway, I’ve finally, after who knows how many Korean restaurants, sat down to write my personal list of the best Korean food you’ve GOT to try. Whether you’re actually in Mother Korea or dragging your friends to K-town and making them try soju, let this be your guide!
Food Tours & Cooking Classes in Korea
If you’re new to the food scene and don’t know what to eat in Korea, then these tours and cooking classes will help you get started!
Tours in Seoul
- Korean Food Walking Tour with BBQ Lunch
- Cooking Class with Traditional Market Tour
- Traditional Tea Ceremony Experience
- Korean Night Dining Tour
- Private Cooking Class & Dongdaemun Tour
- Master’s Traditional Cooking Class
- Hongdae Korean Cooking Class
- Bukchon Hanok Cooking Class
- Korean Cooking Class near Gyeongbokgung
Tours in Busan
- Nampo & Bupyeong Market Night Tour
- Jalgachi Market & Cooking Class
- Korean Cooking Class & Market Tour
- Busan at Night: Local Gourmet Walking Tour
Ultimate Guide to the Best Korean Food
I’ve always said Korean food is one of the styles of eating I never get sick of and I always crave at the most inconvenient times. There’s just such a variety, and they even put their own spin on other cuisines. I’ve cumulatively spent 3 1/2 years in Korea and have definitely eaten my fair share of unique dishes (though, no, nothing related to dogs or live octopus in this list), so here’s my ultimate list! The crazy thing is, I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot.
Now, this is not necessarily in order of my favorite to least favorite — just alphabetical! I did separate it a bit to make it easier to find things. Feel free to click on the links to jump down to each section!
1. Bbyeodagwitang (뼈다귀탕)
This is also served as 뼈다귀 해장국, which is like saying “Bbyeodagwi Hangover Soup.” I don’t think there are too many differences if you see it in a restaurant. Anyway, this is actually the absolute top of my list of Korean dishes not just because it comes first alphabetically.
I still remember when Maggie told me about this restaurant in town called 25시 and how they served something similar to gamjatang but you get a lot more meat in your soup. We went on what I believe was a cold day, and it was love at first bite. There’s just something so freaking good about the spices mixed in with the pork bone and veggies. Like it’s got a bit more of a kick than gamjatang but it’s not just “Let’s throw a bunch of spices into this soup hide the fact that it doesn’t have a lot of flavor otherwise.”
2. Bibimbap (비빔밥)
The national dish of Korea! I feel like every time I’ve flown to Korea, I’ve been offered bibimbap as one of the dinner option. You get some rice and on top it’s a mix of cut up vegetables, gochujang, and either a raw or fried egg onktop.
Sometimes there’s meat or kimchi as well. The most famous place to eat it is in Jeonju, but personally I always preferred the ones I got in Namwon. Also I recommend getting dolsot bibimbap (돌솥비빔밥), which is when it comes in a nice hot stone bowl.
3. Boribap (보리밥)
Here’s one of the best Korean food dishes for you vegetarians! It’s basically rice, barley, and a bunch of veggies with some sort of sauce. I’ve only had it once on my Jogyesan hike.
4. Bulgogi (불고기)
Yum! I love bulgogi. At my old local grocery store, I used to buy a huge thing of it prepackaged to dump in a pan to make. Bulgogi is thin, marinated slices of meat (beef is the best). You want to sort of stir fry it or grill it with a mix of other vegetables. The best way to eat it is just straight or with some some ssamjang sauce and rice wrapped in a piece of lettuce. Ooh or as a sort of hot pot is pretty delicious! It’s called ddeokbaegi-bulgogi (떡배기 불고기) on the menu.
5. Dakdoritang (닭도리탕)
Dakdoritang! This was actually featured in my Facebook profile for ages. It’s similar to dakgalbi, but it’s more of a stew. You basically boil chicken with vegetables and spices, and it’s very spicy. I liked it more when I was younger and my stomach could handle it haha.
6. Dakgalbi (닭갈비)
You know, writing this has made me realize it’s been a hot second since I’ve had dakgalbi. It’s stir-fried chicken with veggies and gochujang sauce. I’m quite certain it’s another one of the first dishes I had in Korea. I remember wearing a little red apron to cover any splashing.
7. Ddeokgalbi (떡갈비)
Mmm I do love a good ddeokgalbi. It’s basically like short rib patty and the name kind of translates like “rib cake.” I’ve had it in Boseong and Damyang and probably a ton of times with school lunches, and I’ve always been a fan. The Boseong version was made with green tea!
8. Ddeokguk (떡국)
Talk about a comforting dish! I remember eating this really for the first time around Seollnal, Korean New Year, which is when it’s popular to eat. It’s made of thinly sliced ddeok or rice cake with broth and thinly sliced eggs, meat, and seaweed. So good! I used to also order ddeokmanduguk (떡만두국) which adds in some mandu as well.
9. Doenjangjjigae (된장찌개)
This is actually a dish I can make myself! Though I doubt I make it properly, I prefer my version, especially in the Korean winter. My last year, I made big batches of it and just poured into a glass jar to bring into work. Doenjang is a type of soybean paste that’s very salty. It’s kind of like miso but stronger (more on it below). Here’s how I make mine:
- Cut up the tofu. I make mine thinner and pan fry them so they stay stiffer in the soup but that’s not normal. Usually people will cube them and leave them like that.
- I get out my pot and put a little oil at the bottom. It depends on the vegetables I have on hand, but I’ll usually added in carrots, onions, and enoki mushrooms. I’ll usually try to add something green too — either bok choy or spinach. I then add water, bring it to a boil, and then add in the tofu.
- I’ll then mix in a spoonful of doenjang until it dissolves into the soup. You’re supposed to this first but obviously I don’t. Doenjang is strong, so it depends on how much of it you want. I don’t like adding it too early or too much of it because then the soup becomes too much.
There are so many things I don’t add into mine because I like it a lot simpler. In traditional recipes, there’s scallions, radishes, potatoes, peppers, and more.
10. Gamjatang (감자탕)
Gamjatang! It’s very similar to bbyeodagwitang and much more easily found around Korea. I feel like I’ve had different variations on it but the main similarity is that it includes pork bones and potatoes and some spices.
11. Gejang (게장)
Okay, this isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s raw crab marinated in soy sauce with some other flavors. I’ve eaten it in Yeosu and it was part of a fancy dinner the education office treated us to in Namwon once. I kind of love it, but I get that most people may not be a fan of eating raw crab!
12. Japchae (잡채)
Another dish I’d often get pre-packaged from my nearby grocery store! I love, love japchae. It’s made of glass noodles stir-fried with vegetables. The noodles are called dangmyeon (당면), and they’re so good and slippery! Apparently it used to be considered a royal dish, but it’s pretty common now. Most of the time it’ll be served as one of the many side dishes at restaurants.
13. Jeon (전)
Ohhh, jeon. Jeon is a sort of savory fried pancake here you mix the filling — veggies, meat, kimchi — in with flour and egg wash and then fry it flat in a pan. So simple and so, so delicious. It’s best eaten either before or after you’ve gone hiking. If you like alcohol, pair with a nice bowl of makgeolli. Or, if you’re like me, get a nice cold Chilsung cider to go with yours.
There’s a variety of jeon. You’ll hear pajeon (파전) used the most, and it just means spring onion jeon. By the sea, you’ll see haemul jeon (해물전), and kimchi jeon (김치전) is a particular favorite. There are a ton of varieties, but those are the three main ones you’ll see listed on menus. I personally have no favorites, I love them all, and I can eat a whole jeon by myself even though it definitely ought to be shared with at least one other person.
14. Jjimdak (찜닭)
I first heard of jjimdak when my friend, Lynsey, was leaving Korea! We were at church, and they asked her what she’d like her last meal to be. She said jjimdak, and wow does that dish need to be more popular. Basically, it’s a dish of chicken, glass noodles, and veggies. You simmer it in a syrupy type sauce and then eat. Apparently, it originally comes from Andong, so that’s even more reason I need to go! Try it here
15. Jokbal (족발)
Okay, now hear me out before you get grossed out. Jokbal is actually really delicious and chewy. Yes, it’s pig’s feet. However, unless you physically watch them chop the pig’s foot off, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference! I had it for the first time when I went to a friend’s apartment for lunch. It’s usually served with some sort of gochujang or ssamjang sauce, lettuce, salt, and other veggies. Try it at this restaurant in Myeongdong
16. Kalbijjim (갈비찜)
Kalbijjim means braised short ribs in Korean. You can make it with pork or beef, and you boil or steam it and then add in other ingredients like veggies and sauces. It’s so, so tasty and tender!
17. Kalbitang (갈미탕)
Kalbitang is another favorite (can you tell I like stews and soups?). It translate to short rib soup. Basically you use the same thing as kalbijjim in terms of meat but you make a soup instead. There are different veggies an sauces you can use but there’s definitely always scallions in the kalbitang dishes I’ve eaten. It’s a super nice, comforting dish, especially in the winter, and it’s not spicy at all.
18. Kimbap (김밥)
Kimbap is like the ultimate cheap meal on the go! There are so many variations, and they’re all so delicious. I’ve probably made it a handful of times and eaten it more than I can count. Just go into any convenience store, and you’ll find little logs of kimbap in all types of flavors.
Regular kimbap kind of looks like sushi but bigger. You have a thing of kim, or seaweed, and then you spread out rice, veggies, and meat before rolling it tightly and sealing with some water. Another version you’ll find commonly is samgak kimbap (삼각기밥), which is just triangle kimbap. I don’t really like those as much, mostly because no matter how I try or follow directions, I always mess up taking mine out its wrapper.
As for which variations are my favorite — you can never go wrong with tuna or bulgogi kimbap!
19. Kimchi Jjigae (김치찌개)
Now, this isn’t always a dish I crave, but I do enjoy it when I eat it. Kimchi jiggae is kimchi stew so, yes, it’s decently spicy. At its most basic form, it’s made with kimchi, vegetables like scallions and onions, and tofu. Sometimes there’s also meat or seafood. It’s best to eat it with some rice. Take a small spoonful of rice and then dunk it into the soup.
If you go to a really good place, they’ll put a slice of cheese on top!
20. Korean Fried Chicken (치킨)
You have not LIVED until you’ve tried Korean fried chicken. One of the first things I do when I return to Korea is find the closest Kyochon and order a nice box of honey original.
The really popular thing to do is to have a nice chimaek (치맥), which is a combination of chicken and beer (maekju). However, I don’t like alcohol, so I eat mine with some Chilsung cider. Also, even if I did drink, Korean beer doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for taste… Try learning how to make it here!
21. Mandu (만두)
*Cue me playing the mandu handgame*
Can you get any more classic than mandu? It’s basically a dumpling but I feel like all Asian countries have slightly different dumpling variations. Like you just kind of know when you’ve got a Korean dumpling vs. a Chinese one?
Anyway, I cannot express how much I love mandu. Like in Namwon there was a tiny shop I used to get a bunch for 3,000 KRW from, and in Suncheon, I started buying a giant back of them to keep in my freezer! They’re the ultimate, “I don’t want to cook today, so I’m going to plop 4-5 mul-mandu into a pot and make a lil cup of soy sauce to eat them with.”
There are a ton of different mandu, but I like the classic mul mandu (물만두), which means they’re boiled. If you want them fried, they’re called gun mandu (군만두). I don’t dislike fried mandu, but I infinitely prefer boiled mandu, and it’s obviously healthier, so why not?
22. Miyeokguk (미역국)
By far one of my favorite soups all year round. I’ll never get sick of it! It’s seaweed soup, and I’ve had it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner more times than I can count. It’s such a simple dish made with a mussel-based broth, some seafoods like clams or oysters, some seasoning, and, of course seaweed. It’s supposed be high in calcium and iodine, so pregnant women are meant to eat it, and it’s served on birthdays.
If you’ve ever watched “Reply 1988,” this is the soup that Dong-ryong is always saying his mom makes the best but hasn’t had in years. Then you get this super cute scene where she finally makes it for him and sits, and he can sit and chat with her about what’s going on in his life.
23. Naengmyun (냉면)
Best summer dish everrrrrr. I know a cold noodle soup isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea, but I love, love, love it. It originated in northern Korea, so a lot of times restaurants will call themselves after the cities it was most popular in, like “Pyongyang Naengmyeon” or “Hamhung Naengmyeon.”
The best naengmyeon is served in a stainless steal bowl with buckwheat noodles, a vinegar-y cold broth, thin slices of Korean pear and maybe cucumber, maybe some beef but definitely a boiled egg. While an icy broth, with literal chunks of ice, is nice, really, really good naengmyeon places serve theirs at almost a lukewarm temperature. In Namwon, Autumn took me to the best naengmyeon place that steeps its broth for like 24 hours!
24. Ramen (라면)
Can’t believe I wrote a post about the best Korean food to try and almost forgot to include ramen (or ramyun in Korean). The ultimate cheap eat, I don’t think I need to explain what is. Korean convenience stores stock a huge variety! I always go for the milder ones and add in an egg and some cheese on top.
One variety of ramen that I love is rabeokki (라볶이), which is a mix of ramen and ddeokbokki. Seriously so delicious even if it’s pretty spicy.
25. Samgyetang (삼계탕)
You know, I don’t eat samgyetang nearly enough, but it’s such a good soup for when you’re feeling sick. I think on my visit to Korea in April, I tried finding some when I got a horrible cold but I couldn’t find anywhere close enough.
It translates to ginseng chicken soup and is made with chicken, garlic, jujube, and ginseng. Don’t worry about it being remotely spicy — it’s all comfort. For some reason, it’s also a popular summer dish even though it’s warm.
26. Samgyupsal (삼겹살)
You didn’t think I’d make a whole list of what to eat in Korea and not include samgyupsal, did you? The name comes because of the 3 layers you see in the pork belly. Think of it like thicker bacon but better. Nothing beats a nice Korean BBQ with samgyupsal and kalbi! Grill, cut it up, and put in a little lettuce wrap with rice, ssamjang sauce, and maybe a piece of garlic and mushroom.
When Stacey and I were coming back from Gurye, the only restaurant open was a BBQ place near the train station, and the woman told us it was a minimum of 3 servings. Guess who had no problem polishing all that off?
27. Sundubu jjiggae (순두부찌개)
Sundubu jjiggae is more or less tofu stew. It’s usually a bit spicy as it’s made with gochujang or chili powder, and it’s a mix of soft tofu with vegetables and sometimes seafood. I personally prefer doenjang jjiggae, but I won’t say no if someone puts this in front of me!
I should note that Korean Chinese food is pretty similar to American Chinese food in that it’s not really Chinese. Like I don’t know any Chinese person who considers these dishes a staple in their cuisine!
28. Jajangmyun (자장면)
Jajangmyun is another of my go-to comfort foods. Nothing beats just ordering a nice big dish of it and digging in. You make the dish with chunjang (춘장), a sort of sweet black bean sauce mixed with pork and veggies over a big bowl of noodles. If you order it, they’ll usually serve it plopped on top, allowing you to mix it into your noodles yourself. SO GOOD. It’s gets very messy, so if you got a restaurant see if they have an apron for you. Otherwise, wear an old T-shirt if you eat it at home. You don’t want to see what I look like eating jajangmyun by myself haha.
29. Jjambbong (짬뽕)
I’m not the biggest jjambbong fan, but there’s a restaurant in Namwon that serves it, and it’s made perfectly. My co-teacher used to take me once in a while if we had to leave school early or sometimes the teachers as a whole just decided to go there. It’s pretty spicy and made with noodles, some sort of meat, and chili oil. It’s super easy to make the chili taste cheap and watery, so you have to be picky about where you go.
30. Tangsuyuk (탕수육)
Whenever I got to a Chinese-Korean restaurant, we get an order of jajangmyun and tangsuyuk! It’s so freakin’ good. You fry some pork coated in flour and some vegetables. Then you pour over this sweet and sour sauce made with soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, some starch.
31. Yanggochi (양꼬치)
Or lamb skewers. These are actually a pretty recent phenomenon in Korea! They only start get popular around when I left Namwon, so by the time I came back to Korea a year later, I saw yanggochi restaurants all over! They’re so, so tender. You basically grill these thin lamb skewers and have different salts or spices you can dip them into. I sometimes will eat mine with rice.
I first tried them Mokpo when I stayed with my friend, Nicole, and her boyfriend and I even requested we go for my birthday haha. I was a little bummed thinking I wouldn’t be able to find a place when I moved to Suncheon. However, I discovered during our welcome dinner that there was a place less than 5 minutes from my apartment, and it also had the best eggplant dish ever. The only thing that kept me from going ever week was how expensive the dishes could be haha.
Do not miss out on the street food scene! Some of the best Korean food is found in little stalls scattered around the cities. If you’re not sure how to get started, try one of these tours:
Otherwise, hopefully my picks for the best street food to try help you figure out what to try!
32. Bungeoppang (붕어빵)
Bungeoppang are those little fish-shaped breads you see in all the food stalls. Most of the time it’s red bean, and it comes from Japanese taiyaki. However, there’s a cream-filled version that is super addicting and tasty. I love those, but I hate the red bean ones. It’s because I once got a bungeoppang and thought it was chocolate or nutella. Let me tell you, nothing is quite as disappointing as biting into a pastry thinking you’re about to taste chocolate and instead tasting red bean. Blech.
Some places have bbungeobbang ice cream, it’s fish bread with its mouth open and then soft served ice cream coming out of it. Highly recommend that version as well if you spot it!
33. Steamed Corn (찐 옥수수)
I know this sounds pretty plain, but hear me out. Korean corn tastes a lot different from the corn you’re used to, especially in the US. It’s sweeter, so all a street food stand does is steam it!
34. Ddeokkbokki (떡볶이)
For the longest time whenever someone asked me what my favorite Korean food was, I’d say ddeokkbokki. I fell in love with it when I was a student, and I’m always eager to try some out!
The problem is that in recent years, a lot of food stands make ddeokbokki stupidly spicy, and it makes it really unpleasant to eat! I have to be careful where I get it, and usually it means just eating it when it’s homemade.
It’s a pretty simple dish — little tubular rice cakes with some fishcakes in a spicy sauce. When done well, it’s the most perfect dish. When done poorly, it just burns your mouth off.
35. Goguma (고구마)
Goguma is simply sweet potato in Korean. Oftentimes, more so in the cold months, you just see stands with goguma baked in foil. Trust me, it’s tasty. You don’t need to put anything on a roasted sweet potato, just wait for it to cool enough and start eating!
Special shout out to goguma lattes!
36. Hotteok (호떡)
Mmm hotteok. I actually tried making these at home I loved them so much. It was… a dry disaster.
Anyway, hotteok is also sometimes translated as pancake but it’s very different from jeon. Think of like a small, circular flat bread that has a sweet filling inside. A lot of times it’s made with brown sugar and cinnamon and nuts. I feel like the key to a good hotteok is to make sure the filling-bread ratio is fair. A lot of places have too much bread and not enough filling.
There’s a super good stand in Gamcheon that nails this!
37. Kyeran Bbang (계란빵)
Egg bread is more of a winter street food dish, and it’s not as commonly found as other dishes! They’re little oblong sweet breads with a fried egg inside or on top. It sounds oddly simply, but it’s really good, especially when you’re walking in the cold and spot one out of the blue!
38. Odeng (오뎅)
I know odeng is probably terrible for you, but it’s so good! It’s processed fishcake that’s served on a skewer and dipped in a sort of broth. It also sometimes pops up in banchan. I hate that I love it.
39. Soondae (순대)
Soondae, or blood sausage, is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Basically steam pig or cow intestine and then stuff them with things like glass noodles. I like mine with a bit of salt as well. A lot of people find it gross, but I say taste it for yourself to see!
Korean Fruits I Love
40. Hallabong (한라봉)
Hallabong is a signature fruit of Jeju. They’re in the citrus category, pretty similar to oranges. I’m really not sure of the difference, actually! But hallabong is delicious in every sort of shape and form — slushies, drinks, chocolates, soju… I like it best in some sort of smoothie or slushy.
41. Kyoho Grapes (거봉 포도)
Kyoho grapes are found in East Asia in general and actually originate from Japan. You’re supposed to eat them like this:
- Pop one in your mouth and break open the skin.
- Spit out the skin and seeds and eat the pulp.
42. Pears (배)
I love that the Asian pear’s Korean name romanized is literally “bae.” The same word is used for boats. So you could literally say “Eating baes with my bae on a bae,” and it technically makes sense in Konglish!
Puns aside, Korean pears are a really sweet. You don’t eat the skin, and instead peel and cut them to eat. I don’t really like regular pears, but I could eat Korean pears all the dang time.
43. Persimmons (감)
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t really grow up eating persimmons. However, it’s one of the foodie symbols for autumn in Korea. There are two kinds of persimmons — hachiya (딻은감) and fuyu (단감). I like them both, but they’re quite different. The hachiya is a darker orange, more like red-orange, and the fleshy part is very soft. It’s quite messy to eat, just a warning, and it goes bad a lot quicker. The fuyu is more common, and the flesh is harder (more like an apple). Just peel and eat!
44. Strawberries in the earliest seasons (딸기)
Nothing as is a delicious as strawberry when it’s early spring in Korea! There’s so sweet, I could eat a whole box of them in one sitting. They gradually get a bit more sour as the season goes on, so the best time is early on.
There’s also a ton of variety of strawberry-flavored food like strawberry milk or strawberry lattes!
45. Danmuji (단무지)
I always like have some danmuji, or yellow pickled radishes, as a side dish because it’s kind of refreshing if you’re eating a heavier meal! Plus I’ll always think of Siwon in “She Was Pretty” making funny faces with them!
46. Kimchi (김치)
Specifically Kimjang Kimchi. I feel like if I made list of the best Korean foods to try and I didn’t include kimchi, I might as revoke any claim of expertise I have. Kimchi is Korea and Korea is kimchi!
Anyhow, kimchi is fermented cabbage, and it’s served with every single meal you’ll ever get in Korea. It can be quite spicy and at the very least it’s pungent. It goes wayyyy back to the Three Kingdom period.
Personally, I’m not crazy about kimchi, though I’ll eat some when it’s place in front of me. The only kimchi I’ve actually gotten excited about is kimjang kimchi, which is a way of saying it’s freshly homemade. Since most families make kimchi to last all year in November/December, you’ll find kimjang kimchi more in the early winter days and pretty much only if you’ve got a Korean friend who’s mom sends them some. A long time ago, I actually wrote a whole post about kimchi!
Try making your own kimchi with this cooking class in Myeongdong.
47. Kyeranjjim (계라찜)
Kyeranjjim simply means steamed egg bowls. They usually come with BBQs and I’ve always been a fan! I mean if you like eggs, you’ll like kyeranjjim. If you don’t, you won’t.
48. Spinach Dishes (시금치)
Koreans do know how to treat spinach, mmmm. One of the side dishes I always reach for are the spinach based ones. They’re not usually spicy, and they’re made by blanching the spinach with some soy sauce, garlic, and sesame oil.
Gotta have a section for these three sauces! They obviously go with most of the dishes above, but really I could have a container of any of them in my fridge, pull out some carrots, and start snacking. Hummus, who?
49. Gochujang (고추장)
Gochujng is a red chili paste that’s a bit fermented. It’s both spicy and sweet, and you can often use it to marinate different meat or in stews.
50. Doenjang (된장)
Doenjang translates to soybean paste. It’s got a pretty pungent smell and is made from a fermented bean paste of soybean and brine. A lot of times it’s actually a byproduct of soy sauce. It’s quite similar to miso but stronger. I have a container at home to make some jjiggae with and to just snack on veggies with.
51. Ssamjang (쌈장)
What do you get when you mix doenjang, gochujang, sesame oil, and other ingredients together? Ssamjang! It’s usually ssamjang that’s served with BBQ. I always mix it up with gochujang, but I’d say its a bit sweeter and obviously has some more flavors mixed in.
52. Bingsu (빙수)
The ultimate dessert to survive summer in Korea. In its most basic form, bingsu is shaved ice with different toppings and some condensed milk. Traditionally, you eat it as patbingsu (팥빙수), which means it’s topped with red bean as well as some ddeok and nut powder. As you saw from my bbungeoppang section, I am not a fan of red bean.
Instead, I love the more modern takes on bingsu from melon bingsu to my favorite, from Sulbing, blueberry cheesecake bingsu!
53. Convenience Store Ice Cream
Don’t @ me. Instead, imagine this — you’re walking home from work on a hot summer day. You’re about to reach your apartment, and you walk by your closest convenience store. Right by the door is an array of delicious little ice cream bars all for 2-3,000 KRW or less.
You bet I’ve stopped by multiple times for an instant cool off! I go between craving the melon bars, this swirly chocolate ice cream that comes in a container reminiscent of poop, and a vanilla shake that comes in a sort of juice box.
54. Honey Bread (허니브레드/꿀빵)
Mmm honey bread. I love going to a cafe in the winter and getting a nice hot latte and honey bread. If left to my own devices, I probably can eat it all myself, but usually I split it with at least one other person. It’s really simple to make — just thickly cut some bread, cut squares in the bread, and then drizzle honey. Butter the top, bake for 10 minutes, and top with some whipped cream, almonds, and chocolate!
55. Songpyeon (송편)
I’m not the biggest fan of rice cakes, but songpyeon is the exception. I’ve really only ever seen it served around Chuseok, usually with my school lunch. They’re little half moon rice cakes with sweet fillings, and you usually see them in white, green, or pink coloring.
I should note, that while Americanos are a big part of Korean culture, I’m not including coffee and lattes because there’s not really a unique Korean twist on the recipes. However, the one thing that makes coffee culture special is that the abundance of cute cafes! You can check out my big post on the trendiest cafes in Seoul as well as some more specific places I’ve visited like the Dreamy Camera Cafe, Enrogel Tea Pot Cafe, or the Stylenanda Cafes.
56. Bori-cha (barely tea)
Barley tea is something I usually get when I want a drink while traveling. Instead of water or Vitamin C, I reach for boricha. It’s not the tastiest drink in the world and most people I know hate it, but it doesn’t bother me as long as I drink it cold. I read somewhere it’s good for your skin, but so is just staying hydrated in general!
57. Brown Rice Green Tea (현미녹차)
It sounds gross, but brown rice green tea is so nice and cozy! It’s found in almost every single teacher’s lounge right next to the little Maxim coffee sticks. You can actually buy a box of it on Amazon.
58. Chilsung Cider (칠성 사이다)
My sweet addiction! Chilsung cider is a soda in Korea, and it’s similar to Sprite but way, way better. I got pretty addicted to it my last summer in Namwon and would drink a bottle of it a day. Whenever I’m back, I limit it to once or a week or a special occasion so I don’t get out of control!
59. Green Tea (녹차)
Considering Korea has three prominent green tea fields in Hadong, Boseong, and Jeju, it should be no surprise that green tea drinks and products are quite popular. I had a nice big bag of Boseong leaves I’d make in my French Press and then stick in the fridge so I always had some iced green tea!
And, of course, indulge in all the green tea frappes, lattes, and ice cream!
60. Maesil Tea (매실차)
Mmm maesil. I highly recommend that when you go to the sauna for your girls’ sesh, order some maesil to drink while you’re soaking in tubs or in the steam rooms. Maesil is a sort of plum in Korea — it’s what the maehwa trees produce. People will take the plums and dilute them into a sort of syrup, so the sweetness offsets the tartness. Then the syrup is mixed with water, and boom! I’m obsessed with it.
61. Misu (미수)
Ooh you know summer is here when the cafeteria serves you up a little cup of misu with ice for dessert. Misu is a sweet drink made with sort of powder made from different grains. Mix it with water or milk and even add in a bit of sweetener if you like.
62. Omijacha (오미자차)
Omijacha is another big favorite. It’s name translates to “five flavors tea” because in one sip you’re supposed to taste the tea’s sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness, and pungency. It’s made with these kind of magnolia berries. I prefer it cold but I still wouldn’t turn down a hot cup.
63. Sikhye (식혜)
Sikhye is one of those drinks to get at the sauna. It’s going to sound gross but it’s actually delicious! Basically you want to pour a sort of malt water over cooked rice. A lot of times, restaurants do this with the leftover rice at the bottom of a bowl. It’s steeped and then boiled until sweet. If you’re not planning to go to the sauna or get it after your meal, you can always buy canned sikhye at the convenience store!
64. Yujacha (유자차)
Lemon tea! This is one of my favorite drinks, especially in the winter. I actually went to the store and got a big jar of it to make tea at home with a few times while I lived in Korea.
65. Soju (소주)
Someone I studied with once described soju as the following: “It tastes like it wants you to have a hangover tomorrow.” For some reason that has always made me laugh, so when I try to explain it to anyone unfamiliar, that’s what I say. Soju is made from rice, wheat, or barley and is a clear liquid. Cheaper soju is often made with other starches.
There are a lot of variety of soju, and while I don’t drink alcohol, I’ve tried yogurt and fruit varieties when I was student and recently a peach soju in the US. The original soju tastes absolutely terrible, but the fruit and yogurt ones are pretty good, especially if you like alcohol! I’ve heard the soju from Hallasan is the best.
Drink it in glasses slightly bigger than shot glasses with some BBQ. If you really want to, ahem, speed up the drunkenness, do a thing of soju in beer/maekju! It’s called somaek (소백).
66. Makgeolli (막걸리)
Makgeolli a rice wine and it looks white and cloudy when drink it. Typically, you drink it from a small bowl, and it’s best after a hike with some jeon! I’ve only had a sip of it once or twice, it’s not really for me. Try making your own makgeolli with this class
Whoo-weee that was a long one! Well, 66 dishes and drinks later, that’s my guide to the best Korean food! Would you believe I start this post thinking I’d only write down 20 things?! Pfff
for more on korea
If this is your first time in Korea, check out my bucket list of beautiful places to visit in Korea. Then I recommend reading my giant list of Korea travel tips as well as this trip planner guide with all the logistics. One of my best pieces of advice is to learn some Korean including how to read Hangul and a few basic phrases. It’ll make your life much easier, especially away from the city.
I also have a post with all the apps I download when I go since normal apps like Uber and Google Maps don’t work as well. Speaking of, I also recommend arranging for a SIM card ahead of time if you have an unlocked phone. It’s cheaper than showing up in person.
You may also find my itinerary guides helpful! I’ve got 4 sample itineraries for 2 weeks, the ultimate 1 month itinerary, and a very efficient 7 day itinerary.
As for ways to be prepared, I recommend having some sort of insurance. I use either World Nomads of Safety Wings depending on what I’m doing. You can get a quote for World Nomads here and a quote for Safety Wing here.
If you’re a women traveling and still have questions, feel free to join my Facebook group! It’s where it’s easiest to contact me.
What’s your favorite Korean food? Let me know if I’m missing it!
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My family and I have been to Seoul many times, as it is one of our favorite travel destinations. Each time we visit, it feels like our first time—so many things to do, to see, and to eat. Each time we’re in Seoul we pick one Korean dish and try to find the best version of it. This trip it’s Ddeokkbokki! In one of your posts, you referred to yourself as a “ddeokkbokki snob.” I am curious to know if you have a favorite place in Seoul for ddeokkbokki and if you could share your recommendation(s). I’d love to add it to our list of places to try.
Your site is amazing. It has been so helpful as I am planning for our visit to Seoul in a couple of weeks. Thank you for all of the research, tips, and great ideas.
Hi Timothy! Thank you so much for your comment and I’m glad you love Seoul as much as I do. I’m not too sure as the only place I really ate it in Seoul was when I studied there over 10 years ago at a random place next to my university. I do think you can’t go wrong in any of the food markets – I was pleasantly surprised by Gwangjang Market on my last visit! It’s obviously a popular spot for tourists and locals but the food is still quite good. I’d also recommend commenting or shooting my friend Hallie over at @thesoulofseoulblog on IG as she lives there and she’d know better!
If you do happen to go to Busan, I still think the ddeokbbokki I got in Nampo-dong market is easily one of the best I’ve ever had.