Taste Buds, Come Travel with Us. These Top 20 Korean Food Dishes Will Have You Hurrying to Book Your Ticket to South Korea.

Korean Food is not limited to Korean BBQ and kimchi. From hot stews and soups to cold noodle dishes and sweet pancakes, we are sharing the 20 best Korean dishes. Whether you are preparing for a trip to South Korea and want to get familiar with the menu, or you are simply craving Korean cuisine and desire to experiment in the kitchen, these traditional meals will have your stomach rumbling with hunger in no time. And on that note, let’s get cooking. Here are the 20 most mouthwatering Korean foods. As soon as your taste buds are prepared, continue reading.

1. Kimchi

korean food - Kimchi
Credit: Alex Barlow

Kimchi is spicy, fermented cabbage. Essential to Korean cuisine, Kimchi is the go-to sidekick that pairs well with every Korean meal. Seriously. Every Korean meal. Spicy, salty, and crunchy, kimchi is one of the most popular dishes among Koreans and foreigners alike. Because it is such a staple to Korean cuisine, travelers will find kimchi anywhere and everywhere in South Korea. You can also purchase kimchi at an international market near you, or make your own at home.

2. Galbi

When you hear people raving about Korean BBQ, they are talking about galbi. Galbi is the other most commonly known Korean dish. These marinated short ribs have a huge fan club all around the world. After slabs of meat are marinated in soy sauce, garlic, and sugar, they are grilled to perfection. If you eat meat, then you are bound to be impressed with galbi. And the best news is that you don’t need to travel to South Korea to find this dish. Because of its popularity, you can find Korean BBQ all around the world.

3. Hotteok

korean food - Hotteok
Credit: Robyn Lee

Let’s talk about the best Korean street food: Hotteok. Hotteok is a sweet syrupy pancake that is crispy (aka fried) on the outside and gooey on the inside. These scrumptious pancakes are made in a variety of ways and can be filled with nearly anything. Typically, they are stuffed with brown sugar, honey, cinnamon, and chopped nuts. These bites of deliciousness can be quite the sticky mess, especially because they are served hot off the griddle. Yum! As the syrupy sweetness pours out of the crunchy fried dough, this is one Korean food you will have to order seconds (or thirds?) of. During the winter months, hotteok is even more popular because of its warmth. Hot and sugary treats on a cold winter day never hurt anyone.

4. Haemul Pajeon

Continuing with the pancake theme, Haemul pajeon is another Korean food that is best described as a seafood vegetable pancake-like dish. Haemul pajeon resembles a stuffed omelet, but the texture is far different. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, this Korean food dish is made up of mainly egg batter, wheat flour, rice flour, green onion, and seafood. Since the seafood can easily be omitted, vegetarians can enjoy this meal as well. Just say, so seafood!

5. Japchae

korean food - Japchae
Credit: Hiroko Kasagi

Japchae is a stir-fried sweet potato noodle dish with shredded vegetables and chunks of meat. The varieties of japchae are widespread, especially when it comes to what vegetables are tossed into japchae. However, most recipes consist of the standard mushrooms, carrots, spinach, leeks, and onion. This Korean food is predominately served as a side dish with lunch or dinner.

6. Yukgaejang

Yukgaejang is a spicy beef soup with vegetables. It is hearty and highly popular in South Korea. This dish consists of shredded beef, scallions, and a combination of vegetables. Because the ingredients simmer together for a long amount of time, the flavor is powerful. All you will need is a complimentary bowl of rice and ta-da! Enjoy this punch of spice in the wintertime to warm up or in the summertime to beat the heat. Yukgaejang can also be made with chicken instead of beef. If made with chicken, the dish is called dak-yukgaejang or dakgaejang. Whether you decide to go with beef or chicken, both variations are delicious.

7. Bibimbap

korean food - Bibimbap
Credit: Robyn Lee

Bibimbap is one of the most simple Korean food meals. This is mainly because there is no standard recipe. Bibimbap translates to “mixed rice.” Therefore, cooks have the freedom to stir in anything and everything they desire. The foundation of the meal is often rice mixed with loads of vegetables and topped off with a fried egg because why not? Versions of bibimbap can also include ground beef. Because of its variety, ordering bibimbap is always a delicious adventure since every dish tastes different.

Traveling throughout South Korea, you will find bibimbap served in a stone pot that keeps the meal scorching hot. It also causes the rice at the bottom to get extra crisp and crunchy. Either keep mixing the dish to avoid this or if you prefer the crunch, allow the noodles to sit and get all crisped up!

8. Soondubu Jjigae

Soondubu Jjigae is a soft tofu stew. As far as hot and spicy Korean food goes, soondubu jjigae is both of those things and more. Comforting, delicious, and flavorful, soondubu jjigae is one of the most popular Korean stews. This stew is filled with extra soft tofu, vegetables such as mushrooms and onion, and optional seafood or meat.

Side note for the non-Korean speakers: Any time you see jjigae at the end of a dish, know that the meal is a stew. Jjigae = Korean stew.

9. Mandu

korean food - Mandu
Credit: Deb

Mandu can come in many ways – steamed, boiled, or fried. These dumplings are stuffed with everything from pork to onion, cabbage, and carrots. All across the country the styles will vary, but each will be unique and tasty. You really cannot go wrong with a round of Korean dumplings.

10. Doenjang Jjigae

Doenjang jjigae is another beloved stew served in South Korea. This Korean soybean paste stew is like a Korean comfort food, bringing to mind all of the pleasant family memories of growing up with this meal. The dish itself is very salty and made with a base of tofu, zucchini, and green onions. Be sure to order a side of fluffy white rice to eat with your doenjang jjigae. When traveling in South Korea, try this favorite dish.

11. Tteokguk

korean food - Tteokguk
Credit: Jeremi Hanson

Tteokguk is a rice cake soup traditionally served on the first day of the Korean New Year. This soup is made up of thinly sliced rice cakes in a beef broth. It is usually garnished with shredded eggs, beef, scallions, and gim. When the Korean New Year comes around, celebrate with a bowl of tteokguk.

12. Hobakjuk

Vegans, you can eat Korean food too! Hobakjuk is a pumpkin porridge dish made with pumpkin (surprise, surprise) and sticky rice. The ingredients are blended into a smooth, yet thick texture and served up. Hobakjuk is a superb option for vegetarians and vegans in Korea. The simple presentation may convince you that this meal is bland, but dip a spoon into the soup and you will discover a sweet and flavorful meal. Hobakjuk can be served both hot and cold. However, most people find it best served hot.

13. Naengmyeon

korean food - Naengmyeon
Credit: Two Red Bowls

Naengmyeon is a dish of cold buckwheat noodles and it sure hits the spot come summertime. This meal is made of long, thin noodles, pear slices, cucumber, beef and a hard-boiled egg. Depending on the type of naengmyeon, the noodles can be made from potatoes, sweet potatoes, or arrowroot instead of buckwheat.

Mul naengmyeon and bibim naengmyeon are the two main ways that this Korean noodle dish is prepared. Mul naengmyeon is served in a clear broth, resembling more of a noodle soup. On the other hand, the noodles in bibim naengmyeon are mixed in a spicy red sauce, resembling more of a spaghetti-like dish. The choice as to which one to order is up to you. We say try both.

14. Gim

Gim is roasted seaweed. It is a common Korean food to be found when traveling in the country. As a staple side dish, gim can be paired with almost any meal. It can also be eaten as a snack. Because of its convenience, gim makes for the perfect on-the-go meal. Roasted and salted, seaweed is great for its nutritional benefits. When traveling in South Korea, try the gim. If you live near an international market/grocery store, then you can also purchase roasted seaweed there.

15. Kongguksu

korean food - Kongguksu
Credit: Mina Kim

Kongguksu is a cold soy milk noodle soup. This chilled dish is vegetarian-friendly and often topped with shreds of cucumber and slices of tomato. Because of its cool temperature, this savory meal is most enjoyed on hot summer days. Though this seasonal Korean food dish consists of simple ingredients, it is hearty enough to satisfy your hunger.

16. Ogok-bap

Ogok-bap, also known as five-grain rice, consists of sticky rice mixed with a millet combo, sweet red beans, and black beans. This meal is as simple as that. Since Ogok-bap is rich in nutrients, this dish is enjoyed by many Koreans for its health benefits.

17. Tteokbokki

korean food - Tteokbokki
Credit: Hui

This bright red-orange street food is an absolute hit in Korea. You can find this Korean food around every corner in Seoul. What exactly is tteokbokki? Tteokbokki is translated to “stir-fried rice cake.” It is made with cylinder-shaped rice cakes and other ingredients including fish cakes, boiled eggs, and scallions. Oh, and plenty of spice. Because you can never forget the spice.

18. Bulgogi

Bulgogi is a Korean marinated beef meal that all meat lovers will find delicious. Especially if you like a dose of sweetness with your meat. Bulgogi has a similar taste to galbi. It is one of the most popular Korean meat dishes throughout the world. Therefore, you don’t even have to travel all the way to South Korea in order to find this dish. The beef in this dish is marinated well in a sweet soy sauce, plenty of garlic, and sesame oil to flavor up the meal.

19. Patbingsu

korean food - Patbingsu
Credit: Robyn Lee

Patbingsu is a shaved ice dessert with sweet red beans. Every bakery, street vendor, and high-end restaurant has patbingsu on their dessert menu. It is that popular. When summertime rolls around, patbingsu is an absolute fan favorite. This dessert can be topped with any of your favorite fresh fruits too. If you are searching for a healthy dessert (that the kids will love too!), then try patbingsu. When in South Korea, try this delectable dessert.

20. Kimchi Jjigae

Kimchi jjigae is kimchi stew and it is a warm, spicy and savory dish. As long as you can handle the spice, you can handle kimchi jjigae.

Since we are huge foodies, we want to hear about your favorite Korean dishes as well. Share with us in the comments section below!

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