Korea is home to a wide variety of culinary delights, each incorporating a distinct combination of spices and fresh ingredients. The country offers its own unique dishes and specialties to sample, in addition to its own popular regional condiments. Many restaurants tend to serve food using bowls that are sometimes enough for two people. As a result, some of the common words you might come across while ordering are “one bowl” (han gereut) or “one serving” (han ilbon). You can find the cutlery at the bottom of the table on your side in a locker.
Now you can take your own salivating tour of Korean cuisine, differing across regions and cities, yet you can begin your food adventure right here at Sejong whenever you are in need of a break from school!
Dak-galbi (닭갈비) (spicy stir-fried chicken)
This dish is made with spicy cuts of boneless chicken, rice cake, cabbage, sweet potatoes, and onion stir-fry on a giant stone hotplate. As with other Korean BBQ dishes, the meat is then wrapped in ssam (쌈), such as lettuce leaves or sesame seed leaves. This meal comes in two versions, one with cheese and another without. You need a group of people to enjoy this dish. After the meat is eaten, Koreans usually add either rice or noodles (or a combination of both), which are fried using the leftover sauce, creating a crispy, delicious treat. I prefer to add these beforehand, however, so that the deal is less spicy and filling.
Jjimdak (찜닭) (Korean braised chicken)
This has been our go-to dish for delivery whenever we are craving something spicy and filling. It is an irresistible braised chicken dish, with the addition of potatoes, carrots, scallions, and glass noodles that help to soak up the sweet and savory sauce. We tend to offer rice on the side for our friends who cannot eat something so spicy. This also depends on the level of spice of your order. The dish comes in two versions: a less spicy version and a version of normal spiciness. This is a dish that is suitable for when you need something good but are too lazy to cook on the weekend.
Japchae (잡채) (Korean glass noodle stir fry)
The first time I tried Japchae was at lunch when it was offered by a Korean family. According to the family, this is an everyday dish that is rather easy to make and can be served with vegetables or meat. Due to its mild flavor, it captured everyone’s heart, unlike many of the other spicy dishes that Korea offers. I have not looked for this option in Korean restaurants, but if you ever have the opportunity to visit a Korean family, be sure to try this dish, as it is commonly prepared in any household no matter the occasion.
Bungeo-ppang (붕어빵; “carp bread”)
Traditionally, this is a winter snack that can be found on many Korean streets. Until fairly recently, this has always been filled with sweetened red bean paste, but these days, Korean street hawkers and eateries also fill it with thick custard (otherwise known as pastry cream or choux cream), pandan paste, peanut butter, Nutella, and even ice cream. This is one of the cheapest and tastiest snacks that you can find on the streets of Korea.
Samgyetang (삼계탕) – ginseng chicken soup
This is one of the dishes that many foreigners tend to love. The chicken soup is flavored with ginseng, an expensive herb found in South Korea. Therefore, the price can be a bit high depending on the place you choose to try this dish. It is typically served in a hot boiling pot, and Koreans tend to enjoy it primarily during summer. People believe it is a dish that is nutritious enough to boost your immune system. Due to its popularity, many food stores in the country sell this soup in packets, which allows you to cook it easily at home at a lower price. I have tried both forms of this meal, and both cause you to fall in love with samgyetang over and over again.
Jeonbokjuk (abalone porridge)
If you are a fan of K-dramas, you likely would have come across this dish. It is a meal that is typically offered to someone who is sick. The basic ingredients of abalone porridge are abalone and rice. The recipe is known to be nutritious, as it contains rich quantities of vitamins, proteins, and minerals, such as calcium. For me, it is a creamy, savory, and delicious dish on a day when you are feeling down, making this the best medicine!