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    10 must-try dishes when you are in South Korea
    South Korea travel
    South Korea cuisine
    Street food

    10 must-try dishes when you are in south korea

    South Korea is a food lover's paradise, and there's an incredible variety of dishes and street foods to try. Whether you're a seasoned foodie or just looking for some delicious and affordable options, here are some must-try dishes and street foods in South Korea:

    1. Kimchi (김치)

    You can't visit South Korea without trying its iconic spicy fermented cabbage. Kimchi is a staple in Korean cuisine and comes in various types, from the classic Napa cabbage kimchi to radish kimchi. It's served as a side dish with almost every meal.

    Kimchi's roots can be traced back to the early days of Korea, around 2,000 years ago. It was developed as a means of preserving vegetables through the harsh Korean winters, ensuring a source of nutrients during the colder months. The term "kimchi" encompasses a wide variety of vegetable dishes that have been fermented, pickled, or brined with a blend of spices, usually containing ingredients like napa cabbage, radishes, and cucumbers.

    One of the most significant moments in kimchi's history was the introduction of chili peppers to Korea in the 16th century. This addition transformed kimchi into the spicy, tangy, and savory delight that we know today.

    2. Bibimbap (비빔밥)

    A popular Korean dish, bibimbap is a bowl of rice topped with a colorful assortment of vegetables, meat (usually beef), and a spicy red pepper sauce. Mix it all together for a flavorful and satisfying meal.

    Bibimbap, a dish that translates to "mixed rice" in Korean, is a colorful and delectable representation of Korea's diverse flavors and cultural history. With a history dating back centuries, Bibimbap is more than just a meal – it's a culinary masterpiece that reflects the essence of Korean gastronomy.

    Bibimbap is characterized by a harmonious blend of ingredients, typically including rice, vegetables (like spinach, mushrooms, and carrots), protein (such as beef, tofu, or even a fried egg), and an array of toppings like sesame seeds and gochujang (red chili paste). Each component is carefully prepared and arranged in a bowl, and the true magic happens when everything is mixed together just before eating.​

    3. Tteokbokki (떡볶이)

    This spicy stir-fried rice cake dish is a favorite street food. The chewy rice cakes are drenched in a spicy red sauce and often served with fish cakes, hard-boiled eggs, and vegetables.

    Tteokbokki, also spelled as Ddeokbokki, finds its roots in Korea's rich culinary history, dating back centuries. This mouthwatering dish features cylindrical or oval-shaped rice cakes, known as "tteok," smothered in a fiery and savory gochujang (red chili paste) sauce. While it's now a popular street food, its history is steeped in tradition.

    The basic ingredients of Tteokbokki include the chewy rice cakes, gochujang sauce, and often a medley of other ingredients like fish cakes, vegetables, and boiled eggs. The sauce is the star of the show, offering a perfect balance of spicy, sweet, and savory flavors that create a unique umami experience.​

    4. Bulgogi (불고기)

    Bulgogi is marinated and grilled beef, and it's a delicious and savory treat. You can find it in various forms, from BBQ-style restaurants to fast-food joints.

    Bulgogi, which translates to "fire meat" in Korean, is a mouthwatering dish that has been captivating taste buds for centuries. Its roots trace back to the Goguryeo era (37 BC – 668 AD), one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, when people began marinating and grilling thin slices of meat over an open flame. This early form of Bulgogi laid the foundation for the delicious dish we know today.

    The hallmark of Bulgogi is the meticulous preparation of the meat. Thin slices of beef, typically sirloin or tenderloin, are marinated in a blend of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil. This marinade imparts a sweet, savory, and slightly smoky flavor to the meat. The marinated beef is then grilled, either over an open flame, on a BBQ grill, or in a skillet, resulting in tender, caramelized, and mouthwatering goodness.​

    5. Japchae (잡채)

    Japchae, often referred to as "Korean glass noodles," is a true gem in Korean cuisine. Its origins date back to the early 17th century, during the Chosun Dynasty. This dish, which was once reserved for royal banquets, has evolved over centuries to become a cherished and accessible part of Korean culinary culture.

    The name "Japchae" is derived from two words: "jap" meaning mixed, and "chae" meaning vegetables. At its core, Japchae is a harmonious blend of ingredients, with the key element being the translucent and slightly chewy sweet potato glass noodles, also known as "dangmyeon."

    The preparation of Japchae is an art form. The noodles are first boiled, then tossed with a medley of colorful vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, bell peppers, and mushrooms. The addition of protein, typically thinly sliced beef, provides a hearty dimension to the dish. To tie it all together, the ingredients are seasoned with a balanced blend of soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar, creating a symphony of sweet and savory flavors.

    6. Gimbap (김밥)

    Think of gimbap as Korea's answer to sushi rolls. It's made by rolling rice, vegetables, and your choice of filling (like tuna, kimchi, or bulgogi) in seaweed sheets. It's portable, making it a great option for a quick, on-the-go snack.

    Gimbap, often referred to as "Korean sushi" or "Kimbap," is a staple in Korean households, a popular snack, and a versatile dish suitable for any occasion. While it may resemble sushi, Gimbap has its own unique history and flavor profile.

    One of the distinctive features of Gimbap is its accessibility. Unlike the intricate art of making sushi, Gimbap is a practical and budget-friendly dish that can be made with simple ingredients found in most Korean kitchens. The core components of Gimbap include steamed rice, seasoned vegetables, and a protein, often egg, ham, or fish.​

    7. Odeng (오뎅)

    Odeng are fish cakes on skewers served in a warm, savory broth. They are a common sight at street food stalls, and they make for a comforting and affordable snack.

    Odeng is made from a mixture of ground fish paste, starch, and various seasonings. This mixture is shaped into different forms, such as long fish cake logs, and skewered onto sticks. The skewers are then cooked in a savory and umami-rich broth, absorbing its delicious flavors.

    What sets Odeng apart is its versatility. These fish cake skewers can be enjoyed in different ways. They are commonly served on skewers and enjoyed as a convenient street food snack, dipped into a flavorful soy-based sauce. Odeng is also a popular addition to tteokbokki, a spicy rice cake dish, or served in soups and stews.