Explosive, colorful and gaudy: Korean gastronomy is a mishmash of intoxicating flavors and heritage. On a recent trip to Seoul, my tastebuds were erotically seduced by the city’s vivacious culinary scene. From steamy kimchi stew to wriggly seafood to colorful street food, Korean fare is not just a feast for the eyes but also a feast for the soul. To begin your culinary education in Korean gastronomy, here are five typical foods found all over South Korea.
As South Korea’s ultimate comfort food, tteokbokki is so adored by the locals that you can find it in every street food stall and every dark alley. These chewy rice cakes are drenched in a lava of ruddy, sweet piquant sauce and punctuated by a host of spices. Tteokbokki traces its roots to the royal imperial kitchen, although these days it’s become more of a on-the-go fast food.
If Seoul were to be a dish, it would be bibimbap. This savoury dish features an aromatic mound of rice laced with fresh, seasonal vegetables, topped with a fried egg and accentuated with thick chilli pepper paste. Casually known as one of Korea’s national dishes, the bibimbap is also ubiquitous in South Korea. For the best bibimbap in Seoul, head to the international restaurant chain, Bon juk, with new branches opened in Singapore and Malaysia.
Easily the most famous Korean dish in the world, kimchi has won a loyal following among both locals and foreigners. Kimchi is the creation of tradtion and heritage, and till this day, it is still very much part of the country’s gastronomy. The timeless dish is made by preserving cabbage in a host of condiments and spices for years. The amount of preservation time determines the texture and flavor of the kimchi.
With the Samgyetang trend sweeping across the whole of Asia, it’s gained its share of fame across the glbe these days. The Korean chicken ginseng soup, rich in nutrition, is also outrageously tasty packed with a plethora of flavors and aroma. For a taste of the real stuff, Seoul’s Baeknyeon Tojong Samgyetang is a humble specialty restaurant that not only serves up the best chicken soup but also a rich kimchi stew that packs a punch.
5. Korean BBQ
The Korean BBQ is a quintessential culinary experience: grilling your own meat and pairing that with a myriad of side dishes. Some of the popular meats to try on a barbeque are the modum gui (grilled beef) and tong galbisal (ribs) and they are best paired with the naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles).