After nearly five months, I finally feel ready to share my favorite Korean foods. I wanted to be sure I had ample time to try most things – and I have at this point. And today seems like a good day – it is my birthday, after all. So behold, my top 10 favorite Korean foods, in no real order.
Dalkgalbi Cheesy Rice
I could write a poem to dalkgalbi cheesy rice. It’s spicy, chickeny, cheesy, and altogether amazing. I haven’t found better dalkgalbi than at the chain restaurant Yugane, where it’s about 6000 Won per person (a bit more if you add cheese-stuffed ddeokbokki – rice cakes – which you should!).
Kimchi fried rice, or kimchi bokkeumbap, is absolutely glorious. It is greasy like fried rice should be, and spicy and tangy from the kimchi. Different places do it differently; I prefer when there’s some seaweed, onion, garlic, and a sunny-side-up egg. At the place in this picture, the rice came out sizzling on a hot plate and the egg was nearly raw, cooking as you stirred it in. You usually find this dish at a kimbap restaurant, which is best described as a Korean diner. Kimchi bokkeumbap costs around 4500 Won, maybe a bit more if there’s cheese in it.
Pizza is not exactly originally Korean, but there is certainly a Korean twist to it here. The sauce is a bit sweeter and it always has corn, for instance. I happen to really enjoy it, especially the potato kind (which usually has ham on top of the potatoes). The piece above was from Pizza Maru, which has the best I’ve found so far. A pizza costs about 7500 or 8000 Won (that’s 8 pieces but not super big, maybe similar to a medium in the US).
A delectable envelope of dough around a center of brown sugar, cinnamon, and peanuts. Rich and tasty, and a popular winter food. In our neighborhood you can get one for 500 Won.
Photo by annamatic3000
Sundubu Jjigae is spicy tofu stew served extremely hot. The tofu is actually unpressed, ‘soft’ tofu that’s incredibly smooth and delicious. My only problem with sundubu is that it occasionally has seafood in it like shrimp, but I still really enjoy it. It typically costs 4000-6000 Won.
Korean dumplings are called mandu – this actually encompasses the steamed or boiled type above, its similar fried counterpart, and the big steamed bun kind. I like all of them, as long as they’re not full of red bean paste. I think I have a special affinity for the fried kind, because who doesn’t love anything fried? The smaller mandu is typically about 3000 Won per order which often gets you 5 or 6. The big steamed buns go for 1000 Won each down the street from me.
Galbi is marinated short ribs cooked in front of you. I actually enjoy lots of different types of meat in this style but I think galbi is my favorite (it can be beef or pork). This picture may or may not be galbi, I can’t be sure (don’t remember), but it is Korean BBQ and there is a moat of egg around it. A moat of egg! Anyway, Korean BBQ always seems to come to 10,000 Won a person no matter what you get.
Bibimbap is a bowl of rice, vegetables, and gochujang (fermented red pepper paste) that you mix together. The ‘dolsot’ part means it’s served in an extremely hot stone pot (seriously, don’t touch it). I prefer it in a hot pot because the bottom layer of rice gets nice and crunchy (but usually not burnt, just kind of toasty) and I love that extra textural addition. The bibimbap in this picture is kimchi pork bibimbap. It was 7000 Won but typically dolsot bibimbap is around 5000 or 5500 Won.
Jeon is a Korean pancake, and they come in many varieties. One of the most common is pajeon, which is made with green onion. Kimchijeon is made with kimchi (yes, I like kimchi in things). It may have squid in it depending where you get it. It’s usually a banchan (side dish) so I can’t really give you a typical price range.
Various Baked Goods
Lastly, I am totally in love with Korean baked goods. Bakeries are ubiquitous here – within a ten minute walk of my house there are approximately 8. Whether it’s the big chains like Paris Baguette or Tous Les Jours or a smaller local bakery the pastries and cookies and doughnuts tend to be good, and fairly cheap. Compared to the US, Korea makes it very affordable to indulge in my bakery sweet tooth. And everything is typically quite sweet (though not too sweet, unless we’re talking garlic bread, which is a different story entirely).