While most Aussies and New Zealanders tend to enjoy their food served course by course, in Korean culture, traditional Korean dishes tend to be served together in a free-for-all. Despite the endless variety that Korean cuisine offers, there are some classic culinary mainstays that can be found in Korean kitchens that are sure to widen your gastronomic horizons.
Although knowledge of kimchi is a strong start, you’re truly missing out if you don’t delve deeper into the wonders of traditional Korean food.
Here are 8 traditional Korean dishes that you may not have tried.
Spicy Pickled Cabbage (Baechu Kimchi)
We thought we’d start with the most recognisable traditional Korean food out there. That is, of course, Kimchi. Now, we’ve heard through the grapevine that no Korean meal is complete without it. A combination of fermented vegetables, it is both spicy and sour. However, the main ingredient in Kimchi is usually cabbage. This traditional Korean dish not only tastes amazing but packs a nutritional punch. With vitamins and minerals to spare and excellent levels of fibre, Kimchi is a side dish directly from the culinary gods. Due to its cultural value, its popularity has never diminished. Why not give it a whirl to find out why?
Korean Dumplings (Mandoo)
Mandoo, or Korean dumplings, are not only a delight to look at, but represent good luck when prepared during the Korean Lunar New Year. Don’t fret though, they’re enjoyed in Korea all year round. These rotund little wonders are usually made with ground beef or pork, but you can find veggie options floating around Korean dinner tables too!
Mixed Rice (Bibimbap)
Bibimbap is a Korean rice dish that’s usually finished with an egg yolk perched atop seasoned vegetables and meat. Though it sounds simple enough, these ingredients are combined with the almighty gochujang. This hot pepper paste is a staple in traditional Korean food and gives bibimbap its signature kick. The further you dig, the better this dish tastes. We must admit, it doesn’t hurt that this dish looks stunning when plated.
Stir-Fried Korean Noodles (Japchae)
Often served as an accompanying dish but still usually the star of the show, japchae is a traditional Korean dish comprised of sweet potato noodles, beef, vegetables and a hint of soy and sugar. As the sweet potato turns translucent when cooked, this dish’s literal translation is ‘glass noodles.’ You can enjoy japchae hot or cold, and many Koreans pile their plates high, consuming oodles of noodles to make this their main dish of the day.
Korean Beef Barbecue (Bulgogi)
Bulgogi is a staple meal that most non-Koreans are familiar with. This traditional Korean dish is comprised of thinly-sliced meats that have a distinctly sweet, yet smoky flavour. Bulgogi can be broiled, stir-fried or grilled, and is believed to have been around since the Goguryeo period (approximately 37BC to us modern folk). Traditionally prepared using beef or pork, and served with lettuce, these strips of charcoal beef are an ingenious confluence of vegetables and meat.
Korean Stuffed Chicken Soup with Ginseng (Sam Gae Tang)
Just like the ritual sick day chicken soup, Korean stuffed chicken soup is a prime rescue remedy for those feeling run down or a little under the weather. Loaded with the wonder herb Ginseng, this soup is traditionally consumed to beat the heat during Sambok (the hottest days of the Korean summer). The Koreans see this period as pertinent to fighting heat with heat, as they tend to cook this bad boy up at the peak of summertime. Enjoyed all year-round, this traditional Korean dish helps detoxify the body and is served with rice, and gingko nuts.
Short Rib Soup (Galbi Tang)
Traditionally, Korean short rib soup is served at Korean wedding receptions. Why, you ask? Well, as beef was once seen as a luxury, it was strictly reserved for special occasions. Since then, short rib soup has become one of Korean cuisine’s delicious mainstays. Onion, garlic and ginger dominate this dish, and we guarantee that it’s a sure-fire way to keep you warm when colder weather hits.
Korean Ox-Bone Soup (Seolleongtang)
Nothing is more satisfying than mustering up the courage to try something out of your comfort zone… and loving it. Korean ox bone soup may seem strange from an outside perspective, but it’s an established hit with Koreans far and wide. A simple dish that requires patience and a keen eye to reach its full potential, the soup is made by simmering the leg bones of an ox. Simple eh? The resultant soup is white, rich, meaty and the perfect pick-me-up on a dreary day. Though it retains its traditional character in all recipes, it’s not uncommon to see this dish served with thinly sliced beef strips for an extra kick of protein.
Did any of our traditional Korean food picks spark your interest? Check out the Uber Eats app to see what’s available in your area.