Seoul, the bustling capital city of South Korea, is a culinary haven where incredible Korean cuisine can be discovered in every nook and cranny. From humble street vendors tucked away in narrow alleys to upscale restaurants nestled within luxurious 5-star hotels, the city offers a diverse range of culinary experiences. Many of these delectable dishes have a rich history spanning over 2,000 years, originally reserved for the palates of Korean royalty.
In present times, Korean food has gained immense popularity, captivating both locals and tourists with its savory, spicy, hearty, and nutritious delights that can be savored at any hour of the day. To help you embark on a gastronomic adventure during your stay in Seoul, we have curated a list of the top Korean foods that you simply must sample in this vibrant capital city. Prepare your taste buds for an unforgettable culinary journey through the flavors of Seoul.
Considered the national dish of Korea, kimchi is a spicy fermented cabbage dish. It is prepared by marinating cabbage with a blend of chili pepper, garlic, ginger, and other seasonings. Kimchi is a staple side dish in Korean cuisine and is also used in various recipes.
Its fermentation process not only gives kimchi its distinct tangy flavor but also enhances its nutritional value, as it contains beneficial probiotics.
A popular rice dish that literally translates to “mixed rice.” It consists of a bowl of steamed rice topped with various sautéed and seasoned vegetables, meat (usually beef), and a fried egg. The ingredients are mixed together with a spicy gochujang sauce before eating.
The combination of colorful vegetables, flavorful meat, and a perfectly fried egg creates a visually appealing and satisfying meal that bursts with different textures and tastes in every bite.
Thinly sliced beef marinated in a sweet and savory soy sauce-based marinade, bulgogi is a popular Korean barbecue dish. The marinated beef is grilled or pan-fried and served with rice, lettuce wraps, and various side dishes.
The tender and juicy slices of beef in bulgogi are marinated for hours to infuse them with a mouthwatering blend of flavors, resulting in a delectable meat dish that is both sweet and savory.
A stir-fried noodle dish made with sweet potato glass noodles, japchae is often served as a side dish or main course. It is cooked with a mix of vegetables, usually including spinach, carrots, mushrooms, and onions, along with soy sauce and sesame oil for flavor.
The translucent and chewy sweet potato glass noodles in japchae soak up the flavors of the vegetables and the seasonings, making each bite a delightful balance of textures and tastes.
This is a popular Korean barbecue dish featuring thick slices of pork belly. The pork is grilled at the table, and it is typically enjoyed by wrapping the meat in lettuce wraps along with garlic, kimchi, and other condiments.
Grilling the pork belly at the table not only creates an interactive dining experience but also allows you to enjoy the crispy exterior and the succulent, melt-in-your-mouth fat of the meat.
Tteokbokki is a spicy and chewy rice cake dish cooked in a thick gochujang-based sauce. It is often served with fish cakes, boiled eggs, and scallions. Tteokbokki is a popular street food in Korea.
The combination of chewy rice cakes and the fiery gochujang sauce creates a tantalizing heat that is balanced by the slightly sweet and addictive flavor of the dish.
A Chinese-inspired Korean dish, jajangmyeon consists of thick wheat noodles topped with a savory black bean sauce. The sauce is made from fermented black beans, diced pork, and various vegetables.
The rich and velvety black bean sauce used in jajangmyeon gives the dish its distinctive dark color and a unique umami flavor that will leave you craving for more.
8. Bibim Guksu
Bibim guksu, a Korean dish of cold noodles mixed with a flavorful sauce, offers a unique and customizable dining experience. With its versatile nature, diners have the freedom to personalize the dish by adding their preferred toppings and adjusting the spice level to suit their taste. The combination of the gochujang-based sauce, fresh vegetables, and chewy noodles creates a refreshing and satisfying meal, perfect for cooling down during the summer months.
The visual appeal of the vibrant colors and the interactive act of mixing the ingredients make bibim guksu a delightful culinary adventure that should not be missed.
Galbi is a marinated and grilled short rib dish. The beef or pork ribs are marinated in a sweet and savory soy-based sauce, often including garlic, ginger, and other seasonings. The ribs are then grilled to perfection and enjoyed with rice and side dishes.
The marination process of galbi allows the meat to absorb a perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors, resulting in tender and succulent ribs that are packed with taste.
10. Haemul Pajeon
Haemul Pajeon is a savory pancake made with green onions and various seafood, such as shrimp, squid, and clams. The ingredients are mixed into a batter made from wheat flour, eggs, and water, and then fried until crispy.
The combination of crispy pancake batter and the medley of fresh seafood in haemul pajeon creates a delightful contrast of textures, making it a popular dish for both seafood lovers and pancake enthusiasts.