In Sydney, I always enjoy going to Korean BBQ restaurants. I particularly like the places that offer ‘all-you-can-eat’ because you get so much more variety. However, this was the extent of my Korean food knowledge. I didn’t realise how much more I was missing out on!
During our recent trip to South Korea, James and I made sure we tried to eat as much Korean dishes as possible. Personally, I don’t think there is any point in travelling to another country if you’re not going to try the local cuisines. There were so many things to try! We had something different for breakfast, lunch and dinner and we were definitely impressed! There was never a lack of flavour in any of dishes. For me, the bonus was that most of the food were spicy – I love love love spicy food! Definitely one of my all time favourite cuisines.
I’ve listed some of the foods we tried and loved in South Korea (we visited Seoul and Jeju Island). Make sure you try it too when you get a chance!
1. Korean BBQ
Of course we have to start here! If you’ve never been to a Korean BBQ, let me explain how it works. You generally order your protein, which are mainly different kinds of beef or pork. Side dishes are complimentary and unlimited! You’ll get salad, lettuce leaves, kimchi, pickles, sauces, etc. You can also order some extras if you like (for me, that’s rice and corn) but some people can go by without adding any extras.
When you walk into the restaurant, you’ll notice that every table has a grill on the centre. This is where either you or the waiter will cook the meats you have chosen. I’ve noticed that at the best restaurants the waiter insists on cooking for you. Just let him! If not, make sure you watch what you’re cooking. Flip the meat from time to time and don’t let it burn. Once it’s cooked, set it aside. Or, just eat it right away with one of the side dishes they provide you.
2. Korean fried chicken
Also known as KFC, Korean fried chicken is a dish which you can have as an entrée or a main. There are a lot of fried chicken and beer restaurants all over Seoul and Jeju Island (I’m assuming all over the country too) where you’ll find a variety of… you guessed it! Fried chicken and beer!
You can choose from different flavours such as original, sweet chilli, spicy and soy. Lots of beer flavours to choose from too. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with this combination!
3. Ginseng chicken soup
This was the first ever meal we had in South Korea and by far our favourite! I remember walking into an alleyway full of small restaurants and a lady called us into hers. Side note: don’t miss walking into those random alleyways in Seoul. You’ll find a lot of hidden gems around there!
Anyway back to my story… The lady sat us down and put a big pot of soup in front of us. Once it started boiling, she put a small whole chicken in. I’m sure this was slightly pre-cooked because we didn’t have to wait long before we ate. The chicken was so tasty and tender. The soup itself doesn’t have much seasoning while it’s being cooked. However, they provide you with condiments so each person eating can adjust the taste to their liking. Of course, I added a lot of chilli in mine and it tasted so delicious! I still dream about this dish to this day (haha) so if you know where to find this in Sydney, please comment below! 🙂
4. Spicy soups and stews
We visited South Korea during the summer season. Although it was hot outside, the Koreans didn’t seem to mind as they would still serve and eat hot soups and stews. Some of the ones we tried were the spicy Korean beef stew, spicy soft tofu and minced beef stew, spicy beef soup with ramen noodles, and spicy tripe and intestine soup. Yep, there was a whole lot of spice going on! Delicious!
5. Traditional Jeju food
Being a small island surrounded by water, you would expect to try the freshest and most delicious seafood dishes in Jeju. On our first day there, we went to a restaurant where we were served a 7-dish traditional Jeju banquet plus unlimited sides. At 75,000 KRW, it was a bit pricey but we thought it was worth it. The portions were big and the food was cooked very well.
The banquet included abalone rice porridge, spicy fish stew, grilled mackerel, kettle rice, gulfweed soup and black pork. Obviously, black pork isn’t seafood but it is a delicacy in Jeju and can be found in a number of Korean BBQ restaurants.
6. Ice cream
I have never seen ice cream anywhere in the world that have more perfect swirls than the ones you can find in South Korea! The ice creams usually come with 2 different flavours swirled together. I tried a vanilla and chocolate swirl, as well as a blueberry and green tea swirl. Flavour-wise, they were pretty good. Texture-wise, they were a bit icy and not as smooth as I wanted them to be. BUT they are ice cream and no one should ever complain about ice cream!
7. Other desserts
In South Korea, you’ll find a range of desserts; from topped shaved ice to pastries with red bean fillings to egg waffle cones filled with ice cream to Korea’s own version of the French toast. Some Korean desserts are not as sweet or decadent as the usual desserts you may be used to. However, with a vast array of cafes and restaurants, you’ll definitely find something here that will suit your palate.
Have you ever been to South Korea? Let me know in the comments below what your favourite foods were!