Are you ready to embark on a delectable culinary adventure through the vibrant streets of South Korea?
From our past experience of leading group trips here, we’ve curated a mouthwatering list of the best dishes in South Korea that will take your taste buds on a wild journey.
Get ready to savor the iconic flavors of kimchi, indulge in sizzling barbecues like bulgogi and samgyeopsal, and slurp up comforting bowls of bibimbap and sundubu-jjigae.
Join us as we explore the local markets, cozy neighborhood eateries, and traditional restaurants to uncover the soul of Korean cuisine. Get your chopsticks ready and let’s dive into a world of culinary delights like no other.
Best Dishes in South Korea
1. Kimchi: Korea’s Beloved Fermented Delight
Kimchi, the quintessential side dish, is the embodiment of South Korea’s culinary heritage. This spicy, tangy, and umami-laden fermented vegetable medley is a fundamental part of every Korean meal.
Locally crafted by families and revered chefs, kimchi varies in flavors and ingredients across the country. From the fiery Napa cabbage kimchi in Seoul to the refreshing radish kimchi in Busan, each region boasts its distinct rendition.
For an authentic experience, head to bustling local markets like Gwangjang in Seoul or Jagalchi in Busan, where vendors passionately offer kimchi alongside a myriad of other Korean delicacies.
- Where to Eat: Local Markets (Gwangjang Market, Seoul), Traditional Restaurants (Baekje Samgyetang, Busan)
- Prices (In INR): Street Vendor – ₹200 per portion, Traditional Restaurant – ₹500 per portion
2. Bibimbap: A Vibrant Bowl of Harmony
Bibimbap, which translates to “mixed rice,” is a kaleidoscope of colors and flavors artfully arranged in a bowl. This harmonious dish features a bed of fluffy rice topped with an assortment of sautéed vegetables, succulent meat, and a fried egg, all adorned with a dollop of fiery gochujang sauce.
To experience bibimbap in its most authentic form, visit traditional Korean eateries known as “hanjeongsik” restaurants, where the dish is often served as part of a lavish multi-course meal. Alternatively, street-side vendors offer a quick and tasty version, allowing you to savor the magic of bibimbap on-the-go.
- Where to Eat: Hanjeongsik Restaurants (Gogung, Seoul), Street Vendors (Myeongdong, Seoul)
- Prices (In INR): Hanjeongsik Meal – ₹1,500 per person, Street Vendor – ₹300 per serving
3. Bulgogi: A Sizzling Symphony of Flavors
Bulgogi, a beloved Korean classic, is a feast for the senses. Thinly sliced, tender marinated beef is grilled to perfection, releasing a tantalizing aroma that lingers in the air.
The marinade, a harmonious blend of soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and sweeteners, imparts a perfect balance of sweet and savory notes to the succulent meat.
To relish an unforgettable bulgogi experience, head to traditional Korean barbecue restaurants where you can grill the meat yourself and savor it with an assortment of side dishes and lettuce wraps.
- Where to Eat: Korean Barbecue Restaurants (Maple Tree House, Seoul), Traditional Restaurants (Mugunghwa, Incheon)
- Prices (In INR): Korean Barbecue – ₹1,800 per person, Traditional Restaurant – ₹1,000 per serving
4. Japchae: Delicate Harmony of Noodles and Vegetables
Japchae, a celebration of textures and flavors, features chewy sweet potato glass noodles stir-fried with an array of vibrant vegetables and thinly sliced meat. The dish is elevated with a luscious sauce made from soy sauce, sesame oil, and a touch of sweetness.
Japchae is a must-try vegetarian-friendly option, but it can also be prepared with delectable seafood or succulent beef.
To savor this delightful dish, seek out traditional Korean restaurants, where skilled chefs meticulously prepare japchae with their unique twist.
- Where to Eat: Traditional Restaurants (Gaon, Seoul), Specialty Japchae Eateries (Japchae Gungjung, Busan)
- Prices (In INR): Traditional Restaurant – ₹800 per serving, Specialty Eatery – ₹500 per serving
5. Samgyeopsal: A Sizzling Affair with Pork Belly
Samgyeopsal, a crowd-pleasing Korean barbecue favorite, features thick slices of pork belly grilled to perfection. The sizzling sound as the meat hits the hot grill sets the stage for a mouthwatering experience.
Traditionally served with an assortment of fresh vegetables, garlic, and dipping sauces, samgyeopsal invites you to create your personalized wraps, adding layers of flavors with each bite.
Indulge in this culinary delight at lively barbecue joints where the convivial atmosphere and skilled grillmasters enhance the overall experience.
- Where to Eat: Korean Barbecue Restaurants (Wangbijib, Seoul), Local BBQ Spots (Yeonsan-dong, Busan)
- Prices (In INR): Korean Barbecue – ₹1,500 per person, Local BBQ Spot – ₹800 per serving
6. Galbi: Grilled Ribs with a Symphony of Flavors
Galbi, a close cousin of bulgogi, features succulent beef short ribs marinated in a soy-based sauce with a hint of sweetness. The marinade, often incorporating fruits like pear or apple, tenderizes the meat while imparting a delectable balance of flavors.
The ribs are grilled to perfection, resulting in a caramelized and savory exterior that contrasts beautifully with the tender meat inside.
Embrace this unforgettable barbecue experience at traditional Korean restaurants that specialize in galbi and serve it with an array of banchan (side dishes) to complement the flavors.
- Where to Eat: Korean Barbecue Restaurants (Tosokchon, Seoul), Traditional Eateries (Dongmulwon, Daegu)
- Prices (In INR): Korean Barbecue – ₹2,000 per person, Traditional Eatery – ₹1,200 per serving
7. Tteokbokki: Spicy and Chewy Rice Cake Delight
Tteokbokki, Korea’s beloved street food, features chewy rice cakes bathed in a fiery red chili sauce, creating a symphony of flavors that tantalize the palate.
This beloved snack is often paired with fish cakes, boiled eggs, and scallions to enhance the dish’s taste and visual appeal.
The spiciness of tteokbokki can vary, making it suitable for both fiery food lovers and those who prefer a milder kick.
Immerse yourself in the vibrant street food culture of South Korea by sampling tteokbokki from bustling street vendors who serve it piping hot.
- Where to Eat: Street Vendors (Gwangjang Market, Seoul), Specialty Tteokbokki Stalls (Namdaemun Market, Seoul)
- Prices (In INR): Street Vendor – ₹300 per portion, Specialty Stall – ₹200 per portion
8. Haemul Pajeon (Seafood Pancake): A Seafood Lover’s Delight
Haemul Pajeon, a delightful seafood pancake, showcases a medley of fresh seafood such as shrimp, squid, and clams, embedded in a savory pancake batter.
Scallions and other vegetables add a burst of color and crunch, while the pancake is skillfully pan-fried to a delectable crispness.
Served with a tangy soy-based dipping sauce, Haemul Pajeon offers a delightful contrast of textures and flavors, making it a must-try dish for seafood enthusiasts.
Visit traditional Korean seafood restaurants or bustling street markets to relish the authentic flavors of Haemul Pajeon.
- Where to Eat: Traditional Seafood Restaurants (Noryangjin Fish Market, Seoul), Street Food Stalls (Gwangalli Beach, Busan)
- Prices (In INR): Traditional Restaurant – ₹800 per portion, Street Stall – ₹500 per portion
9. Sundubu-jjigae (Soft Tofu Stew): A Hearty Tofu Comfort
Sundubu-jjigae, a comforting and spicy tofu stew, offers a soothing experience on chilly days. This soul-warming dish features soft tofu simmered in a spicy broth infused with an array of ingredients such as seafood, vegetables, and sometimes meat.
The stew’s flavors are enhanced with a touch of gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) and gochujang (Korean chili paste), giving it a fiery kick that delights spice enthusiasts.
Head to local sundubu-jjigae specialty restaurants or cozy neighborhood eateries to experience this beloved Korean comfort food.
- Where to Eat: Sundubu-jjigae Specialty Restaurants (Tofu Village, Seoul), Local Eateries (Insadong, Seoul)
- Prices (In INR): Sundubu-jjigae Restaurant – ₹1,000 per serving, Local Eatery – ₹600 per serving
10. Jjajangmyeon: A Fusion of Korean-Chinese Flavors
Jjajangmyeon, a popular Korean-Chinese noodle dish, boasts a luscious black bean sauce that enrobes the chewy wheat noodles.
The sauce is a tantalizing blend of fermented black soybeans, diced pork or seafood, and vegetables, resulting in a unique umami flavor that is both savory and slightly sweet.
As you slurp up these comforting noodles, you’ll be taken on a gustatory journey that reflects the fusion of Korean and Chinese culinary traditions.
Indulge in this satisfying dish at Korean-Chinese restaurants that specialize in jjajangmyeon, where it’s often served with pickled radish on the side.
- Where to Eat: Korean-Chinese Restaurants (Hongpung Jjajang, Seoul), Specialty Noodle Shops (Chuncheon Myeonok, Chuncheon)
- Prices (In INR): Korean-Chinese Restaurant – ₹1,200 per serving, Specialty Noodle Shop – ₹800 per serving
11. Mandu (Korean Dumplings): Pockets of Joy and Flavor
Mandu, Korean dumplings, are pockets of delight filled with various combinations of meat, vegetables, and seasonings. These versatile dumplings can be steamed, boiled, or pan-fried, and they make for a delightful appetizer or a satisfying meal.
Mandu comes in various shapes and sizes, such as the crescent-shaped gunmandu or the large and plump wangmandu. To savor the diversity of mandu, head to traditional dumpling houses or vibrant street markets, where you’ll find an array of fillings and preparation styles to suit every palate.
- Where to Eat: Dumpling Specialty Shops (Mandu Sonhwaban, Seoul), Street Food Markets (Namdaemun Market, Seoul)
- Prices (In INR): Specialty Shop – ₹600 per serving, Street Market – ₹300 per serving
12. Naengmyeon (Cold Noodles): Chilled Noodles for Hot Summers
Naengmyeon, a refreshing summer delicacy, features chewy buckwheat noodles served in an icy cold broth. The dish is often garnished with slices of cucumber, pickled radish, a hard-boiled egg, and a splash of tangy vinegar for a zesty kick.
There are two main types of naengmyeon: mul naengmyeon with a clear broth and bibim naengmyeon with a spicy sauce.
Embrace the coolness of naengmyeon at specialty restaurants that specialize in these chilled noodles, where it’s served in elegant metal bowls to maintain the frosty temperature.
- Where to Eat: Naengmyeon Restaurants (Hwigyeong Milmyeon, Seoul), Traditional Eateries (Yangmilmyeon, Gangneung)
- Prices (In INR): Naengmyeon Restaurant – ₹900 per serving, Traditional Eatery – ₹500 per serving
13. Bossam: A Sumptuous Pork Belly Feast
Bossam, a celebratory dish, features a tender boiled pork belly that is sliced into thin pieces, served with fresh oysters, kimchi, and an array of condiments.
The art of eating bossam involves creating personalized wraps with the ingredients, making every bite a unique blend of flavors and textures.
Often enjoyed during festive occasions or as a special family meal, bossam is an indulgence that brings people together in an experience of shared joy.
Savor this festive treat at traditional Korean restaurants that offer a delightful bossam experience complete with bountiful side dishes.
- Where to Eat: Traditional Restaurants (Gwanghwamun Jip, Seoul), Festive Eateries (Jeju Bossam, Jeju Island)
- Prices (In INR): Traditional Restaurant – ₹1,500 per serving, Festive Eatery – ₹1,000 per serving
14. Gimbap: Korean Sushi Rolls for a Quick Bite
Gimbap, Korea’s version of sushi, offers a delightful medley of flavors in a portable roll. These seaweed-wrapped rice rolls are filled with a variety of ingredients, such as vegetables, eggs, fish cakes, and meat, creating a well-balanced and nutritious snack.
Gimbap is an excellent option for a quick and satisfying meal on-the-go, and you can find it at local street vendors, convenience stores, and specialty gimbap shops throughout the country.
- Where to Eat: Street Vendors (Namdaemun Market, Seoul), Convenience Stores (CU, GS25)
- Prices (In INR): Street Vendor – ₹300 per roll, Convenience Store – ₹200 per roll
15. Dakgalbi: Spicy Stir-fried Chicken Delight
Dakgalbi, a fiery stir-fried chicken dish, is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. The marinated chicken is cooked with an assortment of fresh vegetables, such as cabbage, sweet potatoes, and scallions, all simmered together in a spicy gochujang-based sauce.
The dish is often served on a hotplate, allowing the flavors to meld together as the ingredients cook. Dakgalbi is best enjoyed with friends, as the communal cooking experience adds to the convivial atmosphere.
To savor this vibrant dish, visit specialized dakgalbi restaurants in the vibrant neighborhoods of Seoul or other major cities.
- Where to Eat: Dakgalbi Restaurants (Yoogane, Seoul), Local Eateries (Pyeongyang Dakgalbi, Chuncheon)
- Prices (In INR): Dakgalbi Restaurant – ₹1,300 per serving, Local Eatery – ₹800 per serving
16. Kimchi Jjigae (Kimchi Stew): A Fiery Stew of Fermented Flavors
Kimchi Jjigae, a hearty stew, is a celebration of Korea’s beloved kimchi. This bubbling pot of flavors features fermented kimchi simmered with pork, tofu, and an assortment of vegetables, creating a dish that embodies the essence of Korean comfort food.
The tangy and spicy notes of the kimchi infuse the stew, making it a favorite choice for locals seeking warmth during colder months.
Visit traditional Korean restaurants or cozy eateries known for their soul-soothing kimchi jjigae to experience this beloved dish.
- Where to Eat: Traditional Restaurants (Eulji Myeonok, Seoul), Neighborhood Eateries (Gyeongju Jjigae, Gyeongju)
- Prices (In INR): Traditional Restaurant – ₹1,000 per serving, Neighborhood Eatery – ₹600 per serving
17. Hoeddeok (Sweet Syrup-filled Pancakes): An Irresistible Sweet Treat
Hoeddeok, a popular street food dessert, features golden-brown pancakes filled with a sweet syrup made from brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts. The pancakes are pan-fried until they develop a crisp outer layer, while the syrupy center remains warm and gooey.
Hoeddeok is a delightful treat to satisfy your sweet cravings while exploring bustling street markets or iconic landmarks.
Seek out street vendors with traditional hoeddeok stalls to experience the joy of biting into this delectable Korean pancake.
- Where to Eat: Street Food Stalls (Myeongdong, Seoul), Iconic Landmarks (Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul)
- Prices (In INR): Street Stall – ₹200 per portion, Iconic Landmark – ₹100 per portion
Conclusion – Best Dishes in South Korea
As your culinary journey through South Korea comes to a close, the flavors of the best dishes in South Korea will linger in your memory. From the fiery spice of Tteokbokki to the comforting warmth of kimchi jjigae, each dish tells a story of culture and tradition.
So, whether you’re savoring street food in Seoul or indulging in seafood delights in Busan, the vibrant and diverse tastes of South Korea will leave you craving more.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself planning your next trip back to this enchanting land of culinary wonders, eager to explore new flavors and immerse yourself once again in the rich gastronomic tapestry of South Korea.
FAQs – Best Dishes in South Korea
What is kimchi, and why is it so popular in South Korea?
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made from fermented vegetables, most commonly Napa cabbage and radishes, seasoned with spices like garlic, ginger, and chili. It’s incredibly popular in South Korea due to its bold, spicy, and tangy flavors, along with its numerous health benefits. Locals believe it aids digestion, boosts the immune system, and is a vital part of their cultural identity.
Where can I try the best bibimbap in South Korea?
For a mouthwatering bibimbap experience, head to traditional “hanjeongsik” restaurants where you can indulge in a lavish multi-course meal featuring this delightful mixed rice dish. You can also find quick and tasty versions at street-side vendors, perfect for grabbing a quick bite while exploring the bustling streets of Seoul.
What makes Korean barbecue, like bulgogi and galbi, so special?
Korean barbecue is a feast for the senses! The marinated meat, like bulgogi (grilled beef) and galbi (grilled short ribs), offers a symphony of sweet, savory, and smoky flavors. The interactive grilling experience at Korean barbecue restaurants and the variety of side dishes add to the uniqueness and joy of indulging in these sizzling delights.
Where can I find the best street food, like Tteokbokki and gimbap, in South Korea?
For an authentic street food adventure, visit bustling markets like Gwangjang Market in Seoul, where you can savor iconic snacks like tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) and gimbap (Korean sushi rolls). Convenience stores like CU and GS25 also offer delicious and convenient options to try while on the go.
What’s the difference between naengmyeon and ramyeon?
Naengmyeon is a refreshing cold noodle dish, while ramyeon is a hot and spicy instant noodle soup. Naengmyeon is typically served with a chilled broth and toppings like cucumber and pickled radish, making it ideal for beating the summer heat. On the other hand, ramyeon is a popular quick and easy meal often enjoyed during colder months.
Where can I try dakgalbi, the spicy stir-fried chicken dish?
Dakgalbi enthusiasts should head to specialized dakgalbi restaurants like Yoogane in Seoul or local eateries like Pyeongyang Dakgalbi in Chuncheon. These places offer a vibrant atmosphere and allow you to enjoy the communal cooking experience, creating a memorable dining adventure.
What’s the best way to end a South Korean meal on a sweet note?
To satisfy your sweet cravings, don’t miss the mouthwatering hoeddeok, syrup-filled pancakes. For a delightful dessert experience, try local street food stalls at iconic landmarks like Myeongdong in Seoul, where you can indulge in this heavenly treat and end your culinary journey on a sugary high note.