People say that you need to experience a country’s food to truly understand its culture. This is particularly true in South Korea. Korean dishes, with their bold flavours and unique tastes, have become a global sensation over the past few years.

While Korean food may seem complicated, especially with the innumerable side dishes it need not be so. Korean dishes also often feature a well-balanced mix of meat, veggies, rice, and spice. Here are 13 Korean dishes you have to try on your next trip to South Korea:

1Kimchi

What is it? Spicy, fermented cabbage and vegetables seasoned with onion, garlic, ginger and chilli.

One of the most famous of all Korean dishes, kimchi is an institution in itself. It is made with fermented cabbage, along with various other vegetables. Spicy, salty, and a little sour, it is served with almost every meal of the day.

2Bibimbap

What is it? Mixed rice with beef, vegetables, egg, and red chilli paste.

Bibimbap literally means “mixed rice,” and this Korean dish includes everything from namul (seasoned and sautéed vegetables), to meat, soy sauce, fried eggs, and gochujang (chilli pepper paste). While the ingredients may vary, it is important to have at least five colours in the bowl.

3Hobakjuk

What is it? Sweet pumpkin and rice porridge.

This traditional Korean porridge that is smooth and naturally sweet. It is made with steamed pumpkin with small glutinous rice balls. It is a popular breakfast dish and is also served to the unwell or the elderly. Hobakjuk can either be eaten hot or cold.

Also Read: Breakfast Dishes From Around The World

4Samgyeopsal

What is it? Slices of pork belly often found in Korean barbeques.

Literally meaning ‘three layers’ of pork belly, samgyeobsal, along with galbi (marinated beef or pork short ribs), bulgolgi (shaved tenderloin), is among the most popular Korean meat dishes. While samgyeopsal is not marinated, both bulgogi and galbi are slathered in a pear-soy marinade. During a Korean barbeque, these dishes are accompanied by side dishes, such as kimchi.

5Japchae

What is it? Sweet potato noodles stir-fried with meat, vegetables and soy sauce.

Japchae is often served as a side dish. This sweet and savory dish of stir-fried glass noodles and vegetables is extremely popular. Other ingredients, such as mushrooms and extra beef, can be added to it to make it a more substantial meal.

6Samgyetang

What is it? A chicken soup with ginseng, garlic, and vegetables.

This Korean dish is often eaten during the hot summer. It consists primarily of a whole young chicken that is filled with rice and spices. Flavoured with spices, ginseng and jujube, the healthy and hot soup is also perfect for fighting off a cold.

7Gimbap

What is it? Seasoned seaweed and rice rolls.

Called the Korean version of sushi, gimbap (or kimbap) is a seaweed and rice roll seasoned with everything from rice vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, sugar, and salt (unlike Japanese sushi which only has vinegar, and is eaten with wasabi and pickled ginger). Gimbap forms as a popular, light, inexpensive snack.

8Dukbokki

What is it? Rice and fish cakes in a sweet red chilli sauce.

Also known as tteokbokki, this popular dish is made with spicy cylindrical rice cakes (garaetteok), which are seasoned. This common Korean food is often sold by street vendors (or pojangmacha). The cylindrical rice cakes are mixed with triangular fish cakes and boiled eggs which are mixed with vegetables and chilli sauce.

9Bingsu

What is it? Shaved ice with condensed milk, and sweet red beans.

Bingsu is a popular way to combat the hot Korean summers. Sweetened shaved ice is topped with anything from fruits, to granola, green tea, and ice cream (apart from condensed milk and sweet red bean paste). Massive bowls of bingsu are often shared by friends and couples.

Also Read: 11 must-try Ice Creams From Around The World

10Haemul Pajeon

What is it? A fried savoury seafood pancake.

Haemul pajeon is a version of pajeon (a pancake-like Korean dish made with onions, eggs, and rice flour) which also has seafood. Oysters, shrimp, and squid are often used in both the batter and as a topping. It can be eaten as both an appetizer and a main dish. Other versions of the pajeon include beef, pork, kimchi, and shellfish as toppings.

11Naengmyeon

What is it? A cold dish of buckwheat noodles and vegetables.

In the cold Korean noodle dish, the noodles are cooked and then plunged into icy water before being drained. Beef broth (with ice cubes), and cucumbers, slices of beef, a hard-boiled egg, and sesame seeds are added. It’s perfect to cool off during the humid South Korean summer.

12Hoddeok

What is it? Brown sugar-filled sweet pancakes.

Hoddeok (or hotteok) is a sweet pancake filled with melted brown sugar, cinnamon and honey. It is best eaten just off the grill, and its crunchy exterior and soft interior make it a winter favourite. Now you can also get hoddeok in various other flavours, such as peanut, green tea, pink bokbunja (Korean raspberries), corn, and many more.

13Seolleongtang

What is it? A creamy soup made from ox bones.

Usually found in Seoul, this hot soup is made from ox bones, ox meat and briskets, and seasoned with garlic, onion, salt and pepper. The bones are boiled for hours, creating a milky and chewy broth that is often had with rice.

There are many other delicious Korean dishes to try, such as mandu (pork dumplings), or haejangguk (beef soup). If we’ve missed any, be sure to share them in the comments below.

You can also read more about things to do in Seoul.

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