My Top 10 Food Hits in Korea

South Korea may be a paradise for fans of K-Pop and Korean skincare products, but we were more impressed by the food scene. S, his family and I spent roughly 10 days in South Korea last April and we ended up gobbling so much good food, it was hard to choose just 10 for this list. I’m sure I missed out on a thing or two, but that just means I have more reasons to go back and explore the place, right? 😉

  1. Egg Bread or Gyerran bbang (계란빵)

gyerran bbang

The Egg Bread was the first street food we spotted while strolling down Myeongdong. I knew we had to try it immediately and boy, we were NOT disappointed. The sweet, doughy bread with a cooked egg on top was served piping hot. I had to be very careful since I didn’t want to burn my tongue off while eating this.  It’s a shame we didn’t get to bring some of these babies home.

2. Hotteok (호떡)

hotteok

Our trip to South Korea wasn’t contained in exploring Seoul alone. We spent several days in Busan and there we encountered another type of street food worth writing home about.

The hotteok is a kind of filled pancake reminiscent of the jin dui or Chinese sesame balls. These were larger and flatter, but filled with a sweet- salty concoction similar to the ones my ah-pho (grandmother) used to make at home. The brown sugar and crushed peanuts combination was so addictive, I didn’t stop at just one piece!  I had to get a bit of extra. :p There are several versions of the hotteok, but these ones were my favorite .

3. Kalguksu (칼국수) from Myeongdong Kyoja (명동교자)

kyoja

The kalguksu, or pork dumpling noodle soup, we had at Myeongdong Kyoja was the bomb.  Each mouthful of the tasty chicken broth was divine, and the noodles? Epic! The servings were generous, and it really wasn’t a problem finishing everything off since it was just so, so good. Go for this especially when you’re visiting South Korea during the colder months.

By the way, this restaurant only has four items on the menu, with the cold bean noodle soup even said to be served only during summer months. The place was packed when we visited, and I later learned that it was always like that. If you decide to visit, I highly suggest getting an order of their steamed mandu (dumplings) too!

4. Cup Chicken (컵치킨)

Korean cup chicken

Fried chicken is delicious. Fried chicken chunks tossed in a sticky sweet and spicy sauce WITH melted cheese AND rice cakes? Even better! These cup chicken wonders were the perfect stuff to be chewing on while window shopping on the streets of Korea. You can find stalls selling these almost everywhere and I personally think that’s a winner.

5. Spicy Rice Cakes or Tteokbokki (떡볶이)

spicy rice cakes

I’m a HUGE fan of tteokbokki, and so it’s not surprising to find it as part of this list. I’ve tried street versions, restaurant versions and even the ones you buy from grocery stores, and yes, I love them all! These rice cakes in spicy sauce are best when eaten with fish cakes, but I try not eat too much as they’re very heavy on the stomach. :p

6. Grilled Pork BBQ

grilled bbq

A visit to South Korea wouldn’t be complete without trying their grilled pork bbq restaurants. We enjoyed feasting at two different places in Busan and everything was superb. Each cut of meat was delicious when wrapped with leeks, garlic, kimchi and all the other stuff you get served with. They’re also yummy eaten with rice and admittedly, nicely paired with a shot or two of soju. You wouldn’t mind walking out of the restaurant smelling like grilled meat, because everything was just worth it. 🙂

Just like what our tour guide mentioned, it’s better to eat these types of meal outside Seoul because it’s way cheaper and you get much more out of what you pay for.

7. Kimchi Jjigae (김치 찌개)

kimchi jjigae

I’ve had kimchi jjigae in Manila, but as expected the kimchi jjigae we had while staying somewhere near Mount Seorak area was much better. This salty kimchi stew had bits of pork in it and was best mixed in with our bowl of rice, along with strips of dried seaweed. 🙂

8. Hot Pork Cutlet from Herzia

spicy pork cutlet

I’ve always associated tonkatsu with Japan, but I’m happy to report that the pork cutlets in Korea weren’t bad either. You can get your usual plain pork cutlet or have it stuffed with cheese, but I highly recommend getting your hands on Herzia’s Hot Pork Cutlet set when you’re in the Namsan area.

I must warn you, though, they weren’t kidding when they said this thing was hot. I know for a fact that I have a higher tolerance for spicy food compared to most people I know, but this dish made me feel like I was a weakling. @_@ It doesn’t mean I won’t order it again in case I find myself back there; I know I’ll go through all that again willingly. 🙂

9. Dwaeji Gukbap (돼지국밥)

pork soup in Busan

This pork soup is the specialty of Busan and I understand why. It might look like an ordinary bowl of pork soup, but it’s so much more flavor-wise. Each piece of meat was extremely tender, and the soup has a slightly spicy kick to it. Adding more kimchi and leeks amps up the flavor even more. You can always enjoy the soup and meat separately from the rice, but I highly suggest doing it as most of the locals do: Dump the rice into the soup, mix, and enjoy spoonfuls of all the ingredients together. You won’t regret it. 🙂

10. Patbingsu (팥빙수) 

injeolmi bingsu

patbingsu

This very famous dessert got me all giddy.  We were able to try the ones from Sulbing after grabbing lunch somewhere in Insadong. It was raining then, but it didn’t stop us from eating cold treats. The bowls of finely shaved ice topped with all sorts of toppings were a perfect way to end another hefty lunch. My favorite was the Real Chocolate Snowflakes Sherbet (obviously!), but the Fresh Strawberry and Injeolmi Snowflakes ones were delicious too.

Bonus: Yangnyeom Gejang (양념게장)

chili soft shell crab

Because S found this extremely delicious, I decided to include the yangnyeom gejang as a bonus item on this list. This spicy marinated raw crab dish was served as part of our banchan in the bbq place in Busan. It was served cold, and while I loved the sauce, I wasn’t fan of the texture of raw crab meat. S, on the other hand, was such a convert that he was contemplating bringing some home whenever we stumbled upon stalls selling them in the markets. He didn’t get around to doing so, but he still talks about it today whenever we mention Korea in our conversations. :p

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