This list is OUTDATED! I’ve combined all Korean Food lists into this single post.


For those of you who like to try different cuisines while traveling, there is good news: Korean food is awesome, cheap (mostly), and plentiful. Korean food is not limited to the “Korean BBQ” that you find in Los Angeles, which is actually a Korean-American adaptation that Koreans call “LA Galbi.” Korean food includes soups, seafood, grilled meats, and much more.

Here are five things you should definitely try if you find yourself in South Korea anytime soon. In this list, I have only included main dishes, but will make another list about snacks or side dishes soon. If I know some good places, I also suggested them after each entry, and put the name (often just a description) in English, Romanized Korean (how it sounds), and Korean characters (for you to point at when ordering) at the top of each entry.

#5 Tuna Rice Roll / Chamchi Kimbap / 참치 김밥

Tuna Kimbap

Kimbap is usually made with rice, radish, many vegetables, a strip of ham, and your chosen extra (in this case, tuna) wrapped around in a seaweed leaf. It is then rolled (like sushi) and cut into cylinder slices (like sushi). One roll is usually enough to fill you up as it has a lot of rice, but get two if you are really hungry, no one will think less of you.

Kimbap comes in many forms including: vegetable, tuna, cheese, kimchi, and many others that are more unusual . Kimbap restaurants are the Korean equivalent of a fast food joint in America. You can see them anywhere in Korea, “Kimbap / 김밥,” in big neon signs. While most look appetizing, the tuna variety is by far the best. In fact, I don’t even remember the last time I had a non-tuna kimbap. Kimbap is also one of those sensitive foods that if done wrong, tastes terrible. Don’t be disappointed if you get a bad one. At less than 3,000 Won (under $2.80 USD), it is worth trying again and again until you get a good one.

Related Articles / Useful links on Other Sites:

1) Location of the absolute best chamchi kimbap place period (Zoom out to see the map)

Related Articles / Useful links on This Site:

1) Evaluation: King Sejong Tomb in Korea [UNESCO World Heritage Site]

2) Three Things to do in Southern Seoul

3) Three More Things to do in Southern Seoul

#4 Marinated Pork mixed with Rice / Jeyukdeopbap / 제육덮밥

Jeyukdeopbap

This is another one of those meals that taste amazing if done right, or average at best if done wrong. Jeyukdeopbap is a thin sliced pork marinated in a red or orange sauce with onions and a few other vegetables. It usually comes as a set of meat in its juices on one side, and a slab of rice on the other. When you mix the two, it tastes like a curry with a fantastic pork flavor. While it is not spicy, the sauce can be very flavorful and salty to give the whole meal a richer taste. It is usually around 5000 Won ( $4.50 USD) at most restaurants and will definitely fill you up.

Related Articles / Useful links on Other Sites:

1) Location of the absolute best chamchi kimbap place period (Zoom out to see the map)

Related Articles / Useful links on This Site:

1) Evaluation: King Sejong Tomb in Korea [UNESCO World Heritage Site]

2) Three Things to do in Southern Seoul

3) Three More Things to do in Southern Seoul

#3 Chicken Barbecue / Dak Galbi / 닭갈비

Dak Galbi

Dak Galbi is marinated chicken mixed with a bunch of vegetables in a large pot in front of you. The server usually comes around your table every few minutes to stir up the meat and make sure your chicken doesn’t get burned. Noodles and cheese are also fantastic extras (order separately) that you can order to make the meal more hefty. You usually also have a bowl of rice in front of you (order separately), and a few other sides to go with your meal.

One unfortunate fact about dining in Korea is that many meals are designed for groups. Eating out in Korean culture is a communal event, whether it be with friends or family. Because of this, many meals are designed for two or more people, which is kind of inconvenient if you are traveling alone. While individual servings of dak galbi do exist, they are rare and never compare to the real deal. Dak galbi is one of those communal meals, so while they might serve you anyways, you’ll get awkward looks (you’re probably used to it if you travel alone) and there is probably a two serving order minimum. While I do recommend the city of Chuncheon [춘천], where dak galbi was invented for those hardcore food lovers, to be honest, I’ve liked it everywhere I’ve had it. It is usually about 8000 Won ($7.50 USD) per person (two minimum). While Chuncheon is on the Seoul subway network, it is one of the most remote stops (far east) and takes 2 hours from central Seoul. The reward, however, are a few streets of dak galbi restaurants called “dak galbi street(s).”

Related Articles / Useful links on Other Sites:

1) Chuncheon’s Dak Galbi Street (out of the way but worth it)

Related Articles / Useful links on This Site:

1) Evaluation: King Sejong Tomb in Korea [UNESCO World Heritage Site]

2) Three Things to do in Southern Seoul

3) Three More Things to do in Southern Seoul

#2 (Korean) Beef Short Ribs / (Han-u) Galbi Jjim / (한우) 갈비찜

Galbi Jjim

Galbi jjim is actually very basic in its appearance. They are marinated beef short ribs that are usually served with some side dishes. However, what they lack in appearance, they make up in taste. The ribs usually come off the bone effortlessly and hold some of the most tender meat I have ever tasted. Unlike most Korean meals, this one can be quite pricey (20,000-30,000 Won / $18 – $27 USD per person depending on meat quality) because of its use of Korean beef (although you can find them cheaper if it is not “han-u / Korean beef”).

Korea is a small country, so there is little space for farm land or grazing animals. Because of this, Korean beef is one of the most expensive meats in Korea. I have fortunately never had to buy galbi jjim in a restaurant as wedding invitations (galbi jjim is common in wedding buffets) and my job’s semi-annual meetings have all you can eat galbi jjim (something to look forward to!) However, despite the price, it is totally worth to try at least once.

Related Articles / Useful links on This Site:

1) Evaluation: King Sejong Tomb in Korea [UNESCO World Heritage Site]

2) Three Things to do in Southern Seoul

3) Three More Things to do in Southern Seoul

#1 Pork Backbone Soup / Kamjatang or Ppyeohaejangguk / 감자탕 or 뼈해장국

Kamjatang and ppyeohaejangguk are soups with the main ingredient being the backbone of a pig. They are served in a very salty broth with potatoes, sesame leaves, onions, and other vegetables. Like most Korean meals, rice is the main side dish which you can mix with your soup to dilute the salt. It is so rich in flavor that it is difficult to mess up. My favorite Kamjatang places are based on the quality of the meat, but they are also coincidentally cheaper than usual (always a plus). A good kamjatang place has very meaty bones while average places have very bony bones (if that makes sense).

I lumped together Kamjatang and ppyeohaejangguk together for two reasons. First, they are basically the same thing. The biggest difference is that kamjatang is usually a communal style soup for more than one person while ppyeohaejangguk is an individual serving meal. Because of the size difference of the bowl, ppyeohaejangguk usually doesn’t come with potatoes. This leads to reason number two. The main reason nay-sayers separate the two meals as distinct, is the belief that the “kamja” in “kamjatang” means potato (as kamja is the Korean word for potato). However, this is not the case as both the original kamjatang (from Jeolla province) and some modern restaurants don’t serve kamjatang with potatoes at all. I was told once by a Korean that the true meaning of “kamja” is an ancient Korean word meaning “the inside of the backbone,” kind of like bone marrow. While I trust what he says, I can’t seem to find any validation online, but you might impress a Korean or two with this ‘knowledge’ anyways (as I have been guilty of doing more than once).

This is by far my favorite Korean meal, and one of my top 5 favorite foods overall. It is just perfect for any situation, but winter time is when more kamjatang restaurants are bursting with people. If there is just one Korean meal that you eat on your visit to Korea, make it this one and you won’t regret it. Kamjatang goes from around 14,000 won ($12 USD at my favorite place) – 25,000 won ($22 USD) for a serving that feeds 2-4 people (depending on how hungry you are). Ppyeohaejangguk on the other hand, is usually about 5000 won ($4.50 USD) for a single person bowl (and a rice bowl).

Related Articles / Useful links on Other Sites:

1) The best Kamjatang place map

Note: If this place is crowded, the place in the picture next to it is the second best. If King Sejong liked kamjatang, he probably ate here.

2) Best Ppyeohaejangguk place (also the best kimchi)

Related Articles / Useful links on This Site:

1) Evaluation: King Sejong Tomb in Korea [UNESCO World Heritage Site]

2) Three Things to do in Southern Seoul

3) Three More Things to do in Southern Seoul

Note: #4 and #1 are my actual pictures from the places I suggested. The rest are unfortunately suitable substitutes I had to find online.

Hope I made you hungry!

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Julio Moreno

Julio is a California native who has lived abroad since 2009 as an expat in South Korea and New Zealand. He is especially passionate about experiencing other cultures and visiting as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible.
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