This list is OUTDATED! I’ve combined all Korean Food lists into this single post.
It is hard to stress how amazing Korean food is. While I had some experience with it prior to visiting Korea, in reality, unless you live in a Koreatown, you can barely scratch the surface of what Korean food has to offer. This is my second post on Korean street foods and side dishes in an effort to convince you to visit South Korea not by appealing to your sense of adventure, but to your sense of taste. Make sure to also check out my South Korea Travel Guide for more SK information.
I love Korean food so much, that for this post, I will try a different approach. Instead of posting pictures, each item has a Youtube video of someone making the Korean street food or side dish.
1) Stir Fried Clear Noodles / Japchae / 잡채
Japchae is a thin, clear noodle side dish with mixed vegetables, mushrooms, and beef. What is special about this dish is the texture. It is cooked to the point that would make other noodles soggy. However, japchae noodles become stretchy making it very chewy. In addition, it is the only noodle dish that is enjoyable hot or cold. I don’t really know of any japchae-specific restaurant, and consider it one of those wonderful bonuses when my main meal of samgyeopsal or other BBQs come with it. When choosing a restaurant with side dishes, ask if they offer japchae!
2) Sticky Fried Chicken / Yangnyeom Tongdak / 양념 통닭
Also known as ‘Korean fried chicken,’ yangnyeom tongdak is a very sticky form of fried chicken with heart-attack-inducing amounts of sauce. It is mostly a street food that can be found in any shopping district or night life area in Korea. It is usually sold in cups with chop sticks or a fork and a ton of napkins. I don’t really understand why the napkins, as this chicken is so sticky, they make things worse. While there is a boneless and a bone (in the video) type of yangnyeom tongdak, unless I am in a place where I can wash my hands afterwards, I prefer the boneless variety as it is less messy. Don’t let that deter you however, as you have never had chicken that tastes this good.
3) Pig Feet / Jokbal / 족발
When I first saw jokbal, I was ready to call it a carbon copy of the Mexican pig’s feet snack. However, the preparation of jokbal is very different to its Mexican relative. Jokbal is fully cooked or roasted pig feet cut into thin slices. It can be eaten as a snack as it is often sold as street food. However, there are some restaurants that sell it as a main course, with side dishes to accompany it. If the sound of ‘pig feet’ disgusts you, maybe you are not as adventurous as you thought! It is actually not as nasty as it sounds because cut up, it looks just like duck. If nothing else, try it at least for the bragging rights.
4) Egg Soup / Gyeran Jjim / 계란 찜
Much like japchae, gyeran jjim is a side dish that often comes for free with other main dishes or as a special order side dish. I have always loved how egg can taste so different depending on how you prepare it. This soup reminds me of souffle, because if you overcook it, it starts overflowing from the top. It is good to accompany with makchang, samgyeopsal, or any other Korean bbq.
5) Quail Eggs / Mechurial Jorim / 메추리알 조림
One of my favorite side dishes is quail eggs. They seem to go with everything as they are often a staple in Korean meals that have a lot of side dishes. Given that they give them away for free, the preparation of these eggs is quite time consuming. You have to boil and peel the quail eggs first. Then you have to make a soy sauce based broth and bring it to a boil. When that is done, you put them together in a jar and store them for a few days. I hope you weren’t hoping to eat them the same day! Much like kimchi, the older the better. If you are just curious to try some, they are readily available at any supermarket and they aren’t too expensive.
Better go to Korea with an empty stomach, as these Korean street foods and side dishes are no joke.