11. Tteokbokki (떡볶이)
This iconic red-orange street food is so popular there’s an entire part of Seoul just devoted to the steamed and sliced rice cakes (tteok), cooked with fish cakes (oden) and scallions in a sweet and spicy sauce made of chili paste.
Chefs have been known to put all sorts of things inside the sauce, from the black soybean paste to plain old ketchup. Call us masochists, but one thing is certain: the more pepper, the better.
12. Gopchang (곱창)
Gopchang refers to the small intestines from pork or cattle, which, chopped into rounded sections, can be cooked into soups, stir-fried, or grilled.
Grilled, gopchang is yet another important aspect of Korean barbecue culture. Chewy without being rubbery, it’s a bit more festive than samgyeopsal, although it’s still a staunchly earthy food.
And as most office workers in South Korea can tell you, it’s divine with soju.
13. Samgyetang (삼계탕)
Continuing along the masochistic strain, Koreans have a saying that goes, “fight heat with heat.” What that means is they love to eat boiling hot dishes on the hottest summer days.
The most representative of these is samgyetang, a thick, glutinous soup with a whole stuffed chicken floating in its boiling depths.
The cooking process tones down the ginseng’s signature bitterness and leaves an oddly appealing, aromatic flavor in its stead — a flavor that permeates an entire bird boiled down to a juicy softness.
14. Bibimbap (비빔밥)
This Korean lunch-in-a-bowl mixes together a simple salad of rice, mixed vegetables, rice, beef, and egg, with sesame oil and a dollop of chili paste for seasoning.
Although Korean kings from yesteryear would probably be shocked at how the royal dish has become so ingrained into the palate of the masses, we love how cheaply and quickly we can devour our favorite lunch.
15. Gimbap (김밥)
The process of making gimbap resembles the Italian glasswork technique of millefiori, and indeed, the finished gimbap often looks too pretty too eat.
Sauteed vegetables, ground beef, sweet pickled radish, and rice, rolled and tightly wrapped in a sheet of laver seaweed (gim), and then sliced into bite-sized circles.
16. Doenjang (된장)
When people think Asian cuisine, they often think soy sauce. But soy sauce is actually a byproduct of this soybean product, a paste made from dried and fermented soybeans in a process too complicated to describe here.
This brown, textured paste is not the prettiest food in the world, and like Australian vegemite, the taste takes some getting used to. But once that taste is acquired, good luck trying to make do without it.
17. Gamjatang (감자탕)
Most gamjatang places are open 24 hours, because South Koreans tend to crave this stew in the early hours of the morning as an alternative to hangover stew.
This hearty dish features potatoes (gamja), scallions, ground perilla seed, and bits of pork cooked in a pork bone broth. The real appeal of this stew lies in the unique taste of the perilla seed, which is perhaps more important to the flavor than the meat.
18. Haemul Pajeon (해물파전)
Crunchy and filling, Korean pancake tastes best when it comes studded with shellfish, cuttlefish, and other varieties of seafood, to make haemul (seafood) pajeon.
And with its traditional companion of Korean rice wine, makgeolli, pajeon makes the perfect meal for a rainy day.
19. Jjambbong (짬뽕)
This dish is the soupier, spicier counterpart to jjajangmyeon and together they form the core of Korean Chinese home delivery cuisine.
But although noodles dominate in terms of sheer quantity, the onions and chili oil that flavor the soup are what really demand your attention. With copious amounts of chili oil-saturated onions and other vegetables on top of the noodles, few are able to finish this dish in its entirety, but many try.
20. Sundae (순대)
Another street food, sundae is a type of sausage, similar in content to blood pudding, with roots in Mongolian cuisine. “Real” sundae is pig intestine with a stuffing of cellophane noodles, vegetables, and meat, but even if you eat the street vendor version, which uses a synthetic replacement for the pig intestine, you will still be able to enjoy the lungs and liver on the side. Yum.