Korean Foods I Absolutely Must Eat

January 20, 2014

Now that I’m back on the Korean peninsula, there are certain foods for which I can finally satisfy my cravings. It’s true, Korean food is probably the most widely available on the planet and not necessarily lacking in quality outside of Korea, but there are certain dishes I’ve yet to see in the US. Of course kimchi is ubiquitous, but jeongul (전골) dishes, those served in a large bowl atop an open flame, aren’t nearly as common. Restaurants outside Korea usually stick with BBQ and a few rice dishes, but I have been able to find ones offering the full range of side dishes, with metal chopsticks, a call button, and even makgeolli and soju in the fridge.

Since I’m in Uljin, I don’t have to worry about getting subpar food. Here are some of the things I’ve been craving upon my return to Korea.

Bulgogi Jeongul (불고기전골)

Food is often served communal style here, with customers using their chopsticks to split meat and germs. You just get used to it. I’m a fan of bulgogi in general, but cooked in a great broth with seasonal vegetables? Amazing.

Dolsot Bibimbap (돌솥비빔밥)

Just rice, vegetables, and sometimes egg or different kinds of meat in a hot bowl, this is my most preferable lunch next to a decent sandwich with fruit.

Samgyupsal (삼겁살)

What’s not to like about Korean BBQ? Seriously, with the exception of vegetarian waygookin, it’s the one type of Korean cuisine we can all get behind.

Kyo-chon

It’s next to impossible to find decent KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) back stateside. If you think fried chicken is a staple dish in the American south, you’ve never been to Korea; like cafes, there’s not one nook of this country lacking a chicken delivery place. Kyo-chon is my personal favorite; they cover the meat in a rich salty batter that’s sure to shorten my lifespan. Awesome.

Good kimchi

I actually had to specially request kimchi at a Korean restaurant in Boston once (obviously, not a good place); it wasn’t even on the menu. Although Korean places do generally offer the full range of side dishes, I’m much more partial to the style of kimchi prepared on the east coast. It just explodes with spiciness and zest.

Saknakji (삭낙지)

As one of my most dangerous dishes around the world, live baby octopus, cut up just prior to consumption and covered in sesame seed oil remains on the list. Hopefully, I’ll get around to it before I leave Korea this time around. If I should die, eat an octopus on my behalf, as revenge.

Samgyetang (삼거탕)

Considered (by me) to be the perfect winter food, this Korean dish is simply chicken, ginseng, green onions, and rice, served with real salt. No more, no less.

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