Korean food: 12 dishes beyond bulgogi
I was in Seoul in October, and savored the opportunity to sample new dishes of a cuisine I have come to love over the years for its flavors and spices. I was not disappointed, especially because Korean food in Korea is so inexpensive. I would have loved to stay longer, just to eat more. Here are photos of some of my favorite meals.
(Feature Photo by Symic.)
Bibimbap, a dish of rice mixed with an assortment of vegetables and a protein of choice, tastes better in a stone pot, known as dolsot. Eating the crispy bits of rice at the bottom of the bowl is one of the best parts of the meal.
These cylindrical rice cakes, cooked with fish cakes in hot chili sauce, are one of Seoul's most popular street snacks. A fusion version of this dish is topped with cheese.
Traditional Korean porridge (juk) is made with pumpkin or red bean. Bonjuk is similar to Chinese rice porridge. The Korean varieties I came across included freshwater snail, bulgogi octopus, oyster mushroom, ginseng chicken, and fusion versions like seafood curry, and crabmeat cheese.
Those who find themselves craving pasta, pizza, or risotto while in Seoul will be happy to know that Italian is the most popular foreign cuisine in Korea, so it's never hard to find a restaurant. Some menu items use a fusion of Italian and Korean ingredients, so your pasta sauce may be kicked up a notch with chili paste or you may find kimchi in your risotto.
Gimbap, much like a sushi roll, is another popular street snack. The Korean version is often filled with egg, fresh and pickled vegetables, and sometimes meat or seafood.
The idea of eating cold noodles may seem odd, but I found naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles in a spicy iced broth) to be refreshing.
If you prefer noodles of a more orthodox style, try the knife-cut noodle soup with dumplings (mandu) at Myeongdong Gyoja, which has been serving them since 1966.
I had the opportunity to learn to make sundubu, soft tofu stew, in a Korean cooking class. Anyone who loves tofu and spicy food will appreciate this dish.
Thai Town on Hollywood Boulevard marks the spot
Pajeon: I also learned to make pajeon, a savory pancake with seafood and chives. Other varieties of pajeon are made with kimchi or potato.
Andon Jjimdak: Fried rice made from leftovers
Sometimes fast food franchises can have a positive impact on cuisine. Andong Jjimdak is a spicy dish of chicken and vegetables from the city of Andong. It's rumored to have been inspired by the popularity of fried chicken franchises like Popeye's and KFC, according to Daniel Gray of the food blog Seoul Eats. The chili peppers in the dish give it color and spice that have made it a big hit, and franchises have since spread all over Korea.
Korean Baked Goods
When it comes to pastries, Seoul can be as dangerous as Paris. Paris Croissant and Paris Baguette are popular bakery chains. While both offer traditional French pastries like croissants and brioche, the real treats are the local creations like glutinous rice bread, donuts and croissants filled with red bean paste, and chewy, black sesame rolls.
Baskin Robbins and Cold Stone Creamery may have won over plenty of Korean fans, but Korea has also exported its own home-grown brand to the world, including the United States. In Seoul you'll have the chance to sample Red Mango's frozen yogurt in its homeland, with toppings that include fruits, cereals, chocolate chips, and colorful tapioca. Unlike most American ice cream, it won't leave you feeling gross afterwards.