About the food of South Korea

Pavilion at Gongsanseong in Gongju, South Korea. Photo by Michael Watchsmart.

Funny story. In a momentary lapse in brain power (I blame motherhood) … I … I … forgot the alphabet, so we’re doing South Korea before North Korea.

Ahem. Maybe not so funny. But, either way, there it is.

SO. South Korea. Say hello!


There’s lots of information floating around about South Korea. This mountainous country located at the bottom of the Korean Peninsula is hot, humid, and happenin’. I personally know of seven people that have been to South Korea or are natives. Anthony Bourdain even went there in a particularly entertaining episode of No Reservations.

Dongdaegu Station, South Korea.

The most distinct characteristic of Korean cooking is how much of it happens at the table.

Seriously sizzling fun.

For example, there’s Korean hot pot, where a simmering vat of broth is utilized, fondue style, to cook tidbits of deliciousness. Thinly sliced meat can also be grilled at the table before going into lettuce wraps or on top of rice. And there’s bibimbap [Recipe– a traditional rice and veggie dish (often with meat or fish) that can be assembled in a sizzling hot stone bowl which – with the help of a little sesame oil – fries the food as the diner watches.

Fantastic. Unless, of course, you’re prone to burning yourself or other clutzy behavior.

You’ve been warned.

South Korean maps and flag courtesy CIA World Factbook.

There’s no shortage of little plates on the Korean table – salads, sides, etc – often cooked in a fabulous sauce [Recipe] – but the absolutely most popular item is kimchi  [Recipe], a fermented cabbage salad made extra spicy and plenty fishy. I’ve seen several recipes where oysters are added to kimchi, making it even more decadent. Certainly no Korean would shy away from an interesting piece of seafood, considering they’re surrounded by so much sea.

Sokcho, Gangwon-do, South Korea. Photo by Junho Jung

So there you are – a few tidbits about the food of South Korea.

We’ve just scratched the surface … What are your favorite foods from the area?


  1. Brian S. says

    Korea, China and Japan are neighbors and they’ve probably been interacting since prehistoric times, so it’s amazing how different the food is in each country. It’s almost as if there was an unconscious need to assert their independence by eating totally different things. My favorite Korean thing is panchan, the lovely spread of miniature dishes that comes before (and included in the price of) the main dish. I think that if there were no such thing as Korean food and a NY or European chef created those delightful unusual dishes, he’d be acclaimed as a genius.

    Here’s a random panchan photo from the Internet: http://oaklandlocal.com/sites/default/files/i/panchan%20at%20sura.jpg

    • Sasha Martin says

      I am partial to anything in a lettuce wrap – such a nice, light way to eat. I’ve also heard great things about Bulgogi…

  2. Hi Sasha:

    Alphabet mistake aside, it was smart to do the cuisine of well-known South Korea before embarking on what the well-heeled eat north of the DMZ.

    Like Brian, I’m a panchan fan and fill the table with them everytime I cook Korean. From Sesame Spinach to Spicy Cucumbers Phreelee to “Sesame” leaves in chili-garlic to black-pepper squash, I love those little bits of food – sort of like a Korean Dim Sum.

    My favorites are the Korean soups, tho – warm and hearty filled with veggies and a vit of meat.

    Homemade Kimchi is very easy to make and much less salty than the type made commercially (which burns my mouth from its salt content). You can salt and spice many other vegetables the same way too which is delicious – like diakon or cucumbers.

    Looking forward to this week!


    • Sasha Martin says

      Thanks! Now I’m hungry… I’d like to try the variations on kimchi – especially the diakon. I almost added some to my recipe but decide to keep it simple.

Leave a Reply to Sasha Martin Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.