Korean food is easily one of my favourite cuisines. There are so many things you need to try as a foodie if you are travelling to Korea. If you are a true food-lover, here are 5 local Korean dishes to try & where to go to try them.
PS. All these are recommendations are for the adventurous traveller who have had enough of Seoul. If you want to find some recommended food in Seoul, you can check out this post about restaurants in Sinchon area to try.
Korean food to try & where they to find them
1. Bibimbap – Jeonju
Bibimbap is probably one of the most iconic Korean food. It is basically rice served with various vegetable and minced meat with some red pepper chilli paste on top. You can enjoy bibimbap by mixing in all the toppings with the rice and pepper paste. The best bibimbap that I have ever had was in Jeonju, a small town just two hours away by train from Seoul Station.
This should not come as a surprise as even the Koreans acknowledge the popularity of Jeonju bibimbap. After doing some research, I found out that what makes Jeonju bibimbap different from others is how they cook their rice (they cook it with beef broth and not plain water) and the type of bean sprouts they use. Although the bibimbap in Jeonju looks the same as any other bibimbap, the taste is amazing!
If you are visiting Jeonju, I recommend trying the bibimbap in the Jeonju Hanok Village. Kill two (maybe three) birds with one stone in the village as you eat the bibimbap in the 현대옥 (Hyeondeok) restaurant, learn more about the traditional Korean Hanok housing and perhaps take nice photos in your rented hanbok there. Jeonju makes a perfect day trip destination from Seoul.
How to get to Jeonju: Take the KTX from Seoul Station to Jeonju Station. The economy class tickets will cost 34,600 KRW one way with a journey time of around one hour and 50 minutes.
Where to eat bibimbap in Jeonju: 현대옥 (Hyeondeok), 9,000 KRW per bowl.
Korea Travel Tips: If you are planning to travel around Korea, purchase a Korail Pass to save money on your travel. It gives you unlimited rides on the intercity trains (not subways) during its period of validity.
2. Dakgalbi – Chuncheon
Dakgalbi or stir-fried spicy chicken, served with ddek (rice cake) and vegetables, is the speciality of the Chuncheon region in Korea. The dish was accidentally created after the war ended as poverty was prevalent and there were many poultry farms in the area. As the citizens ran out of pork to stir-fry, they realise that using chicken created a communal dish that is cheap. Despite the sad history behind the dish, dakgalbi is now a popular dish to eat especially with a group of family and friends.
If you are planning to visit Nami Island on your trip to Korea, I recommend trying the Chuncheon dakgalbi at one of the restaurants (yes, Nami Island is part of Chuncheon region). If you have more time to explore, there is actually a whole street in Chuncheon dedicated to dakgalbi!
How to get to Chuncheon Myeongdong Dakgalbi Street: Take the Seoul subway to Chuncheon Station at the end of the Gyeongchun line and then take the taxi to Chuncheon Myeongdong Dakgalbi Street.
3. Jjimdak – Andong
You can’t separate jjimdak from ‘Andong’. If you are not familiar with Korean food, jjimdak is a soy sauce based steam chicken dish that originated from Andong city. It is served with various vegetable like potato and also glass noodle. Similar to dakgalbi in Chuncheon, there is also a dedicated street in Andong-gu Market. Although you can also find many jjimdak stores in Seoul, the best jjimdak that I have had was from one of the restaurants in Andong’s jjimdak street.
The best time to visit Andong is when the Andong International Mask Festival is happening. Other than indulging in some delicious jjimdak, you can also enjoy mask performances from various international groups including Korea. You can also visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hahoe Village and learn more about the Korean mask & traditions.
How to get to Andong: Take the intercity express bus from Seoul Express Bus Terminal to Andong Bus Terminal. The ride will take two hours and 40 minutes and cost 15,300 KRW, one way.
Where to eat jjimdak in Andong: Millenium Andong Jjimdak (밀레니엄 안동 찜닭) on the Andong Jjimdak Street, 25,000 KRW for 2-3 person.
4. Dweji Gukbap – Busan
One of the Korean food dishes that I must eat everytime I visit Busan is the dweji gukbap (Korean pork and rice soup). It sounds extremely boring but really, it is one of the best comfort food in Korea. The milk-coloured broth is made by prolonged boiling of pork bones and the dish is served piping hot in a stone bowl. If you want to enjoy dweji gukbap like a local, other than adding the rice into the soup, mix in some red pepper paste, baby shrimp and green onions before digging in. My favourite place to eat dweji gukbap in Busan is located right outside Busan KTX Station at Bonjeon Dweji Gukbap.
Busan is the second largest city in Korea after Seoul and there are many things to do in Busan. For those who enjoy the beach, they offer beautiful beaches like Heaundae Beach and Gwanalli Beach and stunning ocean sceneries from viewpoints like Taejeongdae and the Yonggungsa Temple.
How to get to Busan: You can fly directly into Busan for a less mainstream trip to Korea or if you are coming from Seoul, take the KTX from Seoul Station direct to Busan Station. The KTX ride will take around two hours and 40 minutes and cost 59,800 KRW without the Korail Pass.
Where to eat dweji gukbap in Busan: Bonjeon Dweji Gukbap (본전 돼지 국밥), 7,000 KRW per bowl.
There are also many other local food to eat in Busan like ssiat hotteok and milmyeon.
5. Ddeokgalbi – South Jeolla Province
Ddeokgalbi is the Korean version of beef patty and is particularly famous in the South Jeolla Province where Gwangju, Boseong. The beef is minced and processed like how the Koreans would make ddeok (rice cake), thus the name Ddeokgalbi. It was also originally made for elder people who can’t chew the meat directly from the galbi (beef ribs).
How to get to Gwangju: Take the KTX train from Seoul Station to Gwangju Seongjeong Station. The trip takes 1 hour 45 minutes and cost 47,100 KRW without the Korail Pass. From Gwangju, you can take day trips to other cities in the South Jeolla province like Boseong and Gangjin.
Where to eat ddeokgalbi in Gwangju: I had my fix of ddeokgalbi in Boseong but if you are visiting Gwangju, one of the recommended places to try is Songjeong Tteokgalbi.
Which Korean food dish will you be trying next? Share your Korea travel stories with me on Instagram, I would love to see!