Signature Dishes and Ingredients of Korean Cuisine

The essentials of Korean cuisine include the signature dishes, such as the famous beef grilled at the dining table, and ingredients fundamental to staple side dishes, like cabbage for kimchi.

Here are 5 signature Korean dishes and ingredients that can be sampled on a trip to Seoul, South Korea:


Korean Barbecue

A visit to South Korea is not complete until you enjoy a classic Korean barbecue (unless you do not eat meat, of course).

Korean barbecue grills the meat over a charcoal grill directly on your table. Typically, the meats come in the form of bulgogi, thinly sliced marinated beef, or galbi, marinated beef short ribs.

Korean barbecue. Galbisal, boneless short ribs, grilling at the table. Every meal comes with side dishes called banchan which can be replenished. Typically, the small plates include kimchis and seasoned vegetables which are blanched, steamed, or pickled
Korean barbecue restaurants are known for having individual exhaust systems per table. The grilling of the meats creates clouds of smoke in front of you. The exhaust helps to suck up the oily smoke


Korean Chicken

Korean cuisine goes beyond the grill. Some of the tastiest meals and snacks come in the form of casual packaging and plating. Chicken dishes are a great representation of the cuisine’s range. From fried chicken to stewed chicken to chicken soups. Each distinctly flavored.

Roast chicken casually packaged to be eaten in a café, at your office desk, or to be taken home for dinner. The chicken cooks on a rotisserie and is paired with Korean chili sauces and pickled radish to balance the meal


Korean Dumplings (Mandu)

Then, there are the snacks and street foods. Many have become popularized and served as higher quality in restaurants, cafes, and food halls (similar to the ones in Japan’s department store basements). One of the most popular snacks is the dumpling, mandu, which is a staple in many Korean restaurants as an appetizer or side dish.

Mandu takes its influence from the Chinese dumpling and the Japanese gyoza. They can be boiled, steamed, fried, or grilled. The pork dumplings are typically paired with a vinegar-based dipping sauce


Korean Sweet Potatoes

Another classic Korean snack is the sweet potato. It is eaten in savory snacks off the grill. fried, covered in syrup as a dessert, and incorporated into noodles for the popular japchae.

Slow-roasted sweet potatoes are the tastiest in South Korea and Japan. As much as I love Japan, I must admit the Korean varieties of sweet potatoes are even sweeter in taste and smoother in texture
The sweet potatoes are slow roasted over hot rocks. They sit on the rocks for hours to slowly cook, tenderize, and caramelize. The result is the sweetest, smoothest, caramelized sweet potato experience


Korean Cabbage

Also known as Napa cabbage and Chinese cabbage, the cabbage which is grown in South Korea is the main ingredient for the cuisine’s most famous food item – kimchi. Kimchi is made by rubbing the chili paste into every leaf of the whole cabbage before placing it into jars to ferment.

As cabbage is the country’s star ingredient, they certainly grow and produce impressively clean and massive varieties. The single cabbage is as large as a box of sweet potatoes. If your home country’s airport customs allows it, be sure to bring home South Korea’s produce, like sweet potatoes, cabbage, and radish



Stay a night or two in Seoul. (Here are 3 reasons to stay at the Conrad Hotel Seoul)

Conrad Hotel Seoul
10, Gukjegeumyung-ro
Seoul, South Korea
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