Largely based on rice, noodles, tofu, vegetables and meat, Korean cuisine is delicious and healthy. Traditionally with main meals a quantity of side dishes are served known as banchan, the most popular of these being kimchi. Kimchi is a traditional fermented dish made with vegetables, typically cabbage, radish, onions or cucumbers and flavoured with salt, garlic, ginger, and gochujang – a fermented chilli paste, it can have a very salty and spicy flavour.
A speciality is the Korean barbecue which usually involves beef, pork or chicken. The dishes are typically cooked at the diner’s table on a gas or charcoal grill built into the centre. One of the most popular dishes served is galbi, beef short ribs, often marinated in spices before grilling. In specialist restaurants the diner can cook their own food to their liking at the table, with a waiter on hand to offer help.
Further dishes worth trying include the mouth-watering bulgogi, marinated beef served with slices of onion and pepper and garlic. Seolleongtang (ox bone soup) is also incredibly popular and is served with slices of beef, green onions and rice or noodles. For dessert, there are few things more satisfying than hoeddeok, South Korea’s response to the western pancake. Soft and doughy on the inside but crunchy on the outside and filled with cinnamon, honey, sugar and peanuts, these are a real treat for the tastebuds.
Safe eating while travelling in South Korea
South Korea is a well-developed country and eating out is generally very safe, with little risk of illness or food poisoning. Restaurants are fine to eat in but be wary of any that look run down or unhygienic. Also, dog meat is still prevalent among many Korean eateries so if this does not appeal to you, make sure you ask before you sit down to eat somewhere. Street vendors are normally fine but if the food doesn’t look right or seems a bit old, avoid it.