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17 Authentic Korean Foods You Must Try


Many foreigners think that all Korean foods are spicy and hot, but this is not true. There are plenty of non-spicy dishes you can enjoy! 

In this article, we’ll introduce you to the top seventeen famous Korean dishes and give you a glimpse of the typical Korean restaurant atmosphere.

Restaurants are one of the most fun places to practice your Korean skills. The waiters and waitresses are friendly to travelers and will be willing to help you choose dishes that aren’t too spicy for you. 

Before we continue, we’d like to give a friendly warning: You’ll be hungry for Korean food by the time you finish reading!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Let's Cook in Korean Table of Contents
  1. Must-Try Dishes in Korean Restaurants
  2. Authentic Korean Food vs. Overseas Food
  3. Unique Korean Foods to Try
  4. Food-Related Vocabulary
  5. Simple Recipes to Make Authentic Korean Food at Home
  6. Hungry and Want to Go to Korean Restaurants?

1. Must-Try Dishes in Korean Restaurants


Close-up shot of Bulgogi (Photo by brappy!, under CC BY-SA 2.0)

A- 불고기 (bulgogi) – Marinated Beef Barbecue – Recipe

불고기 (bulgogi) is a marinated grilled beef dish you must try when visiting a Korean restaurant. 

Interestingly, 불 (bul) means “fire” and 고기 (gogi) means “meat.” The name might make you think the dish is spicy, but that’s not the case at all. The “fire” refers to the barbecue-style cooking method. In order to cook 불고기 (bulgogi), people use sirloin, tenderloin, or ribeye with a sauce that’s both sweet and savory. This is one of the most popular non-spicy dishes in Korea.

Here’s an interesting fact about this dish: 불고기 (bulgogi) originated from the 고구려 (goguryeo) era. Meats were very expensive at that time, so the dish was served only for the wealthy nobles, such as kings and queens. How lucky we are to be able to enjoy such delicious food in modern times! 

If you want to try bulgogi and other Korean barbeque dishes, look for Korean restaurants with this label: 고기집 (gogijip). This means “Meat House” or “Meat Restaurant.”


A close-up shot of Samgyetang (Photo by Eugene Kim, under CC BY 2.0)

B- 삼계탕 (samgyetang) – Chicken Soup – Recipe 

삼계탕 (samgyetang) is another non-spicy dish that you can enjoy in Korea. This dish is also known as “Ginseng chicken soup” and it’s extremely healthy. A whole chicken is filled with various healthful ingredients such as garlic, rice, and ginseng, and then boiled in a pot for many hours. 

You may be surprised to hear that this soup is a Korean cuisine staple during the summer. This is because of  a three-day period called 삼복 (sambok), or “Sambok days,” during which the weather reaches its hottest point. Koreans eat 삼계탕 (samgyetang) during the hottest days because the soup is believed to promote health.

There are many Korean restaurants that specialize in samgyetang. Look for signs that read: 삼계탕집 (samgyetangjip). This means “Samgyetang House” or “Samgyetang Restaurant.”


A shot of Japchae on a white plate (Photo by Korean Culture and Information Service (Kim Sunjoo), under CC BY 2.0)

C- 잡채 (japchae) – Stir-Fried Noodles – Recipe 

잡채 (japchae) literally means “mixed vegetables.” 

This is a sweet and savory dish of stir-fried sweet potato starch noodles and vegetables. Ingredients vary from place to place, and you can skip the meat if you’re vegan. In fact, japchae is one of the most-loved dishes by vegetarians and vegans. 

By default, slices of beef are added to the dish. If you don’t want the meat, you can ask your waiter: 고기 빼주세요. (Gogi ppaejuseyo.) or “Please remove the meat.”


A close-up shot of bibimbap (Photo by Satomi Abe, under CC BY 2.0)

D- 비빔밥 (bibimbap) – Mixed Rice – Recipe

A popular dish in Korean cuisine, bibimbap means “mixed rice.” You’ve probably heard of this dish before and you may have even tried it already!

There are many different kinds of bibimbap. The most popular type is 돌솥비빔밥 (dolsotbibimbap), or “mixed rice in a (hot) stone pot.” The rice and vegetables, meats, and egg are placed within a stone pot, which is then placed over a hot fire; the pot is sizzling hot when served. Most service staff will warn you that the pot is very hot and should not be touched until it cools. 

There’s also a variety of vegetarian bibimbap dishes that you can enjoy.

2. Authentic Korean Food vs. Overseas Food

Many famous dishes from outside of the country have been localized in Korea, making them far from authentic. Here’s a list of Korean foods that originally came from overseas. 

A- Korean Pizza vs. Italian Pizza 

피자 (pija), or “pizza,” is a popular delivery food item that Koreans love. Many Korean pizza companies have invented ‘Koreanized’ pizzas, some of which are only available in Korea. The price of pizza is relatively cheap since you can order a set menu item that includes a pizza, a large bottle of Coke, spaghetti, french fries, etc., for a reasonable price. 

Some Koreanized pizzas include:

  • Sweet potato pizza
  • Potato and sweet corn pizza
  • Steak and shrimp pizza
  • Cheese crust pizza 
  • And many more!

Are you curious about Korean pizzas? Then type 한국 피자 (hanguk pija), meaning “Korean pizza,” online and see some pictures of these delicious dishes. 

B- Korean Curry vs. Indian Curry

If you ask any of your Korean friends what Korean curry is, they’ll probably mention 3분 카레 (sambun kare), or “three-minute curry.” 

This dish is manufactured curry that’s purchased inside a reheatable aluminum package. All you need to do is put the package in boiling water and heat it in a microwave for three minutes. Meat and vegetables are already included inside and you can enjoy the curry with a bowl of rice that you prepare yourself. 한국 카레 (hanguk kare) tastes very different from the original curries from India. 

C- Korean Hot Dog vs. American Hot Dog

When you think of a hot dog, you instantly imagine the delicious grilled sausage that’s placed inside a bun with ketchup or other condiments. 

한국 핫도그 (hanguk hotdogeu), or “Korean hot dogs,” are very different. They taste slightly sweeter and look like a corn dog. Some include french fries in the batter, and street vendors sprinkle sugar and add ketchup or honey mustard sauce on the batter. 

D- Korean Macaron vs. French Macaron

Macarons are a very popular French dessert and Korea has its own unique version. 

The first notable difference is the size, with a 마카롱 (makarong) being a lot larger than the French original. Koreans also put triple the amount of filling in their version than the French do in theirs. So if you have a sweet tooth, try a Korean macaron!

3. Unique Korean Foods to Try

Now let’s look at a few Korean cuisine dishes you won’t find anywhere else. These are a bit different from the other foods we’ve covered so far, so brace yourself for a flavorful adventure!


Close-up shot of sannakji (Photo by LWY, under CC BY 2.0)

A- 산낙지 (sannakji) – Raw Octopus Dish – Recipe

산낙지 (sannakji) is a raw dish made with long-arm octopus. The octopus is chopped into small pieces and marinated with sesame oil and sesame seeds. You can eat it as-is or dip it in 고추장 (gochujang), or “spicy red pepper paste.”

What makes this dish unique is that the octopus pieces are still active when the dish is served. People who aren’t used to eating raw fish have difficulty eating this dish. Nevertheless, lots of visitors report having enjoyed the dish, so why not give it a try next time you visit Korea? This dish is available at Korean seafood restaurants that serve sliced raw fish.

Marinated Crab

A shot of marinated crab, bottom-right (Photo by LWY, under CC BY 2.0)

B- 간장게장 (ganjanggejang) – Raw Crabs Marinated in Soy Sauce – Recipe

To make 간장게장 (ganjanggejang), crab is marinated and fermented in soy sauce. There’s a spicy version of it too, called 양념게장 (yangnyeomgejang). You’d be hard-pressed to find this dish in a Korean restaurant in your country, so take your chances while in South Korea and have some delicious marinated crabs with a bowl of rice! 

Did you know that this dish is known as 밥도둑 (bapdoduk) in Korea? The translation of this word is “rice thief,” referring to the fact that the dish tastes so great you’ll end up eating a large quantity of rice.


Close-up shot of dotorimuk (Photo by HapaK, under CC BY-SA 2.0)

C- 도토리묵 (dotorimuk) – Acorn Starch Jelly – Recipe 

도토리묵 (dotorimuk) is a jelly made from acorn starch. 

Although dotorimuk itself is tasteless, it’s usually served with a sauce consisting of sliced carrots, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, red chili pepper powder, and sesame seeds—this ingredient combination tastes great! You’ll enjoy the soft texture of the acorn starch and the hint of spiciness from the sauce. 

It’s served as a side dish these days, usually at a Korean barbecue restaurant or in some authentic Korean restaurants, but it can be served as a standalone dish as well. If you order this, try it with a bottle of 소주 (soju) or 막걸리 (makgeolli), meaning “rice wine”!


A shot of Hongeohoe (Photo by Yun Seon Hong, under CC BY 2.0)

D- 홍어회 (hongeohoe) – Fermented Skate (Available at Markets)

Are you thinking about creating a hilarious video clip of you or your friends trying out a weird dish? Then 홍어회 (hongeohoe), a fermented fish dish from Korea, is the way to go!  

It’s made with skate and emits a very strong, unpleasant ammonia-like odor. It’s usually served  sashimi-style and eaten together with bossam and kimchi. It may also be served with 막걸리 (makgeolli), or “rice wine,” which supposedly helps with digestion. Do be cautious before trying this dish; not many Koreans like it and the odor is sometimes so strong that it makes people want to throw it out. 

Still want to give it a try? This dish is sold in various markets in Korea. 

E- 미더덕 (mideoduk) – Stylela Clava – Recipe

미더덕 (mideoduk), or “Stylela clava,” is one of the most popular Korean cuisine ingredients for 해물탕 (haemultang) or 해물찜 (haemuljjim), and it has an interesting texture. This ingredient is very healthy, and Koreans love it for that reason. 

4. Food-Related Vocabulary

Are you getting hungry yet? In the next section, we’ll show you some recipes for Korean food you can make at home! But first, let’s look at some basic Korean food vocabulary.

A- Restaurant-Related Vocabulary

Here’s a list of ten essential words that you can use at a restaurant.

계산서 (gyesanseo) – “check”
현금 (hyeongeum) – “cash”
카드 (cadeu) – “credit card”
할인 (harin) – “discount”
 메뉴 (menyu) – “menu”
무한리필 (muhanripil) – “unlimited refill”
셀프 (selpeu) – “self-(service)”
물 (mul) – “water”
국물 (gukmeul) – “soup”
주문 (jumun) – “order”

Example sentences:

  • 카드(현금)으로 계산할게요. 
    Kadeu(Hyeongeum)eulo gyesanhalgeyo.
    “I will pay with my card (cash).”
  • 메뉴 주세요. 
    Menyu juseyo.)
    “Please give me a menu.”
  • 물은 셀프입니다. 
    Mureun selpeuimnida.)
    “Water is self-service.”
  • 반찬은 무한리필이에요. 
    Banchaneun muhanripirieyo.
    “You can have unlimited side dishes.”
  • 여기 주문 할게요. 
    Yeogi jumun halgeyo.
    “I would like to order.”

B- Useful Phrases for the Restaurant

Here’s a list of ten commonly used phrases you can use in a Korean restaurant.

  • 물티슈 주시겠어요.
    Multisyu jusigesseoyo.
    “Can I have a wet tissue, please?”
  • 화장실은 어디에 있어요?
    Hwajangsireun eodie isseoyo?
    “Where is the bathroom?”
  • 죄송하지만, 이 음식은 제가 주문한 것이 아니에요.
    Joesonghajiman, i eumsigeun jega jumunhan geosi anieyo.
    “Excuse me, this is not what I ordered.”
  • 얼마나 매워요?
    Eolmana maewoyo?
    “How spicy is it?”
  • 덜 맵게 해주세요. 
    Deol maebge haejuseyo.
    “Please make it less spicy.”
  • 각자 계산해도 될까요? / 따로 계산해도 될까요?
    Gakja gyesanhaedo doelkkayo? / Ttalo gyesanhaedo doelkkayo?
    “Can we pay separately?”
  • 물 더주세요. 
    Mul deojuseyo.
    “Please give me more water.”
  • 반찬 더 주세요. 
    Banchan deo juseyo.
    “Please refill the side dish.”
  • 채식 메뉴 있어요?
    Chaesik menyu isseoyo?
    “Do you have a vegetarian menu?”
  • 맥주 주세요. 
    Makju juseyo.
    “I’ll have a beer.”

There are more useful Korean phrases you can use at any Korean restaurant. Check out our vocabulary list “Useful Phrases for Ordering Food” on!

D- Vocabulary for Essential Ingredients in Korean Dishes

Here’s a list of ten words that are commonly used on Korean recipe websites.

간장 (ganjang) – “soy sauce”
 물엿 (mulyeot) – “sweet cooking syrup”
다진마늘 (dajinmaneul) – “chopped garlic”
후추 (huchu) – “pepper”
 참기름 (chamgireum) – “sesame oil”
식용유 (sigyongyu) – “cooking oil”
고추장 (gochujang) – “spicy pepper sauce”
 설탕 (seoltang) – “sugar”
 소금 (sogeum) – “salt” 
고춧가루 (gochutgaru) – “chili powder” 

5. Simple Recipes to Make Authentic Korean Food at Home

We’ve looked at many different Korean dishes that you can try in Korea and at Korean restaurants in your own country. Now, let’s discuss Korean food to make at home with simple ingredients that you can easily obtain from a Korean supermarket—or even your own pantry! 

A- 짜파구리 (jjapaguri) – Ramdon – Recipe

Ramdon is made by cooking 짜파게티 (jjapagetti), or “instant black noodle ramen,” and 너구리 (neoguri), or “neoguri udon ramen,” noodles together with slices of grilled beef. 

This dish was featured in the 2019 Korean movie 기생충 (gisaengchung), or “Parasite,” which won the Academy Award for Best Picture as well as the Cannes Palme d’Or. An interesting fact about the name of this dish is that the people who translated the movie couldn’t translate jjapaguri into English, so they decided to call it “ram-don” which is a combination of “ramen” and “udon.”

Cooking ramdon is extremely simple. 


  • 짜파게티 (jjapagetti
  • 너구리 (neoguri
  • A piece of steak


1. Cut the beef into bite-sized pieces and grill.

2. Boil the water and add the two types of noodles.

3. Add the vegetable mix from the packets (please don’t put the sauce packets in yet).

4. Transfer noodles to the pan with a strainer, along with the steak, and add a little bit of leftover water.

5. Add all of the sauce from 짜파게티 (jjapagetti) and half from 너구리 (neoguri). Stir everything well and the dish is ready.


Close-up shot of Kimchi and Ham gimbap

B- 김밥 (gimbap) – Korean Sushi Roll – Recipe

This is another easy recipe that you can try at home. 

There are many delicious variations of this dish, such as:

    ★ 참치김밥 (chamchigimbap) – “tuna gimbap”
    ★ 야채김밥 (yachaegimbap) – “vegetable gimbap”
    ★ 김치김밥 (gimchigimbap) – “kimchi gimbap”
    ★ 치즈김밥 (chijeugimbap) – “cheese gimbap”
    ★ 충무김밥 (chungmugimbap) – “chungmu gimbap”

This dish goes well with other savory dishes, including 떡볶이 (ddeokbokki), 튀김 (twigim), and 오뎅 (odeng). You can order these foods together at places called 분식점 (bunsikjeom) or 분식집 (bunsikjip), both meaning “snack shop” in Korean. You can find these restaurants anywhere in South Korea, with several of them located near universities; students love these dishes because they’re cheap. 

Making 김밥 (gimbap) is extremely simple, but you’ll need to have a tool called a “bamboo gimbap roller.” This will help you roll the ingredients in. 


  • Various vegetables of your choice 
  • Rice 
  • 단무지 (danmuji) or “yellow radish pickle”
  • Dried seaweed sheets


  • Slice all the vegetables into thin strips and lightly cook them in cooking oil.
  • Mix the cooked rice, sesame oil, and sea salt together.
  • Place one dried seaweed sheet on the bamboo mat and put some rice on the seaweed sheet. Spread it evenly.
  • Slowly roll the seaweed with all the ingredients inside.
Dalgona Coffee

A close-up shot of Dalgona coffee (Photo by Wikieditkid, under CC BY-SA 4.0)

C- 달고나커피 (dalgonakeopi) – “Dalgona Coffee” – Recipe

달고나커피 (dalgonakeopi), or “Dalgona coffee,” was originally introduced on a South Korean TV show and has become an extremely famous beverage since then. It’s also simple to make! 


  • Instant black coffee
  • Sugar
  • Hot water
  • Milk


  • Combine instant coffee, sugar, and hot water. Whip it until it becomes frothy.
  • Pour milk in a cup and pour the whipped coffee on top.

D- 삼겹살 (samgyepsal) – “Grilled Pork Belly” – Recipe

삼겹살 (samgyepsal) is a popular Korean barbecue dish. You can enjoy it while camping, at home, at parties, and on many other occasions! The ingredients are easy to obtain and the dish goes well with many other Korean dishes, such as 파채무침 (pachaemuchim) and 된장찌개 (dwenjangjjigae). 


  • Pork belly
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sesame oil
  • Hot pepper flakes


  • Prepare sliced pork belly.
  • Combine sesame oil, salt, and sesame seeds together (for dipping sauce).
  • Prepare other small Korean side dishes to eat with this meal.

6. Hungry and Want to Go to Korean Restaurants?

Reading a menu and ordering dishes in Korean is a great way to practice your Korean language skills. Do you want to learn how to order Korean dishes in Korean? We can help you with that!

Of course, we provide many other free Korean study materials that you can study on or download to look at later. We have lessons on various aspects of the Korean language and culture, including several food-related materials. So if you enjoyed this article, make sure you check out our website when you have time! 

What’s your favorite Korean dish? Comment below and share why you like the dish!

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