10 Foods I Miss the Most From Korea

Over the summer, I studied abroad through a KU program in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. One of the best things to do when in a different country is to try the different foods. Though I went in expecting all the food to be way too spicy for me and worried I wouldn’t like anything, this isn’t what I found. Though some food is extremely spicy, I found most of it to be perfectly seasoned and delicious. Since I’ve been home for a while now, reverse culture shock is hitting me rough. I’m missing so many of the foods there, so here’s a list of my top 10 foods that I miss:

 

1. WAFFLES

 

Ok listen. Waffles are more of a breakfast food in America, which I love, but they just go so much harder in Korea. Everywhere you go, you’ll be able to find a dessert waffle place. These shops most commonly sell them with ice cream, nutella, sweet cream, or any other sweets. My favorite ones were always with apple jam and sweet cream. Plus they were usually only around $3!!

2. KOREAN BBQ

 

Korean BBQ is one of the most iconic foods to get in Korea, and also one of my favorites. Every BBQ place has its own style and specialty, so it’s fun to see how every place does it a little differently. The best part about Korean BBQ is getting to cook the food yourself! There’s something much more appealing about cooking when you don’t have to deal with the clean up. Similar to yanggochi, the best places to go are the unlimited places, so you can eat as much as you possibly can! Some of my favorite meats include pork belly (samgyeopsal - 삼겹살), thin sliced brisket (chadolbaegi - 차돌박이), and marinated beef (bulgogi - 불고기).

3. SOJU

 

An iconic beverage. Soju (소주) is a staple in Korean culture. It is most noted for its green bottle and can be easily found in convenience stores for very cheap. Since it is similar to vodka, the drink comes in a variety of flavors to make it taste much better than the typical “fresh” flavor. The best ones are grapefruit and peach. Additionally, you can mix soju and beer to make somaek (소맥). 

Image credit: https://spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/a-definitive-ranking-of-the-best-soju-flavors

 

4. ICED PEACH TEA 

 

Tom N Toms is a chain that I would compare to Starbucks. It’s a coffee shop that’s extremely common around Korea. This shop has the best peach tea that I’ve ever had--to the point that it’s more peach juice than tea. The flavor is so strong and sweet that it really tastes like you’re eating a peach. This is one of the foods that I would truly do anything to be able to have access to it on a daily basis. Even though Tom N Toms has my favorite peach tea, almost anywhere I got it from had very similar peach juice-like tea. Tom N Toms also sells pretzels that are out of this world--the best being the cream cheese and pizza flavors. They’re a great late night study snack. 

5. YANGGOCHI

 

Yanggochi (양꼬치) are lamb skewers, which are to die for. You can usually choose whether the meat is marinated or not, but marinated is always the way to go. The meat is super tender and flavorful, which makes it easy to eat 20 skewers. The best places to go are all-you-can-eat restaurants that let you cook the skewers yourself. 

6. BUBBLE TEA

 

Even though I’ve always been a big fan of bubble tea, the bubble tea places in Korea are next level. Coming home, none of the teas I’ve had seem to have as much flavor or are nearly as pretty as the ones there. My favorites there were the chocolate, brown sugar, and strawberry milk teas. 

7. FRIED CHICKEN

 

Though I love fried chicken here in the states, there’s something about Korean fried chicken that makes it so incredibly delicious. The difference comes in how the chicken is fried twice to help get out extra fat and make the chicken extra crispy, while the meat stays very moist. The batter is lighter than American ones too, and tastes phenomenal even served plain (though there are other sauce options available as well). If you ever find yourself in Sinchon (신촌) in Seoul, then you have to check out Dasarang Chicken (다사랑치킨).

8. SUNDUBU JJIGAE

 

Sundubu jjigae (순두부 찌개) is essentially spicy soft tofu stew. Now, before you keep reading just because you saw tofu, let me explain. This stew is so delicious, it might just take the spot as my favorite food from Korea. Between the tofu in it and dipping spoonfuls of rice into the stew, the spice levels are manageable. You can also put eggs, seafood, dumplings, or any other variety of items into the stew! The flavors and warmth of this stew are truly unmatched. 

9. JJIMDAK

 

Jjimdak (찜닭) is Korean braised chicken with vegetables and sweet potato noodles called (dangmyeon - 당면). Generally, you can get a soy sauce or spicy variation of the dish. Often, the jjimdak will also come with rice cakes (tteok - 떡), dumplings, or even sweet potatoes or pineapple.  I discovered this food close to the end of my trip, but it easily became one of my favorite dishes. The best way to order it is with cheese! Then, the jjimdak will come with an entire layer of melted cheese over the top.

10. BINGSU

Listen, Korea in the summer is hot and humid. So, what’s the best solution? Bingsu (빙수). Bingsu is shaved ice with a variety of toppings, syrups, and condensed milk. On hot days, there’s nothing better than this cold dessert. One of my favorite places to go was this chain called Sulbing (설빙), so definitely find this place if you’re ever in Korea. My favorite flavors are the strawberry macaron, oreo brownie, and blueberry cheesecake.