21. Kongguksu (콩국수)
This seasonal dish might taste bland to some, but once you learn to enjoy the subtle flavor of the bean, you will acquire a taste for this cold, creamy, textured noodle dish that no other dish will be able to satisfy in the summer.
And if the pale, spring green julienne cucumbers placed on the hand-ground, snow-white soybean doesn’t tip you off, kongguksu is a highly nutritious dish that also happens to be vegetarian-friendly.
22. Kalguksu (칼국수)
Bad kalguksu can be very bad. But good kalguksu is divine.
Although most kalguksu places will add mushrooms, sliced pumpkin, and seafood or chicken to the basic ingredients of noodles and broth, at the end of the day kalguksu is about the pleasure of the plain.
23. Ox Bone Soup (설렁탕)
This ox bone soup is easily recognizable by its milky white color and sparse ingredients. At most, seolleongtang broth will contain noodles, finely chopped scallions, and a few strips of meat.
Yet for such a frugal investment, the results are rewarding. There is nothing like a steaming bowl of seolleongtang on a cold winter day, salted and peppered to your taste, and complemented by nothing more than rice and kkakdugi kimchi.
24. Tteokguk (떡국)
Originally tteokguk was strictly eaten on the first day of the Korean New Year to signify good luck and the gaining of another year in age. The custom makes more sense if you think in Korean: idiomatically, growing a year older is expressed as “eating another year.”
But this dish of oval rice cake slices, egg, dried laver seaweed, and occasionally dumplings in a meat-based broth is now eaten all year round, regardless of age or season.
25. Doenjang jjigae (된장찌개)
This humble, instantly recognizable stew is one of Korea’s most beloved foods.
The ingredients are simple: doenjang, tofu, mushrooms, green peppers, scallions, and an anchovy or two for added flavor. Add rice and kimchi on the side and you have a meal — no other side dishes necessary.
While its distinctive piquancy might throw some off, that very taste is what keeps it on the South Korean table week after week.
26. Galbi (갈비)
Galbi, which means “rib,” can technically come from pork and even chicken, but when you just say “galbi” sans modifiers, you’re talking about thick slabs of meat marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, chopped garlic, and sugar and grilled over a proper fire.
Of course, beef galbi can be used to make soup (galbitang) and steamed galbi (galbijjim). But these dishes, while excellent in their own right, are overshadowed by their grilled leader.
27. Chuncheon dakgalbi (춘천 닭갈비)
On the other end of the galbi spectrum is the low-budget student favorite Chuncheon dakgalbi.
In this dish, chunks of chicken are marinated in a sauce of chili paste and other spices, and stir-fried in a large pan with tteok, cabbage, carrots, and slices of sweet potato.
Because of the tendency of the red dakgalbi sauce to splatter, it’s common to see many diners wearing aprons over their clothes as they cook and eat.
28. Bossam (보쌈)
As is frequently the case with many South Korean meat dishes, Bossam at its core is simple: steamed pork.
But key to this dish is that the steamed pork is sliced into squares slightly larger than a bite, lovingly wrapped in a leaf of lettuce, perilla, or kimchi, and daubed with a dipping sauce. There are two traditional options: ssamjang, made of chili paste and soybean paste (doenjang), or saeujeot, a painfully salty pink sauce made of tiny pickled shrimp.
Wrapping and dipping are essential.
29. Agujjim (아구찜)
Agujjim, also known as agwijjim, is a seafood dish that consists of anglerfish braised on a bed of dropwort and bean sprout. It is as spicy as it looks: the entire dish is a bright reddish color, from the chili powder, chili paste, and chili peppers used in the seasoning.
The white, firm flesh of the anglerfish, which is quite rightly called the “beef of the sea,” is meaty and filling. And the tangle of dropwort and bean sprout that make up the majority of the dish aren’t just there for decoration: the dropwort is tart and the bean sprouts crunchy.
30. Japchae (잡채)
Japchae, a side dish of cellophane noodles, pork, and assorted vegetables sauteed in soy sauce, makes its most frequent appearances at feasts and potlucks.
There are no precise rules governing the precise assortment of vegetables in japchae, but most recipes won’t stray far from the standard collection of mushrooms, carrots, spinach, onions, and leeks.