31. Dubu kimchi (두부김치)
This appropriate combination of blanched dubu (tofu), sauteed kimchi, and stir-fried pork is a threesome made in heaven. The dubu, which has the potential to be bland on its own, has the pork to add substance and the kimchi to add flavor.
Another stalwart companion to alcohol, especially at more traditional bars and restaurants, dubu kimchi makes soju almost palatable.
32. Hobakjuk (호박죽)
This viscous, yellow-orange juk, or porridge, gets its distinctive color and flavor from the pumpkin, its namesake and its main ingredient. The pumpkin is peeled, boiled, and blended with glutinous rice flour, and the result is a bowl of porridge so creamy, golden, and sweet that in some ways it seems more pudding than porridge.
Hobakjuk is often served as an appetizer to meals, or as a health food: it is supposedly beneficial to those suffering from intestinal problems. The specifics of medicinal science aside, it’s not difficult to imagine that this mellow, mildly flavored meal can heal.
33. Gyeranjjim (계란찜)
This side dish, in which an egg is beaten into a bowl, lightly salted and steamed into a spongy, pale yellow cake, is absolutely essential when eating spicy food.
Similar in consistency to soft tofu (sundubu), but with more flavor, gyeranjjim is sometimes made with diced mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, leeks, and sesame seeds sprinkled on top.
34. Naengmyeon (냉면)
In South Korea we wait for summer just so we can start eating naengmyeon every week. The cold buckwheat noodles are great as a lightweight lunch option or after Korean barbecue, as a way to cleanse the palate.
Mul naengmyeon, or “water” naengmyeon, hailing from North Korea’s Pyongyang, consists of buckwheat noodles in a tangy meat or kimchi broth, topped with slivers of radish, cucumber, and egg, and seasoned with vinegar and Korean mustard (gyeoja).
Bibim naengmyeon, or “mix” naengmyeon, generally contains the same ingredients, but minus the broth. The noodles are instead covered in a sauce made from chili paste.
35. Dotorimuk (도토리묵)
This light brown jello, made of acorn starch, is served cold, frequently with a topping of chopped leeks and soy sauce as a side dish, or as an ingredient in Dotorimuk salads and dotorimukbap (dotorimuk with rice).
Like tofu, dotorimuk, while nutritious and vegan-friendly, can taste bland on its own. The flavor, which is unique, can only be described as acorn — bitter rather than nutty. But although dotorimuk may be an acquired taste, most dotorimuk dishes have a host of appetizing spices and condiments to help the process along.
36. Mudfish Soup (추어탕)
This spicy soup has a consistency closer to that of stew. Although mashed and boiled to the point where it is unrecognizable, chueotang is named for the freshwater mudfish (chueo) that constitutes the main ingredient.
But the selling point of this soup is the coarse yet satisfying texture of the mudfish and the vegetables — mung bean sprouts, dried radish greens, sweet potato stems, and most of all the thin, delicate outer cabbage leaves.
37. Bulgogi (불고기)
If galbi represents Korean barbecue, then bulgogi’s playing field is Korean cuisine as a whole. This well-known sweet meat dish, which has existed in some form for over a thousand years, was haute cuisine during the Joseon Dynasty.
The dish is also a fusion favorite: bulgogi-flavored burgers are part of the menu at fast food franchise Lotteria, and there have also been sightings of other adaptations like the bulgogi panini.
38. Ppeongtwigi (뻥튀기)
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to get stuck in daytime Seoul traffic, you will see the ppeongtwigi sellers emerge from nowhere and park themselves in the center of the highway. Their fearlessness is a sure sign that your car won’t be budging for a while yet.
Ppeongtwiti is onomatopoeic. The ppeong represents the sound that rice makes as it pops, and there really isn’t much else to the snack but that — popping.
If you’re feeling tired of all the greasy, barbecue-flavored, chocolate-covered, and over-packaged snacks that most stores stock today, try a handful of this relatively Spartan treat. It’s unexpectedly addictive.
The best places to find it are at the local seller down the street.
39. Nakji bokkeum (낙지볶음)
In this enduring favorite, octopus is stir-fried with vegetables in a sauce of chili paste, chili powder, green peppers, and chili peppers — ingredients that would be spicy enough on their own, but which all congregate to create one extra fiery dish.
When it’s done right, the chewy, tender octopus swims in a thick, dark red, caramelized sauce, so good that you can ignore the fact that it sets your mouth aflame to keep eating.
40. Bingsu (빙수)
In this delectable summer dessert, sweetened red beans (pat) and tteok are served on a bed of shaved ice (bingsu). Variations will include condensed milk, misutgaru, syrup, ice cream, and corn flakes.
Then there are, of course, the variations on the bingsu, where the pat is sometimes entirely replaced by ice cream or fruit.
Classic patbingsu, however, is too beloved to lose ground to the newcomers — come summer, every bakery and fast food restaurant in Seoul will have patbingsu on its dessert menu.