Danny and I really had only eaten Korean food once before we came so basically all Korean food that we have had has been new to us. I didn't think I would be a fan of Korean food, but oh how I was wrong! Of course there are still things that I will avoid like the plague, but now there are foods that I can't do without. Here is just a sampling of some of the BEST and some of the WORST...
Bin dae ddoek: A fried potato pancake with beef in it... oh my goodness delicious.
On the right: kimbap ~ a "california roll" often filled with egg, ham, radish, spinach, carrot, green onion, and rice all wrapped in seaweed.
On the left you can see a few different things: In the very front you see pigs feet (I've never had them but I don't particularly want to eat knuckles), then you see the kimbap, then we have ddeok boki ~ rice cake covered in a red pepper sauce usually with cabbage and fish cake pieces in it, then last but not least chop chae ~ rice noodles with a kind of soy sauce marinade mixed with green onion, carrots, peppers and beef.
My absolute favorite: Dak albi, a spicy chicken dish that will blow your mind. Cooked with cabbage, ddoek or rice cake, leeks, sesame leaves, and mixed with rice at the very end. Seriously good... seriously.
Jimdak: Andong is most famous for this dish and it is really good and REALLY spicy. We always have to get is "waygook-in" style (or foreigner style) which means waaaay less spicy. It's a dish made with chicken, spinach, potatoe, carrot, onion, pepper, and rice noodles all in a delicious garlic-y, soy sauc-y, seasame oil-y sauce. It's a must try.
Bulgogi ~ a classic Korean dish that most people know about. It is thinly sliced meat cooked in a marinade with onion, pepper, garlic, and rice noodles. Eat it in a lettuce leaf with some gochujang (red pepper sauce) and you'll never go wrong!
Another classic: Bibimbap. I prefer dolsot bibimbap which is on the right but they are both good. The difference is dolsot bibimbap is given to you in a hot stone pot so the rice around the outside gets crispy and delicious. Bibimbap is made with all kinds of different steamed veggies, usually an egg, and a good amount of gochujang sauce.
Ssam bap: this food is a great way to try all kinds of Korean dishes. Ssam bap is basically a crazy ton of small side dishes that you put in a lettuce or sesame leaf and eat in one big bite. You can see zucchini, lotus root, fermented mussles, anchovies, spinach, steamed egg, denjang chigae (soy bean soup), and lots more.
If you are in the mood for meat: Galbi or ssam gyup sal is also classic in Korean food. This Korean barbeque is usually pork, and if you are splurging, beef, marinaded and grilled on a open fire. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
An acquired taste: although I didn't know what to think about it at first, kimchi chigae is a soup that has grown on me. Make with kimchi, tofu, fish, onion, and lots of other vegetables, it may not be your favorite at first, but keep trying it.
Another acquired taste: kimchi is one of those things most either hate it or love it. I wasn't really a fan when we first moved to Korea but I have found that I actually enjoy eating fermented cabbage (I never thought I would say that!) Made with cabbage, red pepper powder, lots of garlic, anchovies, and lots of other mystery ingredients, it doesn't really sound good when you describe it but just keep trying it.
A soup that will rock your world: Shabu shabu is technically from Japan, but the "Koreanized" version is amazing. It's a spicy broth soup with mushrooms, different kinds of green, onions and thinly sliced beef. This all comes to a boil and then you add the udon noodles and this makes it delectable. My favorite part, though, isn't till the end when you mix rice, egg and some of the broth together to make a fried rice that is a life changer. This is a must try!
For your sweet tooth: It makes me sad that in most places in Korea, this is a winter food, but hoddeok is a street snack that I hate that I love it so much. A cinnamon and sugar filled fried pancake-doughnut is really hard to go wrong with. This food may be some of the few "bad for you" Korean food but, Oh, it is so good!
Now foods that I can just do without...
If you are in the mood for bugs and snails: On the right you can see bundaegi or silk worm larvae. Let's just say it smells horrible and I think it tastes just the same. Then you can see golbangi or tiny snails. Danny says these aren't that bad, but a bag of peanuts or popcorn sounds a heck of a lot better to me ; ) Older generations love these snacks but I can say with all confidence that I will never eat them again.
Octopus: you can have it many different ways but this is one dish that I still haven't found a taste for. Give me some calamari and I'll be happy but there is just something about the consistency of boiled, chewy octopus that doesn't light my fire.
KFC... not so much: there is just something about fried chicken with the head still on that makes me want to say, "I'll pass."
Traditional festival food: at festivals in America you might find deep fried candy bars or grilled turkey legs (yum), but in Korea you find things that are a little bit different. Grilled squid is a common sight along with soon dae (or blood sausage) which is intestines stuffed with rice noodles a pig's blood. Yeah, not the same as a funnel cake, huh?
Never tried, never will: I know a lot of people are afraid of accidentaly eating or being fed dog when they come to Asia, and for a while it was a fear of mine too. Although dog is eaten in Korea, you mostly have to go out of your way to try it. Danny and I stumbled upon the dog section of our market, to which I let out a little scream, but I thought for this purpose it would be better just to show you the outside of a shop that the actual dog. Your welcome, Mom ; )
Dried fish: it is in a lot dishes in Korea and when it is combined with other things, I don't mind it, but dried fish is something that I haven't made an afternoon snack. People say the bigger dried fish on the grill with a beer is an awesome combination, but I think I'll just wait for a big salmon fillet when I finally go home, thank you very much.
One of those foods that you will say, "What is that?": as you walk through the market or you see people on a picnic snacking on a marbled looking food you might wonder what that is. Well, compressed pig's head is the answer. A pig's head is boiled, and with the skull removed, compressed cartalage and all until it is a nice little cube. The crunch and the flavor of the meat is in one word "gross".
Well that's all the food I've got for now! Hopefully, I will continue to try as many different Korean foods as I can, and if you have the chance, you should too. Sometimes you may be sorry you put something in your mouth but if I hadn't tried, I wouldn't have found my passion for Korean food... and I only hope that I can find a place in Colorado one day that will satisfy our cravings.