South Korea is a haven for all things food, and there are sure to be tons of dishes that you’ve never tried before in your life.
As South Korea has so much unique food, most of which is quite different from western food, some people who are planning to visit Seoul, Busan, or another city in Korea might be worried that they won’t like the food.
Recommended Read: How Much Does a Trip to Seoul Cost?
While there may be some of the Korean food that you do not like if you prefer western food, there are still lots of Korean food that I’m sure most foreigners will like:
- Samgyeopsal (삼겹살)
- Jjimdak (찜닭)
- Gimbap (김밥)
- Korean Fried Chicken (치킨)
- Bibimbap (비빔밥)
- Budae-Jjigae (부대찌개)
- Dakgalbi (닭갈비)
My recommendation is to give everything a chance while you’re in South Korea. You never know where you’ll find your next favorite dish!
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What Korean dishes do foreigners enjoy the most in South Korea?
You’re sure to be in for an amazing food journey if you’re visiting South Korea. There is an abundance of restaurants and unique foods to experience everywhere.
While obviously a subjective topic, I believe there are some Korean dishes that almost all foreigners will enjoy the most when they are in South Korea. These recommendations are based on my own experience, both having the dishes myself and talking to other foreigners in South Korea.
Even if you’re used to only eating a specific type of food, I strongly recommend you to try out as many dishes as you can while in Korea, as I’m sure there are a couple that’ll surprise you and might even become one of your favorites.
Here are the 7 Korean dishes that I believe most foreigners visiting South Korea will enjoy the most.
Samgyeopsal, also known as Korean BBQ, is a classic Korean dish that is almost impossible to avoid when visiting South Korea.
You can find restaurants that serve Samgyeopsal everywhere, and it is one of the most popular dishes in South Korea.
I definitely recommend that you try this stable dish when you’re in Korea, not only for the food but also for the experience.
Usually, the meat that you grill at Korean BBQ restaurants is pork belly, the direct translation of Samgyeopsal, which is a fatty cut that becomes very delicious when grilled. You can, however, order several types of meat at most Korean BBQ restaurants, including beef and sometimes seafood and chicken.
At some Samgyeopsal restaurants, you cook the meat yourself on the grill on the table, and at others, the workers come and cook it for you in front of you.
You get several side dishes at these restaurants, and the “right way” to eat the meat is to make a small “wrap” with the salat leaves, meat, side dishes, and Ssamjang, the bean-paste sauce. You can eat it however you like, though.
Additional side items can be ordered as well, like rice and soups. Many people like to enjoy alcohol while having Samgyeopsal, like beer or the Korean drink, Soju.
Jjimdak is a very tasty braised chicken dish cooked in a large pot full of chicken, noodles, vegetables, sauce, and Tteokbokki (Korean rice cakes).
It quickly became one of my favorite Korean dishes after I had it, and everyone else I went with liked it a lot as well.
This dish is not spicy either, unless you get the spicy version, of course, so even those who don’t like spicy food can enjoy this dish without problems.
I recommend you go to one of the Naejjimdak (내가찜한닭) restaurants, which is a Jjimdak restaurant chain, and get the Andong Jjimdak (안동찜닭) with cheese on top and rice on the side. That’s the best Jjimdak I’ve had in South Korea. They have several locations in Seoul and some outside of Seoul.
Gimbap, which directly translated means seaweed rice, is a seaweed-covered roll filled with rice, vegetables, egg, and meat.
There are many kinds of Gimbap, so you can find ones with just about any fillings you prefer.
The regular Gimbap is a roll cut into slices, but you can also get triangular Gimbaps.
Gimbap is a tasty dish that is not only quick to eat on the go but also perfect for bringing on trips, like hikes or excursions where you need to bring lunch.
For many foreigners in South Korea, including myself, Gimbap was often the lunch of choice, both for the taste and convenience. You get Gimbap from any convenience store, but also at many restaurants, street markets, and takeout spots.
Korean Fried Chicken (치킨)
Korean Fried Chicken is sure to be a favorite amongst most foreigners, as it is basically an upgraded version of the fried chicken that you know.
You can get all kinds of Korean Fried Chicken in South Korea, from the regular to ones covered in special sauces and seasoning.
Many Koreans enjoy going to restaurants that serve Korean Fried Chicken and eating it with fries, and drinking beer.
There are Fried Chicken places everywhere, and it is also one of the most-ordered dishes for takeout, with many smaller independent Fried Chicken shops as well as several larger chains.
One of the types of Korean Fried Chicken that I had in South Korea was covered in mayo and spicy sauce, which I highly recommend that you try, even though I was also skeptical at first, being used to only the regular type.
Bibimbap is another tasty Korean dish that you can’t go wrong with. It is a rice dish with spicy bean-paste sauce in the middle and various vegetables and an egg on top. Sometimes also meat or seafood.
You’re supposed to mix the dish together, even though it is served with everything separated and nicely presented. You want to do this to get all the flavors together at the same time.
Directly translated, Bibimbap means mixed rice bowl.
Bibimbap, like Gimbap, is a great lunch dish that is both healthy and tasty. You can find restaurants that serve Bibimbap everywhere.
Budae-Jjigae, also known as Army Stew, is an interesting dish that you might be surprised by the first time you have it, but it is really tasty.
Budae-Jjigae is a large soup full of various processed slices of meat, like ham and spam, store-bought ramen noodles, baked beans, slices of Tteokbokki (Korean rice cakes), some vegetables, tofu, and a slice of cheese on top.
While most of the other foreigners, along with me, were surprised that such a dish existed, we were all taken by the great flavor of the dish. I recommend having it with a bowl of rice on the side.
The dish was invented when food was scarce and Korean people used whatever leftover food and things they could get from American military bases combined with Korean ingredients, which is why it got the name, Army Stew.
Though you might be skeptical about this dish at first, it’s definitely one that you should give a try!
Dakgalbi is a spicy chicken dish cooked in a spicy sauce along with vegetables and Tteokbokki (Korean rice cakes).
I recommend getting this dish with a bowl of rice on the side.
If you’re not into spicy food, then this dish is not something you will enjoy. But if you can handle some spiciness, I highly recommend you try it. It’s very delicious.
There are several “galbi” dishes in Korean cuisine. Dak, which means chicken, is just the chicken version.
You can check out our guide on what the best app to find restaurants in South Korea is to learn how to find great restaurants with these dishes. You can also learn how to order, etc., in restaurants in Korea here.
Other honorable mentions that I believe most foreigners will enjoy in South Korea include Bulgogi dishes (불고기), Bossam (보쌈), Ramyeon (라면), Japchae (잡채), and Jajangmyeon (자장면).
If you’re in a larger city like Seoul or Busan, you can find areas with Halal restaurants and some vegan restaurants. Though, South Korea’s cuisine involves a lot of meat, especially pork.
For those who still prefer western food, worry not. You can get western food in South Korea everywhere.
There are many other great Korean Foods that I definitely recommend that you try, including Tteokbokki (떡볶이) and Kimchi-Jjigae (김치찌개), but I would imagine some foreigners finding them too spicy.
Those are the Korean dishes that I believe most foreigners will enjoy the most in South Korea!
Have any input or suggestions for this guide? Let us know in the comment section below.