40 Korean foods we can't live without

40 Korean foods we can't live without

Street food, comfort food, spicy stews for masochistic mouths: These 40 dishes are essential to the Korean heart, soul and digestive tract

hangover stewHangover? Forget hair of the dog, sip blood of the ox.

1.Hangover stew (해장국)

Given Korea’s dedicated drinking culture, it’s not surprising that Korea’s hangover-curing culture is equally as developed, from pre-drinking drinks to post-drinking drinks to a glorious array of spicy and steamy stews and soups. 

Made from a beef broth, with cabbage, bean sprouts, radish and chunks of congealed ox blood, the deeply satisfying taste does wonders to kick-start your sluggish brain in the morning. 

Chungjinok has been making haejang-guk since 1937, so they must be doing something right. 24 Jongno 1-ga, Seoul (청진옥, 서울특별시종로1 24 ); +82 2 735 1690

kimchiThe most popular "Kim" in Korea.

2. Kimchi (김치)

Dating to the Shilla Dynasty (approximately 2,000 years ago), kimchi is the beloved spicy sidekick at every Korean table. It's made by salting and preserving fermented cabbage in a bed of pepper, garlic, ginger and scallion. 

Feeling adventurous? Exchange your regular red cabbage kimchi for ggakdugi (chopped radish kimchi), a popular side at gimbap restaurants. Yeolmumul kimchi is a less spicy kimchi made with young radish stalks floating in a tangy soup.   

For a selection of handmade kimchi, try online kimchi sellers Real Kimchi.   

3. Soft Tofu Stew  (순두부찌개)

Soft tofu, clams and an egg in spicy broth? This popular stew is a classic example of unexpected flavor combinations yielding delightful sensations. 

The soft tofu -- which breaks into fluffy chunks in the stew -- holds the flavor of the clam and serves as a relief from the overall spiciness.

Proper sundubu-jjigae comes in a traditional earthenware pot designed to retain heat. The egg is cracked into the stew after serving, and cooks inside the bowl.

Jaesun Sikdang has the Korean blogosphere buzzing with appreciation for its ambitious menu: four types of sundubu jjigae, all for less than ₩6,000. 182-3 Nonhyun 1-dong, Gangnam-gu (제순식당, 서울특별시 강남구 논현1동 182-3); +82 2 514 3864

samgyeopsalSo juicy and fatty, you won't even need condiments.

4. Samgyeopsal (삼겹살)

The best part of eating in a samgyeopsal restaurant is the atmosphere -- a rollicking party punctuated by soju shots, pork strips sizzling on a grill and shouts for “one more serving, please!” 

Served with lettuce, perilla leaves, sliced onions and raw garlic kimchi, it's smudged in ssamjang (a mix of soybean paste called 'doenjang' and chili paste called 'gochujang') or salt and pepper in sesame oil. 

Bulzip Samgyeopsal in Hongdae serves delicious pork barbecue 24 hours a day. Seokyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul (벌집 삼겹살, 서울특별시 마포구 서교동); +82 2 323 3384; www.bulzip.co.kr

Greasy and thick? Must be borrowed from Chinese cuisine.

5. Jjajangmyeon  (짜장면)

Although originally a Chinese dish, Koreans have taken the noodles and created a thicker, yummier version that holds only a vague resemblance to its Chinese predecessor. (Think of New Yorkers and the wonders they’ve done with pizza.)

It would not be an understatement to say Korean diets would not be the same without this dish -- most Koreans eat it at least once a week, and have their favorite jjajangmyeon delivery shop on speed dial. 

Yangjagang, 660-15 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu (양자강, 서울특별시 강남구 신사동 660-15); +82 2 543 2233

6. Chimaek (치맥)

Chimaek, short for “chicken, maekju (beer)” is actually not a dish, but an institution. This glorious pairing features two surprisingly mundane foods: fried chicken and beer. 

Neither half, chicken nor beer, is particularly remarkable on its own. But their popularity as a joint entity demonstrates a glorious combination devoured by millions of Koreans every weekend. 

The Frypan in Sinchon takes chimaek very seriously: 2-2 Changcheon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul (더 후라이팬, 서울특별시 서대문구 창천동 2-2번지); +82 2 393 7707

ramyeonThe international symbol for student and single life. 7. Instant noodles (라면)

Anyone can follow the directions on the back of the ramyeon package to boil water and sprinkle in the spice packet, but connoisseurs will add extras like canned tuna, eggs, and cheese for enhanced flavor. 

Need some pointers on how it’s done? Try Ilgongyuk Lamyun in Hongdae, named for the time of day when ramyeon supposedly tastes the best: 106 for 10:06 pm. Their upgraded ramyeon dishes are replete with everything from bean sprouts and tofu to mussels and sea mustard. And as if that isn’t enough, all meals come with a complimentary supply of eggs, glutinous rice, and toast. 

2/F Prugio Sang-ga, 486 Seokyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul (일공육 라면, 서울특별시 마포구 서교동 486번지 푸르지오 상가 2층); +82 3142 1241

8. Kimchi Stew (김치찌개)

A lesser-known fact about kimchi is its versatility as an ingredient in a whole slew of derivative dishes, which comprise a category of their own.

In kimchi jjigae, red cabbage kimchi is chopped, sautéed in oil, and cooked with tofu, cellophane noodles, pork (sometimes tuna), and other vegetables. 

Despite the stew's debt to kimchi, you know it has come into its own when it’s served with kimchi as a side dish. 

Try Gwanghwamunjip Kimchi Jjigae for kimchi jjigae as kimchi jjigae was always meant to be: obscenely orange and obscenely delicious. 43 Dangju-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul (광화문집 김치찌개, 서울특별시 종로구 당주동 43); +82 2 739 7737

9. Army Stew (부대찌개)

This hodgepodge stew of sausages, Spam, American cheese, instant noodles, tteok, and assorted vegetables dates back to the aftermath of the Korean War. 

Because meat was scarce, cooks found creative replacements in the surplus foods from the American army base stationed in Seoul, hence the stew's name. 

Although meat has since then become plentiful, a buddae jjigae without Spam is unimaginable.

Choi-ssi Ajeossi Buddaejjigae has unlimited refills of rice and ramyeon noodles. 54-32 Myeongdong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul (최씨아저씨 부대찌개, 서울특별시 중구 명동 2가 54-32); +82 70 8871 6788

ganjang gye jangWhat can't they ferment over there?

10. Soy sauce crab (간장게장)

Ganjang gejang, or crab marinated in soy sauce, can be so addictive that it’s often affectionately called “rice thief,” the joke being that you keep eating more rice just so that you can have more gejang since it’s just that good. 

Slightly tangy, tantalizingly bitter, pungent and cold, the taste may come as a shock for first-timers. But among Koreans, gejang has been carving out a niche for itself as more of a centerpiece than a sideshow to other seafoods. 

Pro Ganjang Gejang in Sinsa-dong is over a quarter of a century old. 27-1 Jamwon-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul (프로간장계장, 서울특별시 서초구 잠원동 27-1); +82 2 543 4126

More on CNNGo: Best noodles in Seoul

tteokbokkiPerfect snack for slurping after the dentist.

11. Tteokbokki (떡볶이)

This iconic red-orange street food is so popular there’s an entire town in Seoul just devoted to the steamed and sliced rice cakes (tteok), cooked with fish cakes (oden) and scallions in a sweet and spicy sauce made of chili paste.   

Chefs have been known to put all sorts of things inside the sauce, from the black soybean paste to plain old ketchup. Call us masochists, but one thing is certain: the more pepper, the better. 

Sindang-dong Tteokbokki Town, Sindang 1-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul (신당동 떡볶이타운, 서울특별시 중구 신당1동)

12. Gopchang (곱창)

Gopchang refers to the small intestines from pork or cattle, which, chopped into rounded sections, can be cooked into soups, stir-fried, or grilled.   

Grilled, gopchang is yet another important aspect of Korean barbecue culture. Chewy without being rubbery, it’s a bit more festive than samgyeopsal, although it’s still a staunchly earthy food. 

And as most office workers in Korea can tell you, it’s divine with soju. 

For something even more out of the ordinary, try gopchang with wine at Seolhalmeoni Gopchang. 227 Hyoje-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul(설할머니 곱창, 서울특별시 종로구 효제동 227); +82 10 9486 1229

samgyetangWho needs Gatorade to replenish when you've got young boiled chicken?

13. Samgyetang (삼계탕)

Continuing along the masochistic strain, Koreans have a saying that goes, “fight heat with heat.” What that means is Koreans love to eat boiling hot dishes on the hottest summer days. 

The most representative of these is samgyetang, a thick, glutinous soup with a whole stuffed chicken floating in its boiling depths. 

The cooking process tones down the ginseng’s signature bitterness and leaves an oddly appealing, aromatic flavor in its stead -- a flavor that permeates an entire bird boiled down to a juicy softness. 

Head over to the popular Tosokchon Samgyetang near Gyeongbok Palace for some healthy boiled bird--keep in mind, however, that with great fame come long lines. 85-1 Chebu-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul(토속촌 삼계탕, 서울특별시 종로구 제부동 85-1); +82 2 737 7444

14. Bibimbap (비빔밥)

This Korean lunch-in-a-bowl mixes together a simple salad of rice, mixed vegetables, rice, beef, and egg, with sesame oil and a dollop of chili paste for seasoning. Although Korean kings from yesteryear would probably be shocked at how the royal dish has become so ingrained into the palate of the masses, we love how cheaply and quickly we can devour our favorite lunch.  

Bibimbap restaurant Gogung in Myeongdong has a tempting menu of beautifully arranged bibimbap. 12-14 Chungmu-ro 2-ga, Jung-gu (고궁, 서울특별시 중구 충무로2가 12-14); +82 2 776 3211

gimbapSo jam-packed with meat and veg, it's the lunch box within the lunch.

15. Gimbap (김밥)

The process of making gimbap resembles the Italian glasswork technique of millefiori, and indeed, the finished gimbap often looks too pretty too eat. 

Sautéed vegetables, ground beef, sweet pickled radish, and rice, rolled and tightly wrapped in a sheet of laver seaweed (gim), and then sliced into bite-sized circles. 

Kkoturi Gimbap has gimbap so good that even the ends (which are usually regarded as largely useless, like the crusts on a sandwich) are treasured by their patrons. At least, that’s their claim. #101 Koggiri Sangga, 615-1 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (꼬투리 김밥서울특별시 강남구 신사동 615-1 코끼리상가 101); +82 2 515 1259

16. Doenjang (된장)

When people think Asian cuisine, they often think soy sauce. But soy sauce is actually a byproduct of this soybean product, a paste made from dried and fermented soybeans in a process too complicated to describe here. 

This brown, textured paste is not the prettiest food in the world, and like Australian vegemite, the taste takes some getting used to. But once that taste is acquired, good luck trying to make do without it. 

Few restaurants serve doenjang on its own, but the Solnamugil Doenjang Yesul serves doenjang bibimbap. 103-8 Myeongryun 4-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul (솔나무길된장예술, 서울특별시 종로구명륜4 103-8); +82 2 745 4516

17. Gamjatang (감자탕)

Most gamjatang places are open 24 hours, because Koreans tend to crave this stew in the early hours of the morning as an alternative to hangover stew. 

This hearty dish features potatoes (gamja), scallions, ground perilla seed, and bits of pork cooked in a pork bone broth. The real appeal of this stew lies in the unique taste of the perilla seed, which is perhaps more important to the flavor than the meat. 

Geumgangsan Gamjatangi is said to be a favorite of Korean actor Jo In-seong. 345-18 Myeongil-dong, Gangdong-gu, Seoul (금강산 감자탕, 서울특별시 강동구 명일동 345-18); +82 2 442 7714

istockphotoThese make traditional pancakes look like white bread.

18. Haemul Pajeon (해물파전)

Crunchy and filling, Korean pancake tastes best when it comes studded with shellfish, cuttlefish, and other varieties of seafood, to make haemul (seafood) pajeon. 

And with its traditional companion of Korean rice wine, makgeolli, pajeon makes the perfect meal for a rainy day. 

“Pajeon Alley,” by Kyunghee University, houses some of the most crowded pajeon places in Seoul, and up there at the top is Nageune Pajeon. 139-3 Jegi-dong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul (나그네 파전, 서울특별시 동대문구 제기동 139-3); +82 2 926 9077

19. Jjambbong (짬뽕)

This dish is the soupier, spicier counterpart to jjajangmyeon and together they form the core of Korean Chinese home delivery cuisine. 

But although noodles dominate in terms of sheer quantity, the onions and chili oil that flavor the soup are what really demand your attention. With copious amounts of chili oil-saturated onions and other vegetables on top of the noodles, few are able to finish this dish in its entirety, but many try. 

Hongshiwon, Bongchun-dong 871-77, Gwanak-gu, Seoul (홍시원서울특별시 관악구 봉천동 871-77 ); +82 883 4339 

sundaeSundae bloody Sundae.

20. Sundae (순대)

Another street food, sundae is a type of sausage, similar in content to blood pudding, with roots in Mongolian cuisine. “Real” sundae is pig intestine with a stuffing of cellophane noodles, vegetables, and meat, but even if you eat the street vendor version, which uses a synthetic replacement for the pig intestine, you will still be able to enjoy the lungs and liver on the side. Yum. 

To sample other varieties of this beloved food, try Wonjo Sundae Town in Sillimdong, where you can pick and choose between several floors packed with soondae sellers. Sillim-dong 1640-31, Gwanak-gu, Seoul (원조 순대타운, 서울특별시 관악구 신림동 1640-31); +82 2 884 7565

More on CNNGo: Best Seoul bindaetteok: Flippin' good Korean pancakes

kongguksuThe Korean version of the protein shake.

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 julienned 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. 

Matjarang in Daechi-dong is said to have the best kongguksu south of the river. 987-7 Daechi 2-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (맛자랑, 서울특별시 강남구 대치2 987-7); +82 2 563 9646

kalguksuYour breath will keep the vampires away.

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.

You can’t get much plainer than the Chanyangjip in Jongno. But don’t be fooled by its unsophisticated appearance--this place has been serving kalguksu to the masses since 1965 for ₩200 a bowl, and shows no sign of slowing down. 27 Donui-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul (찬양집, 서울특별시 종로구 돈의동 27); +82 2 743 1384

seollung tangIf stone soup existed, it would taste something like this.

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 ggakdugi kimchi.  

Mapo-Ok in in Mapo-gu serves seolleongtang made from Korean beef, and has two options for seolleongtang: “regular” and “special.” 50-13 Yonggang-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul (마포옥, 서울특별시 마포구 용강동 50-13); +82 2 716 6661

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. 

The tteokguk at Gung in Insadong serves tteokguk with meaty dumplings all year long -- excepting holidays. 30-11 Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu Seoul (서울특별시 종로구 관훈동 30-11); +82 2 733 9240 

doenjangKoreans never met a paste they couldn't turn into stew.

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 Korean table week after week.

Enjoy a bowl of doenjang jjigae at Ttukbaegijip for a mere ₩4,000, celebrated for its deep and satisfying flavor. 5-1 Gwancheol-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul (뚝배기집, 서울특별시 종로구 관철동 5-1); +82 2 2265 5744

galbiThe key to being liked in Korea? Holding the tongs.

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. 

Sure, there are less expensive options out there, but Galbi can be a high-end dish, and the notorious Byeokje Galbi in Bangi doesn’t let you forget it. 205-8 Bangi 1-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul (벽제갈비, 서울특별시 송파구 방이1 205-8); +82 2 415 5522

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. 

At 619 Rib a serving is ₩9,000; add an order of gamjajeon (potato pancakes) for a break from the spicy. 104-8 Daehyeon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul (춘천 닭갈비, 서울특별시 서대문구 대현동 104-18); +82 2 313 0619

28. Bossam (보쌈)


bossamA very Korean way to eat pig.

As is frequently the case with many 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.  

Try Nolboo Bossam, where the bossam and its associated side dishes are tied into convenient sets that you can order for reduced prices. Daechi-dong 899-3, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (놀부보쌈, 서울특별시 강남구 대치동 899-3); +82 2 556 2232

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. 

Try the famous agujjim at seafood restaurant Getmaul. Poongwon Building, 449-16 Seongnae-dong, Gangdong-gu, Seoul (갯마을, 서울특별시 강동구 성내동 449-16); +82 2 487 2102

japchaeThere's a reason why musicals have entire songs about cellophane.

30. Japchae (잡채)

Japchae, a side dish of cellophane noodles, pork, and assorted vegetables sautéed 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.

Sandong gyojagwan in Sinsa-dong serves a mean platter of chili pepper japchae. Customers can also opt for a smaller, less expensive sample of the noodles by going with the japchaebap, which is just another way of referring to japchae with rice on the side. 615 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (산동교자관, 서울특별시 강남구 신사동 615); +82 2 514 2608

More on CNNGo: 5 Korean ways to eat a pig

dubukimchiJust add some soju and -- hey presto -- a main dish becomes a side dish.

31. Dubukimchi (두부김치)

This appropriate combination of blanched dubu (tofu), sautéed 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, dubukimchi makes soju almost palatable.  

Try some dubukimchi, without or without soju, at Wonjo Halmeoni Dubujip. 2/F Inwang Building, 85-9 Gugi-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul; (서울특별시 종로구 구기동 85-9 인왕빌딩 2층); +82 2 379 6276 

32. Hobakjuk (호박죽)

hobakjukNothing says "get well soon" like a bowl of golden porridge. 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. 

Daeyeo, 44-4 Youido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul (대여, 서울특별시 영등포구 여의도동 44-4); +82 2 783 6023

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.

The gyeranjjim at Korean barbecue restaurant Guiga, if lacking in vegetable toppings, is nonetheless as fluffy and yellow as gyeranjjim should be. Changcheon-dong 52-8, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul (구이가, 서울특별시 서대문구 창천동 52-8); +82 2 326 2292

Mustard and vinegar are optional.

34. Naengmyeon (냉면)

In 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 Pyeongyang, 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. 

Try the naengmyeon at Sambong Naengmyeon -- basic, inexpensive, and tasty! (Jamwon-dong 58-24, Seocho-gu, Seoul (삼봉냉면, 서울특별시 서초구 잠원동 58-24 ); +82 2 599 3367

dotori mukNutty, spicy, sweet and fresh.

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.   

Simhaksan Dotoriguksu in Paju has a dotorimuk muchim that is spicy, sweet, and fresh. 1096-4 Dongpae-ri, Gyoha-eup, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do (심학산 도토리국수, 기도 파주시 교하읍 동패리 1096-4); +82 31 941 3628

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. 

The chueotang at Gumasan sells authentic Southern-style chueotang for ₩9,000 a bowl. 43 Yeouido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul (구마산서울특별시 영등포구 여의도동 43); +82 2 782 3269

bulgogiFire, meet meat.

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. 

If you just want some old-school open-fire bulgogi, head over to Samwoojeong for this quintessential Korean grilled beef. 40-1 Jamsil-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul (삼우정, 서울특별시 송파구 잠실동 40-1); +82 2 2143 7895

ppongtwigiInexplicably, ppeongtwigi has recently gained attention as a nutritious “diet food.”

 

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. If you can't find him, order online at Jangsu Gangnaengi

nakji bokkumThis octopus will set your mouth on fire.


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. 

Baetgodong in Gangnam specializes in stir-fried baby octopus and squid. Their prices are above average, but then again, so is their taste. Pop in at lunchtime to enjoy their slightly reduced rates. Sinsa-dong 663, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (뱃고동, 서울특별시 강남구 신사동 663번지);+82 2 514 8008

bingsuFinally, flakiness is a virtue.

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. 

C Four Cake Boutique in Sinsa-dong has, among the other bingsu varieties on its menu (milk tea bingsu, green tea bingsu), the classic patbingsu. The prices are steep, but the bingsus  match the price, in taste and appearance. The shaved ice mound towers well above the rim of the glass, and the pat and tteok come in a separate bowl. 529-4 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (C4, 서울특별시 강남구 신사동 529-4); +82 549 9946 

More on CNNGo: 6 best bingsu to beat the heat

Violet Kim is a freelance writer for CNN Travel.

Find her online @pomography.

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