Like everyone else I know who has visited South Korea, I am a victim of experiencing withdrawal symptoms after leaving the country. People usually start to miss Korea when they get to the airport, and some people even anticipate missing Korea while they’re still there.
I didn’t have that foresight, which is probably why my Korea withdrawals are hitting me the hardest now. There are so many things I miss about Korea, but if I had to pick what I miss the most, I’d pick food.
Nothing here in Texas can truly satisfy my Korean food cravings so I’m left to drool, crave, and cry while watching Korean dramas and staring at my photos from Korea. #sadlife
Prepare yourself for heavy Korean food porn and major cravings.
The Little Things
Make sure to hit up a grocery store like E-Mart or a local convenience store to buy all the snacks you can. I stopped in the grocery store and freaked out for five seconds because I had found Oreo wafers, and I didn’t know that was a thing. If you’ve ever wanted to try honey butter potato chips, they have those too.
Triangle 김밥 (Kimbap)
You also need to get triangle 김밥 (kimbap). They come in different varieties: seaweed wrapped around rice and various things like tuna, kimchi, ham, mayo and more. They’re really cheap (less than $1) and really good, like “Why don’t we have this in America?!” good.
바나나우유 (Banana Milk)
I looked forward to drinking this little bottle of joy every day after I had my first sip of it. Sweet and creamy, it tastes like bananas and is available in almost every convenience and grocery store. You may be able to find it in the US, but it probably won’t be the same without the tiny straw that the cashier gives you that somehow makes it taste even better.
Really Good Coffee
I have daydreams about sitting in Hands Coffee while drinking this espresso frappuccino. It was the best, and I mean best, frappuccino I have ever had in my entire life thus far. Perfectly sweet, perfectly creamy, and 100 times better than Starbucks.
With few locations scattered around South Korea, I highly recommend you stop by this coffee shop if you can.
If you haven’t had Korean spicy rice cakes, I hope you do soon. One of the most popular and staple street foods in South Korea, it’s a local and tourist favorite. While there are many places in the US that serve this, nothing beats buying this from a street cart or a little shop in Korea.
떡 (tteok) are cylindrical rice cakes that can be cooked in numerous ways. It can be served the most common way in 떡볶이 with eggs and fish cakes or with ramen, cheese-filled 떡, vegetables and more.
Not every Korean person enjoys blood sausage, but I do. Trust me when I say it sounds more gross than it tastes. I didn’t think I’d like it either based on the description, but I love this dish. 순대 is made from pig or cow intestines and filled with a variety of noodles and peppers and seasonings.
While 순대 can be served with seasoned dipping salt, cooked in soup, stir fried or alongside 떡볶이, my favorite way to eat it is plain with the dipping salt.
치즈갈비 (Cheese Galbi)
The shops that serve this dish give you aprons so you don’t mess up your clothes. That’s how serious eating this is. With chopsticks in one hand and a glove on the other, my friends and I were so ready to cover 갈비 ribs with thick melted cheese.
At first, I was weirded out by the idea of Korean ribs and cheese, but I couldn’t get enough of it. It was messy and burning hot, but oh so good.
Many Asian countries are known for their different takes on shaved ice, and Korean shaved ice is one of my favorite ways to eat it. Usually served with red bean, fruits, mochi and more, this is a common and favorite dessert in Korea.
자장면 (Jajangmyeon)/짜장면 (Jjajangmyeon)
자장면 is a Korean Chinese noodle dish topped with a thick black bean sauce with vegetables and meat on top. Pickled radishes are usually served alongside the dish. It’s hands down one of my favorite Korean dishes, and something that I’ve craved too many times since leaving South Korea.
If you didn’t know, you can get pretty much anything delivered anywhere in Korea. My friends and I ordered 자장면 to be delivered to us at the Han River and we ate it right there at the river after the sun set. It was perfect and it honestly is one of the best memories I have from my summer in Korea.
Fish bread, or carp bread, is a red bean-filled waffle-like pastry made in the shape of a fish. It is sold as a snack from street vendors, but there are some shops dedicated to serving only 붕어빵 and varieties of 붕어빵-shaped waffles with different fillings, including ice cream.
If you go to Korea, be sure to try this dessert when it’s freshly-made because there are probably zero 붕어빵 shops in the US, and the frozen ones in the Korean market can’t compare.
I don’t know what they put in their fried chicken in Korea to make it taste 100 times better than it does in the US, but it’s addictive. The chicken place we ordered from delivered it with pickled radishes, which seemed weird to me because in America, we eat fried chicken with heavy sides like mashed potatoes and mac ‘n’ cheese.
Surprisingly, the radishes complimented the not greasy and always crunchy chicken extremely well, and I haven’t been able to fully enjoy fried chicken since eating it this way. I can still feel the crunch with every bite and zero guilt with every piece.
낙지 (Nakji or Sannakji)
It looks gross, but I loved eating this dish. 낙지 is basically like sashimi…but with octopus. It was weird feeling the suckers stick to the roof of my mouth while I tried to chew each piece, but it was a good kind of weird.
I had to make sure to chew thoroughly so the suckers didn’t stick to my esophagus on the way down. Eating 낙지 is an experience I’d recommend to everyone going to South Korea.
This cold noodle soup dish brought by North Koreans to South Korea is refreshing and unexpectedly filling. Usually served with ice, cucumbers, an egg, Asian pear, pickled radishes and slices of beef, this dish can be made in two ways. You can order 비빔 냉면 (bibim naengmyeon), which is spicy, or 물 냉면 (mul naengmyeon), which is not spicy.
Sadly, I have yet to visit a Korean restaurant that serves 물 냉면 the way I had it in Korea, which boggles my mind. I’ve learned that the broth makes or breaks the dish, and maybe it’s the water in Korea, but nothing beats the broth I had at 평양면옥 (Pyeongyang Myeonok).