As a Korean-American, I have been always been exposed to the wide range of Korean food since childhood. I love Korean food but it always seems like I'm constantly seeing the same type of Korean food portrayed through media (you know, KBBQ and bibimbap). However, there is so much variety to Korean food than just your typical finds. Although it may seem daunting to try something new, I promise that your tastebuds will not be disappointed. Whether you're going to South Korea very soon or want to widen your authentic Korean food knowledge, this list should help you gain inspiration for your next Korean meal!

1. Tteokguk (떡국)

Usually prepared to bring in the new year, tteokguk is a delightful soup made out of beef and ricecake that can be enjoyed at any time. The broth is starchy, but not overwhelming. The chewy texture of the tteok blends nicely with the broth and the beef adds so much flavor. Throw a little mandu (dumplings) in there and it becomes Tteok-Mandu Guk.

2. Jjim Dak (찜닭)

Hannah Oh

This is a dish I never tried in the U.S. until I went to Korea last year! Jjim dak is braised chicken cooked with honey, spicy, and soy sauce. Additional toppings like cheese, mandu, or clear cellophane noodles can be added. Since this is spicy, salty, and sweet at the same time — it's absolutely perfect with a steaming bowl of white rice!

3. Mung Bean Pancake (빈대떡)

These rainy day essentials are made from ground mung bean, green onion, and kimchi. They are fried in oil and served immediately with a soy sauce for dipping. The key is to have it burning hot with the oil still bubbling. If ever in Seoul, check out the mung bean pancakes at Gwangjang Market. At Gwangjang Market you can see them grind the mung beans directly, make the batter, and fry them on the hot grill!

4. Bibim-naengmyeon (비빔 냉면)

Need a dish to cool you down from the heat in the summer? Naengmyeon is the way to go! Bibim naengmyeon is a chewy noodle dish that is spicy, vinegary, and sweet all at once. The flavor and cold texture will make you forget all about the heat!

5. Jjajangmyeon (짜장면)

In Korea, it is a tradition to eat this dish on moving day or on singles' day (April 14), but as with any dish, can be enjoyed on any day. Jjajangmyeon is a noodle dish topped with a sauce made from sweet bean paste, diced pork, and a variety of vegetables. It's usually topped with some sliced cucumbers and mixed thoroughly before devoured. It's definitely something you do not want to eat on a first date!

6. Budae Jjigae (부대찌개)

Hannah Oh

Budae jjigae is a dish that guarantees that anything and everything (well actually, most things) can be thrown in and still taste darn good. Budae jjigae is also known as army stew because it incorporates a lot American canned ingredients that, in the past, were typically only found in military bases. This stew can include everything from dumplings to Spam, tofu, sausages, ramen noodles, kimchi, bean sprouts, rice cakes and much more! The base of the soup is a Korean chili paste (gochujang) and chili flakes (gochugaru), so it's a dish that will get spicier as you eat more of it.

7. Hotteuk (호떡)

Hannah Oh

Now for a personal dessert favorite: hotteuk is a sweet Korean pancake filled with brown sugar, honey, peanuts, and cinnamon. The dough blends in with the filling making a delectable treat. There is also a savory type of hotteuk that can be found filled with japchae (stir-fried glass noodles with vegetables)! Hotteuk is one of the more popular street foods of Korea and is typically served tucked in a small cup or thick paper (to prevent the oil from getting on your hands). However, it can also be easily reproduced at home with a box kit found in any Korean supermarket!

Streets of Seoul photo by Emile-Victor Portenart (@emilevictorp) on Unsplash

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There are so many more dishes that are not widely known, but I guarantee the ones I listed above are delicious. Next time you're at a Korean restaurant, don't be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone and try a new dish!