What is Korea famous food?

Korea has a rich culinary tradition and is renowned for its diverse and flavorful dishes. From spicy kimchi and hearty soups to tender barbecue and noodles, Korean cuisine offers something for everyone. Some of Korea’s most famous and beloved foods include:


No discussion of Korean cuisine is complete without mentioning the iconic fermented cabbage dish known as kimchi. Often served as a side dish or used as an ingredient in other recipes, kimchi is a staple in both North and South Korean cooking. Its mixture of spicy, sour, and umami flavors makes it highly addictive. While the most common variety is made with napa cabbage, kimchi can also be made with radish, green onions, and other vegetables.

Health Benefits of Kimchi

In addition to its bold taste, kimchi is also acclaimed for its health benefits. The fermentation process boosts the probiotic content, making kimchi an excellent source of gut-healthy bacteria. It also contains vitamins A, B, and C, as well as antioxidants that may help prevent cancer. Some studies suggest kimchi has anti-aging and anti-obesity effects as well.


Bibimbap, which translates to “mixed rice,” refers to a signature Korean dish of warm white rice topped with sautéed and seasoned vegetables, meat, and egg. Some key ingredients in traditional bibimbap include:

  • Spinach
  • Bean sprouts
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Carrot
  • Zucchini
  • Beef or chicken
  • Fried egg
  • Sesame oil
  • Gochujang (red chili paste)

The dish is stirred together before eating so the flavors blend beautifully. Bibimbap is beloved for its balance of textures and bright, complementary tastes. Vegetarians can opt for versions without meat.


Bulgogi, also known as Korean barbecue, features thin slices of marinated beef grilled before your eyes. The meat is coated in a sweet and savory marinade that typically contains:

  • Soy sauce
  • Sugar
  • Sesame oil
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Onion
  • Black pepper

Bulgogi has a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and finger-licking flavor. It is served sizzling hot off the grill alongside lettuce or spinach leaves and rice. Many Korean restaurants have tables with built-in grills for cooking bulgogi right at your table.

Health Benefits of Bulgogi

While the marinade gives bulgogi plenty of robust flavor, it does mean the dish is higher in sodium and sugar than plain grilled beef. However, bulgogi is an excellent source of protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins. As long as you limit portion size and accompany it with vegetable sides, bulgogi can fit into a healthy diet.

Korean Barbecue Variations

In addition to the traditional bulgogi with beef, Koreans also enjoy other types of meat and seafood on the barbecue. A few popular Korean barbecue options include:

  • Galbi – Marinated short ribs
  • Samgyeopsal – Thick-cut, uncured pork belly
  • Ojingeo gui – Grilled squid
  • Godeungeo gui – Grilled mackerel

Soups & Stews

Hearty soups and stew-like dishes, known as jjigae, also feature prominently in Korean food culture. A few soul-warming examples include:

  • Kimchi jjigae – Spicy kimchi stew often with pork
  • Doenjang jjigae – Soybean paste stew with vegetables and meat
  • Gamjatang – Spicy pork bone stew
  • Seolleongtang – Milky ox bone broth soup
  • Miyeok guk – Seaweed soup, often eaten on birthdays

These steaming soups provide deep flavor along with nutrients from ingredients like meat, seafood, vegetables, and health-boosting herbs. They exemplify the balance of spicy, salty, and umami tastes in Korean cuisine.


For those who like spicy snacks, tteokbokki is a popular Korean street food consisting of garaetteok rice cakes simmered in a sweet and spicy red chili sauce along with fish cakes and green onions. The rice cakes have a satisfying chewy texture while the sauce clings nicely. Tteokbokki packs some serious heat and makes for an addictive picker-upper on chilly days.


Japchae features sweet potato glass noodles stir-fried with sliced meat and vegetables in a savory sauce. It often contains:

  • Beef or chicken
  • Onion, carrots, spinach
  • Wood ear mushrooms
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Sugar

The dish has a balanced flavor profile of sweet and salty. The glass noodles become very soft after soaking and cooking. Japchae is afixture at celebrations and holidays in Korea.


These Korean-style seafood and vegetable pancakes, known as bindaetteok, make an excellent snack, light meal, or accompaniment to spicy stews. The savory pancakes contain:

  • Zucchini
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Seafood like squid, mussels, or shrimp
  • Wheat flour
  • Eggs
  • Scallions

Bindaetteok gets topped with soy sauce, hot pepper paste, or kimchi sauce to add even more flavor. The combination of crispy outer edges with a moist, fluffy interior makes them highly craveable.


For easy snacking, gimbap is the Korean take on sushi rolls. Rice and various fillings get wrapped in sheets of dried seaweed laver. Some popular fillings are:

  • Pickled radish
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Beef bulgogi
  • Tuna
  • Fried egg
  • Imitation crab

Gimbap makes an ideal grab-and-go lunch. It provides a spectrum of flavors and textures in one convenient package. The rolls can be sliced into disks to make them even easier to enjoy on the move.


To quench your thirst with Korean cuisine, beverages range from warm teas to refreshing drinks:

  • Soju – Korea’s most popular alcohol, this clear spirit is lower in alcohol than vodka or rum
  • Makgeolli – Sweet, milky rice wine with around 6-8% alcohol
  • Dongdongju – Similar to makgeolli but with floating grains of rice
  • Sikhye – Sweet rice punch flavored with ginger and cinnamon
  • Sujeonggwa – Cinnamon persimmon punch
  • Yakgwa – Floral-scented dry ginger tea
  • Yuja-Cha – Citrus tea made from Korean yuzu fruit
  • Misugaru – Grain-based beverage with nuts and dried fruit
  • Bori-Cha – Barley tea


Satisfy your sweet tooth after a Korean meal with time-honored desserts like:

  • Yakgwa – Fried honey cookies
  • Hoddeok – Fluffy, fried pancakes with sweet fillings
  • Chapssaltteok – Mochi rice cakes coated in sweetened bean powder
  • Dasik – Tea cookies often shaped into flowers
  • Sujeonggwa – Cinnamon-ginger punch with dried persimmons
  • Bundegi – Skewered, candied silkworm pupae

Ice cream flavors incorporating Korean ingredients like red bean, sweet rice, and green tea are also popular after-meal treats.

Korean Food By Meal

Here’s an overview of some typical Korean dishes eaten for various meals:

Meal Popular Dishes
Breakfast Rice, soup, kimchi, fried egg, seaweed, pancakes, toast
Lunch Bibimbap, bulgogi, japchae, noodles, kimbap, soup, kimchi
Dinner Meat or fish entrees, stew, pancakes, noodles, rice
Snacks/Street Food Tteokbokki, hotteok pancakes, gimbap, sundae sausage
Desserts Yakgwa cookies, hoddeok pancakes, bingsu shaved ice
Drinks Soju, makgeolli, sujeonggwa, sikhye, teas

Korean Food Variations By Region

Korean cuisine does have some regional differences and specialties:

  • Northern Korea – Colder climate means heartier soups, stews, and porridges are more common. Famous dishes include Pyongyang naengmyeon cold noodles and sinseollo hot pot.
  • Southern/Seoul – More vegetables used and lighter dishes. Known for bibimbap from Jeonju and expensive Hanwoo beef.
  • Coastal Regions – Emphasis on fresh seafood. Specialties are hoe or raw fish dishes.
  • Jeju Island – Tangerines, black pork, and hallabong citrus featured due to island’s crops. Known for seafood too.

However, many popular national dishes like kimchi, bulgogi, and jjigae can be found all over Korea. Culinary traditions in North and South Korea also remain similar despite political differences.

Korean Food Etiquette

Korean mealtime etiquette includes several practices that differ from Western customs:

  • Using chopsticks and spoons is common. Knives not typically used.
  • Rice and soup bowls are often lifted to the mouth rather than bending down.
  • It’s polite to use two hands when pouring or receiving a drink.
  • In formal settings, don’t start eating until the elders have started.
  • The youngest or lowest ranking person often pours drinks for the elders/superiors.
  • It’s respectful to avoid sticking used chopsticks into food, passing food from chopstick to chopstick, or waving them around.

Where to Find Authentic Korean Food

Some of the best places to enjoy genuine Korean cooking include:

  • Korean restaurants in Korea Towns like Los Angeles, New York City, Toronto, etc.
  • Mom-and-pop Korean restaurants where the owners prepare traditional family dishes
  • Korean grocery store food courts for cheap, casual fare
  • Night markets in Korean like Gwangjang Market in Seoul
  • High-end Korean barbecue restaurants for meat cooked right at your table

Seeking out well-reviewed spots frequented by local Korean people is a good bet for finding authentic flavors. requesting Korean-language menus is another way to go beyond Americanized offerings at some restaurants.

How to Make Korean Food at Home

Some tips for approximating Korean cuisine at home include:

  • Shop at an Asian grocery store for Korean pantry essentials like ganjang (soy sauce), gochujang (chili paste), sesame oil, rice vinegar, instant dashida soup stock, seaweed, etc.
  • Use a rice cooker for perfect fluffy rice.
  • Marinate meats like bulgogi in soy sauce, sugar, garlic, sesame, and chili flakes before grilling.
  • Experiment with Korean spice blends like gochugaru (red pepper flakes) and maesil cheong (plum syrup) for authentic flavor.
  • Make simple banchan side dishes like namul (seasoned spinach), japchae sweet potato noodles, and gyeran-jjim (steamed eggs).
  • Consider investing in a stone pot for crispy dolsot bibimbap.

Even without special equipment, you can whip up kimchi fried rice, spicy pork lettuce wraps, and other Korean classics with ingredients from your regular grocery store.


With its balance of spicy, savory, sweet, sour, and umami flavors, Korean food offers an amazing culinary experience rich in taste, aroma, and nutrition. From kimchi and bibimbap to bulgogi barbecue and seafood stews, Korea’s most famous foods showcase the diversity and explosion of flavors in this cuisine. Authentic Korean cooking means paying attention to traditions and ingredients. But with some guidance, you can bring the flavors of Korea home to your own kitchen.

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