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What to Order in a Korean Restaurant

Updated on January 28, 2011

What to Order at a Korean Restaurant!

When you walk into a Korean restaurant, its scary! (If you're not Korean) We eat fermented cabbage and jelled acorn for goodness sakes. What's super cool is that we make this stuff taste good! For those who are pretty well-versed in Korean cuisine know that the spicy fermented cabbage is called 'KimChi' and is a staple to every Korean person's diet. I'm not joking kids, we have it with every single meal! It's probably the equivalent of what curry is to Indian food. Trying the various types of KimChi at every Korean restaurant is a must!

The other biggest draw people have to Korean restaurants is the heaping servings of banchan. It's a series of tiny appetizer dishes that can range anywhere from 4-30 individual dishes, and its completely free with your food! You can even ask for refills on any dish. There could be hundreds of different banchan options at any given Korean joint, the most popular ones are: Jap-Chae (glass noodle dish), KimChi Jun (Korean pancake), Pickled Cucumber, Korean Potato Salad, Egg Mari, Mook (acorn jelly), Jang Jorim (soy braised beef with peppers), black beans and hundreds more! My boyfriend (Hispanic, not Korean) ends up eating all the countless dishes and likes the shock the Korean waitresses! It's surprising but Korean people who go to these places don't really eat much of the banchan!

There folks, now you have a banchan/kimchi guide to print out with you for this great Korean Restaurant Food Crawl!

KimChi-Spicy Fermented Cabbage
KimChi-Spicy Fermented Cabbage
Banchan!
Banchan!

1. Maru

This place is NOT fancy. It's a small, cozy semi-hole-in-the-wall, except it's located on a corner. The food is fantastic for the price, and makes me feel like I'm somewhere else. Every time I go here, I always end up ordering something different (probably because I get weird food cravings like everyday!).

What to Order:

Novice: Dol-Sot Bibimbap-Hot Pot: Cooked with rice, meat and veggies. Absolutely delicious here with a great crunch. Must have it in the Stone Bowl, its what makes this dish!

Adventurous: Buddae-Jigae (Military Stew): A crazy dish invented in the 1950s in Korea during the Korean War when food was scarce and there were American soldiers everywhere. A "must-try" super spicy dish!

Location: 414 E William St. Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Phone: (734) 761-1977

Cuisine: Korean

Price: $

Attire: Casual

2. Arirang

I love this Korean restaurant and not just because it is 1/2 mile from my house! The food is authentic, delicious and super hearty and warming for Michigan winters! Another bonus for Arirang is that their waiters/waitresses speak English (rare) and the service is great! (rare in authentic Korean places).

As a side note: The reason service isn't superb at Korean restaurants (the real ones at least) is because they believe good service is bringing out excellent food, not being super smiley and perky. It's unfortunate, but its just how it is!

And remember, if you like it spicy, request to make it spicier. They'll ALWAYS dumb down the spice if you're not Korean, so tell them you can handle it!

What to Order:

Novice: Soon-Doboo Jigae: Tofu Stew that is absolutely delicious and warming.

Adventurous: YookGae Jang: Hearty, rich, super duper spicy beef stew (my personal favorite here) OR

HaeMul Tang: Spicy Seafood Stew with lots of wonderful sea creatures!

Location: 3135 Oak Valley Dr. Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Phone: (734) 222-5959

Cuisine: Korean

Price: $

Attire: Casual

Spicy HaeMul Tang
Spicy HaeMul Tang

3. Rich JC

This place is teeny-tiny, cozy and well... religious? The Rich JC stand for Jesus Christ, but don't let that deter you! The owners are the sweetest people in the entire world. This place makes me nostalgic for when I came every week after my political science 395 class. The food was perfect for my clogged sinuses and the -20 degree windchill. It's real home-cooking folks!

The one con: The seating consists of ~13 stools around a counter, so not much room!

What to Order:

Novice: Kim-bap OR Soon-Doobu

Adventurous: Seafood Ramen

Location: 1313 S University Ave Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Phone: (734) 769-2288

Cuisine: Korean

Price: $

Attire: Casual

Credit: Rex Roof
Credit: Rex Roof
Credit: Rex Roof
Credit: Rex Roof

4. Bubble Island

You can't forget the dessert! I truly do believe that a lunch course deserves a dessert too! This is THE local place to get your fix on Korean "boba-drinks"  and Korean icecream! "Boba/Bubble Tea" is a sweetened tea with tapioca balls in it that look like bubbles. Not only do they have a great selection of boardgames and are open until 3 am on weekends, but they have fabulous drinks!

What to Order:

Almond Milk Tea OR Green Tea with Mango Stars OR Red Bean Milk Tea with Black Bubbles

Korean Frozen Yogurt with Fruit

Location: 1220 S University Ave Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Phone: (734) 222-9013

Cuisine: Tea

Price: $

Attire: Casual

Taro Milk Tea with Black Bubbles
Taro Milk Tea with Black Bubbles

Korean Food Locations

A
Maru:
414 E William St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, USA

get directions

B
Arirang:
3135 Oak Valley Dr, Ann Arbor, MI 48108, USA

get directions

C
Rich JC:
1313 S University Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, USA

get directions

D
Bubble Island:
1220 S University Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, USA

get directions

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