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7 Unique Food to Try in South Korea

Updated on February 20, 2017
JM Salgado profile image

Travel, food, and nature are some of the most interesting means to learn and be inspired. JM tries to experience the beauty of these ways.

A country that is well known for its entertainment industry, South Korea also offers an engaging retreat in Asia. Many might recognize the name of this country in East Asia because of its Kpop idols, Kdrama, and Kfashion (well, mostly quirky fashion). But aside from those, travelers can find this as a great choice to have a memorable gastronomic adventure.

If you are planning to visit this country, there are many delicious and unique food to try. There is more to the cuisine of this rich culture aside from the traditional kimchi. You simply have to be ready to explore and enjoy a delightfully unique experience.

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A plate of sannakji. Live octopus seasoned with sesame oil and topped with sesame seeds. Unique serving of live octupos. The Korean sannakji can be a challenge for many individuals.
A plate of sannakji. Live octopus seasoned with sesame oil and topped with sesame seeds.
A plate of sannakji. Live octopus seasoned with sesame oil and topped with sesame seeds. | Source
Unique serving of live octupos. The Korean sannakji can be a challenge for many individuals.
Unique serving of live octupos. The Korean sannakji can be a challenge for many individuals. | Source

1. Sannakji

Unusual fashion isn’t the only one that attracts thousands of tourists yearly. There is also a variety of unique delicacies in this South Korea and one of these is sannakji. It might surprise some travelers, but this dish is made of fresh baby octopus. In this sense, fresh means alive.

Live octopus is a popular choice for brave first-time travelers. It is usually offered in fish markets where the freshest catch is available. Interested individuals might also get some in Noryangjin.

The live octopus is cut into small portions before serving, but the tentacles will still move along the chopsticks before one gets a taste of sannakji. However, if this isn't the kind of adventure you wish to experience, don't worry because there are still other delicious octopus dishes to order. You can try Nakji Bokkeum which is a spicy stir-fry octopus dish instead.

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There are a variety of bibimbap available in Korea. A unique and tasty dish indeed.A colorful and flavorful mix of ingredients for a bowl of bibimbap. Yummy!
There are a variety of bibimbap available in Korea. A unique and tasty dish indeed.
There are a variety of bibimbap available in Korea. A unique and tasty dish indeed. | Source
A colorful and flavorful mix of ingredients for a bowl of bibimbap. Yummy!
A colorful and flavorful mix of ingredients for a bowl of bibimbap. Yummy! | Source

2. Bibimbap

A little less unusual from the first, bibimbap is a traditional dish that is made up of various ingredients. It literally means “mixed rice.” As a popular signature dish, it is served in a large bowl with warm rice and topped with fried egg or sliced beef, sautéed vegetables, and sauces (soy sauce, gochujang, and doenjang). Then it is thoroughly mixed before eating.

In most bibimbap, gochujang and doenjang are stable ingredients. Gochujang is the chili pepper paste that is common in Korean dishes while doenjang is a kind of soybean paste. However, there are other noted versions in Tongyeong, Jeonju, and Jinju. These places made this dish one of the seven unique food to try in South Korea.

A simple yet delicious snack that is popular to students and young adults.
A simple yet delicious snack that is popular to students and young adults. | Source

3. Tteokbokki

Tteokbokki is quite difficult to pronounce, but the taste can make one quiet in awe. It is a sweet and spicy delicacy that is cooked with gochujang and meat or fish cake. Aside from the taste, it looks intriguing because of the main ingredient. Anyone who orders this dish can be surprised by the cylindrically shaped rice cakes that serve as the key ingredients. They are filling in every bite. Moreover, tteokbokki is a popular snack for children and teenagers as many restaurants and street vendors offer this dish. But, both young and old can enjoy this savory delicacy.

Samgyeopsal can get any one excited for juicy, tasty, and complete grilled pork experience.
Samgyeopsal can get any one excited for juicy, tasty, and complete grilled pork experience. | Source

4. Samgyeopsal and Gogigui

These two meat dishes are famous for the grilled tender meat that are served in a wide variety of ways. Samgyeopsal consists of thick, fatty yet delicious slices of pork belly meat which is usually marinated or seasoned. Gogigui, on the other hand, is the Korean method of roasting. Mostly roasting of beef, chicken, pork or other meat. The common form is the bulgogi and galbi. This is a unique food to try in South Korea because of the attraction barbeque has for many travelers.

Try a bite of this Korean blood sausage. A delicious treat with sundae.
Try a bite of this Korean blood sausage. A delicious treat with sundae. | Source

5. Sundae

Sundae [sʰundɛ] is nothing close to the western sweet treat. Sundae/soondae is a unique food made from a cow or pig's intestines. These intestines are stuffed with different ingredients forming a dish similar to a sausage.

A typical sundae is boiled or steamed. However, there are other forms of this food that are stuffed with seafood to prepare a squid sundae. This unique meal is a popular street food in South Korea. Each bite can bring a juicy and flavorful treat for any hungry individuals.

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Beondegi is an unusual site, but is surely a unique street food to find.If you can't find it on the streets, there are canned beondegi in the markets. Yes, these are now in cans.
Beondegi is an unusual site, but is surely a unique street food to find.
Beondegi is an unusual site, but is surely a unique street food to find. | Source
If you can't find it on the streets, there are canned beondegi in the markets. Yes, these are now in cans.
If you can't find it on the streets, there are canned beondegi in the markets. Yes, these are now in cans. | Source

6. Beondegi

Another challenging delicacy to try. This beautiful country also has its own share of particularly unexpected dishes. Beondegi is usually sold by street vendors. These are stewed silkworm larvae. With those words, it might be something to stay away from, but it is becoming more of a rare dish to try.

These days, there are available canned beondegi sold in supermarkets. Even in traditional Korean stores in other countries, this treat is now more accessible for interested individuals.

A spicy treat, Dakbal.
A spicy treat, Dakbal. | Source

7. Dakbal

Dakbal or chicken feet may not be entirely exclusive to South Korea, however, this kind of dish still bring many tourists something different to try. There are different ways of cooking this specific chicken part throughout Asia. In South Korea, it is commonly served in a spicy sauce with some onions and chili seeds. Dakbal can be strange for westerners because of its nature and its chewy texture.

For extra choices, there are makgeolli and soju. South Koreans are also famous for their drinking habits, and two popular drinks are these two. Makgeolli is the traditional Korean rice wine while soju is the distilled rice liquor. There are many stores that sell these items as well. Alongside the seven unique food to try in South Korea, these drinks can bring another level to this culinary experience.

Which Korean would you try?

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    • Mae Hanson profile image

      Mae Hanson 15 months ago from Geneva

      I will definitely have to try these when I go to South Korea! Though some of them look a little strange...or even scary.