Hansik: Korean Cuisine

Korean traditional cuisine is called Hansik and is centered around a bowl of rice, soup and a bunch of side dishes. The Korean philosophy is that medicine and food come from the same tree. In Korean cuisine most vegetables and meat are boiled, steamed, or pan-fried instead of fried because they center their food around health and to keep the natural flavor profile of the food.

Flavour Profile

Gochujang Image
Gochujang Image found at minimalistbaker

Korean food has very different flavor profiles than English cuisine. It’s usually spicy or/and sweet. Koreans love their spice; their spice usually comes from Korean red chili peppers or flakes. One of the most popular condiments is gochujang. It is a savory, sweet, spicy, and fermented condiment that is made from chili powder, glutinous rice, fermented soybean powder, barley malt powder, and salt. Koreans love to put it on everything like rice, rice cakes, ramen, etc. Gochujang is kinda like ketchup that packs heat.

Other popular condiments include ganjang (soy sauce) and doenjang (soybean paste).


Images of different types of Kimchi found at Spoon University

Kimchi is an iconic Korean dish that is known globally as a health food. Traditional kimchi consists of napa cabbage that is fermented in brining salt, gochugaru (chili powder), scallions, garlic, ginger, and jeotgal (salted seafood). I personally love Korean food, but I dislike the taste of traditional kimchi. I prefer cucumber or radish kimchi.

Rice Dishes

There are a variety of different Korean rice dishes as Korean food centers around rice. Here are just some very popular and basic ones.

Image of Bibimbap, rice mixed with vegetables and meat
Image of Bibimbap found at Wikipedia

Bibimbap is basically rice mixed with a bunch of vegetables and/or meats. The rice used to make this is often multigrain cooked with a variety of beans and barley. It’s very simple and easy to make.

Maangchi’s Kimbap recipe video

Kimbap is Korea’s take on sushi. Instead of seasoning the rice with vinegar, it is seasoned with sesame oil and is sweet. For the filling instead of raw fish like sushi Koreans often fill their kimbap with canned tuna, eggs, bulgogi (beef), ham, cheese, radish, etc.


Korean stews and soups are very hearty, provides warmth, and is good for your health.

Images of Korean Stews and Soups found at Maangchi

Kimchijigae (Kimchi Stew) and Doenjangjjigae (Soybean Stew) are the stews that are enjoyed every day. They are Korean soul food, containing classic Korean flavors of kimchi and soybean. They are known for their amazing taste and nutritional value.

Samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) is similar to chicken noodle soup, but contains ginseng, a root that is good for your health. They take a whole chicken and stuff it with garlic, ginseng, sticky rice, and other healthy ingredients.

Miyeokguk (seaweed soup) is Korea’s birthday soup. It is usually served during the breakfast of someone’s birthday. Tteokguk (sliced rice cake soup) has a similar concept as miyeokguk. It is served on lunar new year to show the aging of the country (Koreans turn 1 year older with Korea).

Banchan (Side Dishes)

Banchan is Korean side dishes which consist of a variety of different Korean flavors. It allows for people to share with others and caters towards different tastes of people. Everyone is served with a bowl of rice and soup to enjoy the side dishes with. In Korean restaurants, banchan are provided as a service (free things in Korea basically means on the house).

Korean side dishes, Banchan
Image of a variety of different Korean side dishes found at Snack Fever

Some popular side dishes include beansprout/spinach salad, jeon (Korean pancake), japchae (stir-fried glass noodles mixed with vegetables), soybean, potatoes and some type of kimchi. Jeon (Korean pancake) use a variety ingredients like seafood, kimchi, meat, and vegetables covered it in flour batter that is then pan-fried with a small amount of oil. My personal favourite side dish is japchae. It’s so delicious and  I really can’t get enough of it.


Noodles are eaten as a quick dish, but back in the day’s noodles were only served on special occasions in Korea. Long noodles symbolized a happy and long life which is why they were served on special occasions like birthdays and weddings.

Images of Korean noodles found at Maangchi

Kalguksu is the most basic Korean noodles which is Korean hand pulled noodles served with seafood or chicken-based broth.

Jajangmyeong is a Korean version of the Chinese dish, black bean noodles. Jajangmyeong is vegetables and meat that are sautéed with black bean sauce over noodles.

Naengmyeong (Cold noodles) is the go-to Korean noodles in the summer. The traditional Naengmyeong is buckwheat noodles (similar to soba noodles) in cold beef broth mixed with radish water kimchi. The broth often contains bits of ice to keep it cool.

Before you Eat Learn Table Manners

Serious Eats Video about Korean Table Manners

Street food

Korea is covered in Pongjangmacha (street vendors). Korean street foods are very casual foods that are inexpensive and perfect if you want a quick taste of Korea. A lot of tourist love these foods and Korean students on their break eat these foods.

Korean Street Food Tour video by Strictly Dumpling

Tteokbokki is a staple Korean street food that is known around the world. It is rice cakes dredged in Korean chili sauce (gochujang). There is a sweet/non spicy alternate which is the rice cakes covered in sweet soy sauce.

Eomuk, Korean Fish Cake
Eomuk, Korean Fish Cake image taken from My Korean Kitchen

Eomuk (fish cake) accompanies tteokbokki. It is fish cake strips (made from grounded fish meat) that are skewered and sit in fish broth.

Hotteok is sweet Korean pancake. Inside the pancake there is usually brown sugar with cinnamon powder and grounded nuts/seeds. The inside is warm gooey and delicious. Honestly, it’s my favourite Korean street food as it’s soft, chewy, warm, and sweet. I have a huge sweet tooth.

Bungeoppang (Korean goldfish pastry)
Bungeoppang (goldfish pastry) image found at Maangchi

Bungeoppang (goldfish pastry), similar to hotteok it contains a sweet filling usually red bean paste, but on the outside, it’s covered in goldfish shaped pastry that is soft yet crispy.

Gyeranppang (egg bun) is a quick meal often breakfast food that consist of a whole egg cooked inside bread. It is great for young students living on a tight budget.

Korean Shaved Ice Dessert
Image of Korean Shaved Ice Dessert found at TriFood

Patbingsu is a staple summer dessert in Korea. It is shaved ice with sweet red bean paste. Often it contains rice cake bites and a variety of fruits. There are many different flavors of the ice like strawberry, mango, matcha, and many more.

Now go Eat!

Kirby eating food
Image of Kirby eating food found at Giphy

In conclusion Korean food is amazing and you should try it. Korean food has been my favourite food besides Chinese (my ethnic food). What is your favourite Korean food? What food would you like to try?

Featured image found at Could this be more Awkward Tumblr


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