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Exploring beyond Korean BBQ: 5 K-foods you must try, part 1

June 5, 2015

K-Town food junkie’s list

By Tae Hong

Korean food is all the rage nowadays, with attention from magazines, food critics and chefs being showered on staples like kimchi and gochujang, but there’s something about the standard go-to of “Korean food? I love KBBQ! Bulgogi! Bibimbap!” that has Korean food lovers twitching with recommendations beyond the (so, so delicious) grill.

We’ve got three “must” lists — one from a 1.5-generation K-Town food junkie (that’s me!), one from a Korean American whose preferred eats include more patties and cheese than dwenjang or squid, and one from a non-Korean who has an unhealthy bingsoo obsession.

Step out of your comfort zone, put down those KBBQ scissors, and start Yelping.

1. Ganjang Gejang (간장 게장)

Drowning raw blue crabs in soy sauce shouldn’t sound appetizing, but to those who have had ganjang gejang, it’s the stuff of dreams.

Mix rice, roe and sauce in the crab shell. Put away your utensils. No side dishes needed. Your mouth will thank you.

The dish is so divine there’s an entire alley in Seoul’s Shinsa-dong (신사동 간장 게장 골목) filled with restaurants offering their best versions of ganjang gejang, one after the other.

2. Jeon (전)

CC Image, Ruocaled on Flickr

CC Image, Ruocaled on Flickr

Frequently introduced as Korean pancakes, jeon is an appetizer with an endless number of variations, the most popular among them being kimchi, green onion and seafood.

Jeon‘s the sort of crispy satisfaction you can find pretty much anywhere and everywhere, and it is — on holidays, as a companion to drinking, on lunch and dinner tables.

3. Soondae (순대)

Don’t let the visuals turn you off — soondae may be boiled intestines stuffed with noodles and pig’s blood, but this is one ultimate-comfort-food blood sausage.

Sold in restaurants and by street vendors, soondae is traditionally eaten either in a soup, stir-fried in chili paste or by itself. Most prefer dipping it in a pinch of salt.

4. Budae Jjigae (부대 찌게)

CC Image, LWYang on Flickr

CC Image, LWYang on Flickr

Literally “army stew,” this hearty, spicy dish is typically made by throwing in a slew of meats — sausage, ground beef, Spam, whatever else you’ve got — with instant noodles, rice cake, kimchi, cheese, onions, carrots, mushrooms and a handful of other veggies.

It looks to the Korean War as its origin, a time of scarce food and widespread poverty in South Korea.

People would take leftover meats like Spam and hot dogs from American soldiers, combine them with anything else they could find, and boil the ingredients for a makeshift stew.

Times have changed, but budae jjigae is still a popular offering found in cities all over the world, from Seoul to Los Angeles.

5. Ssam (쌈)

(Yonhap)

(Yonhap)

Want a do-it-yourself wrap so fresh and so tasty you’ll find yourself craving the crunch every night?

Look no further than ssam, which places meats and veggies onto a leaf of lettuce — or perilla leaves, or cabbage, or pumpkin leaves — to wrap and swallow. It comes in many variations, the most popular being bossam, or steamed pork.

Don’t miss the red, spicy paste, ssamjang, that usually accompanies the wrap.

 

2 Comments

  1. Natasha

    June 6, 2015 at 3:25 PM

    Haven’t had 간장 게장 or 부대 찌게. I think 부대 찌게 is available in Annandale, VA. I could make it but I try to stay away from Spam. Maybe one day. I would love to try 간장 게장. I’ve had all the varies of 전 listed and I love them. 순대 is good. I like it best in a soup. I had 보쌈 and enjoyed it. Love Korean food.

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