Korean How-To Guide: Eating in Korea
For expats, eating in Korea is one of those seemingly simple tasks that becomes infinitely more complex with the addition of language and cultural barriers. Here, Amanda gives us the must-know breakdown for eating in Korea.
Originally from New Jersey, Amanda spent two years living and teaching in “rural” Gyeonggi-do. That experience taught her well how difficult even the simplest of tasks can be when transposed to a foreign culture and conducted in a foreign language. Here she gives us her top tips for navigating the murky waters of eating in Korea.
Food in Korea is plentiful, varied, and delicious. For those in Korea for the first time, the sheer volume of local delicacies and dishes to choose between can be more than overwhelming, and for those people the natural retreat is to duck into a corner store or order take-out – it can’t be hard to order take-out, right? And McDonalds delivers here? Awesome!
Yet even these easier options can be fraught with difficulty – the Dominos pizza call-taker doesn’t understand “Pepperoni”, I don’t know my address in Korean, and are those corner store chips shrimp flavor? – and so this guide is aimed at solving those problems.
[note title=”Guide to Korean Food” align=”center” width=”550″]If you’re looking for information on different Korean foods and restaurant eating in Korea, then check out our guide to the The 10 Best Korean Foods to Try in Korea.[/note]
1. Opening a Gimbap Triangle
I’m a big fan of gimbap triangles (samgak gimbap; 삼각 김밥) for a late night or after school snack. There are many varieties, but I particularly enjoy tuna (chamchi gimbap; 참치 김밥). The real trick to eating these, however, is opening them like a pro! Here are step by step instructions:
2. Ordering Take Away Food
Do you want to order pizza but can’t speak Korean? If you’re not in the vicinity of a Korean-speaking friend, you can call Timeforfood. Call them to place your order in English and they will call the restaurant for you! You have to register and make an account, but they keep your preferred restaurant menus on file.
3. Making Korean Food at Home
If you’ve been dreading the days when your favorite Korean restaurants will no longer be right outside your door, or you want to impress your friends when you get home, try making your favorite Korean foods with Maangchi. This blog contains dozens of easy-to-follow recipes and how-to videos for popular Korean dishes (and side dishes). My friend and I made the japchae, stir-fried noodles with vegetables, and it tasted great!
4. Learning to Read Kimbap Nara Menus
One of the most intimidating food experiences in Korea is your first encounter with the menu at Kimbap Nara (김밥 나라), the ubiquitous and much healthier Korean equivalent of a fast food restaurant. The large menu, at first a seemingly indecipherable block of Hangeul, has been translated here by Mary Eats. You’ll soon discover it’s a veritable smorgasbord of Korea’s best cheap cuisine, serving everything from gimbap to gimchi jjigae (spicy kimchi stew) to donkass (fried pork cutlet).
Most dishes are under 6,000 won, making it perfect for “there’s still a week until pay day” budgets. While the menu may vary slightly between establishments, the basics are usually the same. A similar menu will be found at any Gimbap Cheonguk (김밥 천국), the Kimbap Nara counterpart. Lately I’ve also noticed a growing number of newer and sleeker Kimbap Nara competitors; again however, the menu remains virtually the same from place to place.
5. Ordering Western-Style Ingredients
If you’re in need of food or ingredients you can’t find in Korea, take TAS’s recommendations and check out The High Street Food Market or iHerb. The High Street Food Market has a store in Itaewon, which carries all of those foods you miss from back home! If you can’t get to the store, they ship all over Korea and will give you 15% off your first order when you say that TAS referred you! The other option, iHerb.com, is a well known savior for expats who love baking. They ship spices, organic ingredients, and healthy snacks all over the world at very affordable prices. Users of the service tell me it’s highly reliable and shipments arrive in as little as four days.
Are you having issues with ordering or eating food in Korea? Let us know in the comments. You could also read about The 10 Best Korean Foods to Try in Korea, or The Expat Lounge Guide to Korean Street Foods.