Everyone knows that half of a vacation is eating. And for a lot of us (definitely not talking about myself) everything we do in-between meals is just a distraction till the next meal. (yeah that is totally not describing me...) So my wrap up of Korea wouldn't be complete without letting you know the certain delicacies you MUST try while here.
Full disclosure: I am vegetarian so I unfortunately didn't get to try some of this food (or I tried the veggie version of it). But this is the food the people I hung out with ate and loved as well as what I tried myself.
Tasty mixture of rice, vegetables and minced beef called bulgogi. It sometimes has a fried egg on top. The best part is the spicy sauce they add called gochujang - basically it is red-chili paste! (You can order this vegetarian) Mix it all togerther before starting to eat it.
Rice rolled in dried seaweed basically looks like sushi. There are 2 versions: Vegetarian Gimbap which has carrots, radish and various other vegetables and regular Gimbap which has spam (spiced ham) rolled in as well.
Found in most major cities in the US you have to try it if you come to Korea. Grills are set in the middle of the tables and you cook slices of bulgogi (beef), galbi (beef ribs), samgyeopsal (pork), dak (chicken), and sometimes offered seafood and vegetables. Solo travelers find a friend at a hostel to go with these meals are usually only served in servings of two or more.
A small whole chicken stuffed with rice, red dates, garlic and ginseng root and then boiled in broth. Also in the chicken category is a dish most pubs serve with beer. Basically it is fried chicken but I had many people tell me it was better than anything they had in the US.
A cold side dish that is the spicy national food of Korea and served at basically every meal. Generally made up of pickled and fermented cabbage seasoned with garlic and red chili. Sounds vegetarian but there is usually fish sauce added in as well and rare times pork fat.
Korean pancakes that you can find on many street corners. They are the size of pizzas and often filled with spring onions and seafood.
Soups and Stews
Tang or Guk (soups) vary from spicy seafood and tofu to bland broths. Jjigae (stews) are served in a stone hotpot with tons of spices and come to the table sizzling! Both are one of the highlights of Korean cuisine and you can't leave without trying a couple.
if you're vegetarian
Skip these next couple of paragraphs if you eat meat....
So, I am a vegetarian (although I do eat fish, but very sparingly) which I am sure most of you know from following me. I document my adventured in finding veggie food in foreign countries pretty well on snapchat. (PS...follow me on snapchat! #shamelessplus) Also, I am the first to admit that I am not an adventurous eater. Crickets for dinner....eh I'm good, I'll take a bowl of plain rice. Then to make matters worse I have a bleeding heart when it comes to animals. Even though I eat fish most of the restaurants in Korea have the tanks with the live fish right at the entrance. Kudos to them for using fresh fish but I have a hard time eating something that I see alive 10 minutes prior to me eating it. So if you are like me in any of those occurrences you need to know this...finding (cheap) food to eat in Korea may be more challenging.
I learned that the first couple of days when I ordered food that was seemingly vegetarian only to discover half way through that the broth was chicken/beef broth or it was cooked with pork fat. I along with a lot of my veggie only friends have a very sensitive stomach so it made for some unpleasant nights.
My advice to you is stick to vegetarian restaurants. The good news is there is wifi everywhere so I would usually just try and google a veggie restaurant close to me or I learned to plan ahead. If I couldn't find one I honestly just ordered plain rice at a random restaurant. (Side note: Koreans are soooo nice and would always offer to get me some fresh veggies or make me a veggie bibimbap if they had the ingredients) Coffee shops were great for finding bread to hold me over (there is a Starbucks on every corner, just like NYC). Also, the chain Paris Baguette was everywhere in Seoul/Busan and even Jeju. (Although even Paris Baguette had very little options for food that didn't have some sort of ham/bacon on it). If you are trying to eat really cheap street food the vegetable gimbap was my personal favorite (basically veggie sushi rolls). Also temple food is the bomb and almost all of it is vegetarian!
And if you do accidentally eat something with meat in it and you start to feel sick Korea has free public bathrooms everywhere so don't freak out too much. (or beat yourself up - we are all human and it is part of the adventure)