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A Guide To 23 Korean Foods You've Probably Tried And Wondered, "What's Actually In This?"

If you’re new to Korean cuisine, or simply need some dining inspo, you’ve come to the right place! Below, you’ll find a guide to 23 classic Korean dishes that you can make at home.

From starter dishes like japchae (sweet noodles) and pajeon (savory pancake), to main courses like galbi and bibimbap (mixed rice bowl), we’ve got all your favorite Korean foods covered.

1. Galbi

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What is it? Marinated short ribs

Galbi is how most people come to know Korean food (other than through Kimchi). The pear-soy marinade it’s slathered with is super sweet, slightly salty, and always addictive.

Recipe: LA Galbi

2. Yukgaejang

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What is it? Spicy shredded beef stew

Don’t worry, yukgaejang is not as spicy as its scary red color might suggest. In fact, it’s considered a comfort food and is a staple dish in every Korean home.

Recipe: Yukgaejang

3. Jjajangmyeon

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What is it? Noodles in black bean sauce

Chewy noodles and greasy black sauce are a match made in noodle heaven. In fact, though Chinese in origin, this dish is the most popular takeout item in Korea, and as loved among Koreans as kimchi.

Recipe: Jjajangmyeon

4. Soondubu Stew

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What is it? A stew made with extra soft tofu cubes.

Think of this as the Korean version of late night pizza. Filled with either beef, pork, seafood, or kimchi, as well as tender tofu, this spicy dish is a go-to order after a night of heavy drinking.

Recipe: Soondubu Stew

5. Bibim Naengmyeon

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What is it? Cold, spicy noodles with slices of cucumber and pear.

Beware of the noodles: they’re extra long and a known choking hazard!

Recipe: Bibim naengmyeon

6. Makkoli

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What is it? Sweet rice wine.

Milky and sweet, this wine drink tastes pretty similar to Yakult. Though you can hardly taste the alcohol in it, it’s more potent than beer, so indulge with caution.

7. Bulgogi

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What is it? Marinated beef.

If you love meat, but also have a sweet tooth, this one’s for you. It tastes a lot like galbi, but it’s made with a thinner cut of meat.

Recipe: Bulgogi

8. Doenjang Jjigae

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What is it? Fermented bean soup.

Okay, I know it’s not much to look at, but this umami-rich soup is actually really good. It tastes kind of like miso, but with a few slices of chili pepper and zucchini thrown in for extra savoriness.

Recipe: Doenjang jjigae

9. Seolleongtang

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What is it? Creamy ox bone soup.

This soup’s milky flavor is derived from ox bones boiled over 3+ hours. A pinch of salt and pepper brings out the savory taste.

Recipe: Seolleongtang

10. Bibimbab

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What is it? Rice with beef, vegetables, and red chili paste.

Literally translating to “mixed rice,” this simple dish will make you want to devour all of your vegetables. It’s served with a dollop of chili paste you mix into the dish before eating, and almost always with a sunny-side up egg.

Recipe: Bibimbap

11. Kimchi jjigae

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What is it? Kimchi stew.

This is a great way to use kimchi that’s ripened a little too much. Throw in some tofu, or a few slices of spam and sausage, and you’ve got a meal.

Recipe: Kimchi jjigae

12. Budae jjigae

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What is it? A stew made with kimchi, ramen, sliced sausages, spam, tofu, and rice cake.

Created after the Korean War to make economic use of American ingredients, this stew has EVERYTHING, including spam (which seems to find its way into a lot of Korean dishes.)

Recipe: Budae jjigae

13. Hotteok

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What is it? Sweet, brown sugar-filled pancakes.

This treat is best hot off the griddle, when every bite promises a sticky mess and a burnt tongue. It’s especially delicious with cinnamon and chopped nuts in the filling.

Recipe: Hotteok

14. Gamjatang

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What is it? Spicy pork bone stew with potatoes.

Pork bones are boiled with green vegetables until the meat is just barely hanging on to the bone — probably why you can eat this entire soup with just a pair of chopsticks.

Recipe: Gamjatang

15. Tteokbokki

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What is it? Spicy rice cake served with fish cake.

This is the holy grail of street food. You can often get it with mozzarella melted over the entire platter, with a boiled egg, or with ramen on top. NOM.

Recipe: Tteokbokki

16. Kimchi

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What is it? Spicy, fermented cabbage.

This stuff is as essential as bread and butter. It’s spicy (duh), crunchy, and kiiiind of salty, and goes well with literally every Korean dish.

Recipe: Kimchi

17. Kongguksu

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What is it? Cold soy milk noodle soup.

Not all comfort foods are hot. This vegetarian-friendly, nutty soup is best served with ice cubes and a few slivers of cucumber.

Recipe: Kongguksu

18. Tteokguk

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What is it? Rice cake soup.

It’s traditionally served on Korean New Year, but also enjoyed throughout the year.

Recipe: Tteokguk

19. Jangjorim

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What is it? Soy-drenched beef strips.

This is always the first banchan (side dish) to disappear. It’s made by boiling beef in a seasoning of sugar, soy sauce, chili peppers, and vegetables until tender, and usually served with hardboiled eggs braised in soy sauce.

Recipe: Jangjorim

20. Mandu

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What is it? Steamed or fried dumplings.

If you’ve ever tried potstickers, Korean mandu are basically the same thing, but with thinner skin. They’re filled with everything from pork to cabbage and carrots.

Recipe: Mandu

21. Japchae

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What is it? Sweet potato noodles stir-fried with vegetables and meat.

It’s most often served as a side dish, though enough additions of beef, mushrooms, sprouts, and other vegetables could bump it up to main course status.

Recipe: Japchae

22. Haemul Pajeon

mykoreankitchen.com

What is it? Fried seafood pancake.

These things are like Pringles — you really can’t stop at just one bite. Fried, savory, and chewy, they’re everything you’d ever want in an appetizer.

Recipe: Haemul Pajeon

23. Patbingsu

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What is it? Shaved ice with sweet red beans.

I swear this was created to get kids to eat more fruit. As far as toppings go, it’s anything goes, but cubes of watermelon, kiwi, and blueberries, as well as corn flakes and ice cream, are popular additions. All drizzled with sweet condensed milk, of course.

Recipe: Patbingsu

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