My Top 10 Favourite Korean Food

Mmm… chamchi kimbap (참치 김밥)

Hello my lovely readers, time for another Korean food article. Questions have been on my mind recently and so I thought I would write another “Top 10” post in relation to the second most common question I get asked about Korean food. The most common question doesn’t require an entire post as it’s a simple answer, “no”. What’s the most common question? Is Korean food too spicy? Nope! Oh, I’m sure there might be something that I can’t eat but I love spicy food so the vast majority of Korean food is just fine for me. ^^

The second question is generally, “what’s my favourite Korean food?” And this is a question that could spawn dozens of posts and in fact, once fall comes and I start cooking more often… I will start doing cooking videos (really, I will… I’ve been working on my courage all summer) of my favourites. But let’s start with a simple article about my “Top 10” favourite Korean foods.

In case you didn’t catch the other “Top 10” food posts, I have written about my favourite banchan (반찬, a collective term for all Korean side dishes), the foods you should try if you’re a newbie to Korean food, and my favourite Korean drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). And while not a “Top 10” post, I also wrote about the seven most unusual Korean food.

So, without further delay, welcome to my “Top 10” favourite Korean dishes. I’m not going to include any banchan in list even though kimchi (김치) would definitely make my top ten because I’ve already covered it. Plus these are all main dishes/meals.

1. Doenjang jjigae (된장찌개) – This is hands down my favourite Korean food and the first I learned how to cook. I absolutely love it, cook it frequently (well, not in the summer) and often order it in restaurants. Doenjang jiggae is spicy soybean paste stew and it’s one of those dishes that you can customize easily. I even made my one and only Korean cooking video (so far) about it! ^^

2. Daeji galbi (돼지 갈비) – I know, I know… everyone likes samgyeopsal (삼겹살, sliced pork belly -like thick bacon – that’s barbecued at your table) better but I prefer daeji gabli. It’s marinated barbecued pork and is simply delicious. I would eat this whenever given the chance in Korea (there were a few great places I liked in Seoul) but it’s harder to find good daeji galbi in Toronto.

3. Shabu shabu (샤부 샤부) – While not technically Korean, it’s originally Japanese, I first ate it in Korea. My co-workers/friends and I would often go to a shabu shabu restaurant that was just around the corner from our work for lunch or dinner when we had time. In fact, we went so much we became friends with the owners and their daughter. How can you not like a dish that has everything? Lots of healthy veggies, beef that you cook to your liking in the delicious broth, noodles afterwards… and a yummy sauce.

4. Buldak (불닭) – Remember I said I like spicy food? I really do! Now I’m sure there are some versions on buldak – spicy, literally translated as “fire”, chicken – that I couldn’t eat but it does go really well with beer. More of a pub/bar food and not really that healthy as it’s deep-fried, it’s still delicious.

5. Bibim guksu (비빔국수) – This is the perfect summer food! Bibim guksu is a spicy, sweet cold noodle dish with lots of veggies. For those of you who aren’t really fans of spicy food, it’s not that spicy and the amount can be easily adjusted. This is one of the newer dishes that I cook as I only got a good recipe from a friend’s mom earlier this summer. It’s quick and easy to make… and of course, yummy!

6. Japchae (잡채) – Japchae, a glass noodle dish with veggies and usually beef, can be served as a main dish or a side dish. This is probably one of the most liked dishes by other foreigners as well – along with bulgogi (불고기, marinated barbecued beef) as neither are spicy but both are full of flavour and quite delicious.

7. Chamchi kimbap (참치 김밥) – I loved chamchi kimbap so much I wrote an entire article about my joy in finding a good place to buy it in Toronto! One of my favourite things to eat for lunch – or after dancing until 6am – chamchi kimbap is tuna and veggies wrapped in rice and kim… err… seaweed and then sliced. I ate this so often for lunch, I became a regular at my local Kimbap Cheonguk (a chain restaurant in Korea). See the picture above for what it looks like.

8. Sogogi juk (소고기 죽) – I love pretty much all of the different kinds of juk (죽), rice porridge (similar to Chinese congee) but my favourite is sogogi juk, rice porridge with beef. There was a juk restaurant near the bottom of my street and I would often stop in during the winter for dinner if I didn’t have any plans. It’s the perfect comfort soup – kinda like chicken soup in Canada – it just warms you up and makes you feel better.

9. Nakji bokkeum (낙지볶음) – I love seafood – well, cooked seafood – and I love spicy food so of course, I was going to like nakji bokkeum. It’s spicy stir-fried octopus and vegetables. It was a dish my friends and I would often order in a hof (bar) as it pairs well with alcohol.

10. Haejangguk (해장국) – Sometimes it’s better not knowing what you’re eating before you eat it, then you simply judge the food on its taste. This may be the case for haejangguk – which I was told was a Korean hangover cure when I first ate it (FYI: you eat it just after you finish drinking before you go to bed). It’s actually quite a hearty (and a little spicy) soup – made from pork spine with some meat still on it, cabbage, ox blood and green onion – that’s served with rice. The words “spine” and “blood” may be off-putting but it’s delicious and fills you up.

Honourable Mention: Tteokbokki (떡볶이) – This is more street food or a snack than an actual dish but there were definitely times when I ate tteokbokki as my meal, especially if I added mando (만두, Korean dumplings) or sundae (순대, Korean blood sausage stuffed with glass noodles) with it. Plus it’s easy to make at home in Toronto so I often make and eat it.

Those are just my absolute favourites… there are just so many other yummy Korean dishes I could recommend. What is your favourite Korean food? Is there something not on my list that you want to recommend? Do you agree or disagree with me? As always, my lovely readers, I’d love to hear from you!

P.S. Sorry about the lack of pictures! I really need to start taking pictures of my food… not just eating it!

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

4 thoughts on “My Top 10 Favourite Korean Food

  • September 19, 2012 at 11:09 pm
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    You left off naengmyeon (냉면)! That was my favourite dish over there during the summers.

    • September 20, 2012 at 7:55 am
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      Yeah, I like naengmyeon too! It and samgyeopsal would be 11 and 12.^^

  • September 22, 2012 at 4:37 am
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    Great list. Talking about nakji (낙지), is there a place that serves sannakji (산낙지) in Toronto?

    And, would you try it again? 🙂

    • September 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm
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      Thanks! I haven’t looked for sannakji (산낙지) in Toronto. I think once was enough for me 🙂 I like my seafood cooked! ㅋㅋㅋㅋ

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