Dramaverse Basics: Food 101

Why doesn't my dinner table look like this? (screencap from "You're the
Why doesn’t my dinner table look like this? (screencap from “You’re the Best Lee Soon Shin”)

Every K-drama lover knows it’s impossible to marathon a drama without eventually craving the food your beloved characters are scarfing on-screen. It all looks so amazing you can’t help but find yourself wishing you were Lee Soon Shin, just so you’d be able to sit down to one of those delicious family meals. But to the novice drama watcher, a lot of the foods found in dramas can seem a bit mysterious so I’ve put together a quick guide to help better acquaint those drama lovers who may be a little less familiar with some of the staple Korean foods in the Dramaverse.

1. Ramyeon

Choi Gang Hyuk
Choi Gang Hyuk delivering steaming bowl of chicken curry ramyeon in “Flower Boy Ramen Shop”

Ramyeon (ramen, 라면) is the quintessential drama dish. Every character, in every drama, finds comfort in a pot of instant ramyeon at some point and every drama marathoner has a stash of this on-hand, for those late-night cravings. While cup ramyeon may not seem like much there are several ways you can take a packet of instant noodles from drab to fab. The next time you reach for a packet of your favorite noodles, try adding a couple extra ingredients to liven things up. A few options include: kimchi, a soft or hard-boiled egg, spinach, dumplings (mandu), green onion, bean sprouts, ham or even a slice of American cheese. Of course if you don’t feel like cooking you could always smash the noodles in the bag, sprinkle them with the spice packet and BAM! Instant snack.

2. Jjajangmyeon

Choi Moo Gak enjoying several bowls of jjajangmyeon in "Sensory Couple"
Choi Moo Gak enjoying several bowls of jjajangmyeon in “Sensory Couple”

Jjajangmyeon (black bean noodles, 자장면 or 짜장면) is one of the most popular take out dishes in the Dramaverse. Made with black bean paste (chunjang, 춘장), pork (or seafood), vegetables and thick wheat noodles, Jjajangmyeon is one of those dishes you just have to try, with pickled radish (danmuji, 단무지), of course. I will warn you now though; once you try this dish you’re going to start craving it all. the. time.

3. Ddeokbokki

Lee Soo Kyung enjoying ddeokbokki in "Let's Eat"
Lee Soo Kyung enjoying ddeokbokki in “Let’s Eat”

Ddeokbokki (spicy rice cakes, 떡볶이) was Choi Young Do’s snack of choice in Heirs and for good reason. This plate of chewy, spicy, deliciousness is so flipping addictive you’re going to wonder how you ever made it through life without it. Just be careful, when I say it’s spicy, I mean it’s like set your lips on fire and make your ears burn spicy. But man is it good!

4. Sundae

Key offering Arisa a bite of sundae in "We Got Married, Global Edition
Key offering Arisa a bite of sundae in “We Got Married, Global Edition Season 2 (Don’t shoot me just because it’s not a drama! I was desperate!)

Sundae (Korean blood sausage, 순대) is frequently eaten in dramas, usually alongside a steaming plate of ddeokbokki. Made from a combination of cellophane noodles, rice and (Yup, you guessed it!) blood, sundae is the perfect accompaniment to a plate of spicy ddeokbokki.  While the thought of eating anything made with blood may turn some off to this popular snack, if you can forget about that minor detail, it’s definitely worth a try.

5. Fish Cakes

fish cake
Jackson ordering fish cakes from a street vendor in “Dream Knight”

Fish cakes take many forms but in the Dramaverse they’re usually found individually skewered and soaking in a delicious fish broth (eomukguk, 어묵국). Typically sold by street vendors, eomukguk is perfect for warming up on a chilly day or for chasing a spicy bowl of ddeokbokki.  Apparently everything is better when eaten with ddeokbokki.

6. Bibimbap

Joo In Hyeong and JB share a bowl of homemade “bibimbap” in “Dream Knight”

Traditionally bibimbap (비빔밥) is large bowl of warm rice topped with sautéed meat, vegetables, various sauces and an egg. When you order this in a restaurant it’s always so pretty, as everything is perfectly arranged atop a steaming bed of rice. However, in the Dramaverse bibimbap essentially boils down to a character finding whatever he/she can in the refrigerator and throwing it into a giant bowl of rice. I suppose either way, it’s delicious (or not, depending on who’s making it) but I always prefer the way it’s served in restaurants, despite the fact I always feel a twinge of guilt for destroying such a masterpiece when I mix it all together.

7. Kimbap

Park Kae In feeding a bite of kimbap to Jeon Jin Ho in "Personal Taste"
Park Kae In feeding a bite of kimbap to Jeon Jin Ho in “Personal Taste”

What peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are here in the States, kimbap (김밥) is in Korea. It’s the go-to lunch box filler and it’s incredibly delicious. Much like bibimbap, kimbap is a combination of rice, vegetables and meat – only instead of being served in a giant bowl; it’s rolled in a sheet of dried seaweed (kim, 김). Much like bibimbap, what you put in your kimbap is only limited by your imagination so go crazy and enjoy!

8. Seaweed Soup

Han and Ji Young sharing a bowl of seaweed soup in "49 Days"
Han Kang and Shin Ji Hyun sharing a bowl of seaweed soup in “49 Days”

Miyeokguk (seaweed/sea plant soup, 미역국) is the traditional birthday food of Korea and is also served to mothers who have just given birth. Made from edible seaweed (or sea plants, if you prefer), meat (or seafood) and little else, this soup is fairly simple to make but oh, so delicious! Of course you don’t have to wait until your birthday to enjoy a bowl as it’s perfectly okay to eat it anytime you like.

Go Eun Sung (Han Hyo Joo) and Jang Sook Ja (Ban Hyo Jung) enjoy a bowl of seolleongtang in “Shining Inheritance”

Of course there are far more dishes in the Dramaverse we could talk about but this is a good place to start. Perhaps the next time you’re in the middle of a fifty episode marathon and you start craving something tasty, you’ll give one of these dishes a try. Who knows? Before you know it, you may find yourself whipping up a batch of seolleongtang (설렁탕) to rival Jang Sook Ja’s.

So tell me, how many of these Dramaverse staples have you tried? Do you have a favorite Korean dish? What’s your favorite drama marathoning snack?  Let me know in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “Dramaverse Basics: Food 101

  • June 28, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    I hope you make more Dramaverse Basics articles! I think the format of this gives viewers the opportunity to actually notice (or remember) and learn about what they see in shows. Kudos to you for finding the screencaps too! 😀

    From this list, I’ve only had ramyeon, bibimbap, and seaweed soup (and kimchi, of course). Very basic. Maybe I can try jjajangmyeon or sundae next time I visit a Korean restaurant!

  • November 23, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    Ddeokbokki is my fav Korean food, but it’s been awhile since I’ve had it. It was just mouth-watering looking at the picture:) <3

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