Skip To Content

    A Beginner's Guide To Eating At A Korean Restaurant

    Kimchi is just the start.

    Crystal Ro / BuzzFeed / ksumano / Thinkstock

    While the health benefits of kimchi have been widely publicized, there's a whole other yummy world of Korean food waiting to be discovered. But before you check out the nearest Korean restaurant, make sure you're ready to dine like a pro.

    Typically, you will be given an assortment of small dishes called "banchan," which may include:

    Traditional Kimchi (fermented cabbage)

    Getty Images/iStockphoto kenjito

    Technically this is called "baechu" kimchi (though no one actually says that). This is like the Taylor Swift of kimchi: it's everywhere and almost everyone loves it. It's made from napa cabbage and fermented with seasonings like Korean chili powder and salt.

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds like "Kim-Chee"

    Kkakdugi Kimchi (fermented radish)

    Getty Images/iStockphoto Ira Yugay

    This kind of kimchi will have a more sour flavor because it is made from radishes. It's the crunchier, less well-known sibling of traditional kimchi (but don't worry it still has lots of fans).

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds like "Gahk-Doo-Ghee"

    Musaengchae Kimchi (shredded fermented radish)

    Getty Images/iStockphoto TheYok

    If you took that last kimchi and shredded it instead of chopping it, you'd more or less have musaengchae kimchi. However, THIS kimchi comes in a variety of spiciness anywhere from sweet and mild (will look more white) to very sharp and hot (will look more red).

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds like "Moo-Seng-Cheh"

    Kongnamul (bean sprouts)

    Getty Images/iStockphoto runin

    Kongnamul is probably the most popular of the namul family. It's made from soy bean sprouts, so it's pretty mild, but still packs plenty of flavor.

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds like "Kung-Nah-Mool"

    Sigeumchi Namul (spinach)

    Getty Images/iStockphoto dooho_shin

    Like it's friend kongnamul, sigeumchi namul is made with similar seasonings, so it's also relatively mild. However, instead of a soy bean sprout base this is made from spinach. See kids, superfoods CAN be exotic.

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds like "She-Goom-Chee-Nah-Mool"

    Myeolchi Bokkeum (dried anchovies)

    Getty Images/Hemera Kheng ho Toh

    Bokkeum is a generic term that encompasses small dishes stir-fried with a sauce. In this particular case, myeolchi bokkeum is made with dried small anchovies. If you don't like eating things with a face (however tiny), maybe avoid this one.

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds like "Mee-Yule-Chee-Bow-Koom"

    Dubu-Jorim (tofu)

    Getty Images/Top Photo Group RF Top Photo Corporation

    Vegan-friendly, this dish takes tofu and simmers it in a mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and green onions. This can vary in spiciness, but is typically quite mild. Also, don't be afraid to dip this in soy sauce for a little extra flavor.

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds like "Doo-Boo-Joe-Reem"

    Gyeran Jjim (egg casserole)

    Getty Images/iStockphoto japanese_photo

    This is the closest thing Koreans have to quiche (because that's a necessary part of cuisine?) The main ingredient is egg and it's super fluffy. Talk about a good egg.

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sound like "Gay-Run-Jim"

    Korean-style potato salad

    Thinkstock / zhanglianxun

    As straightforward as its name, this dish consists of potatoes, eggs, mayo and sometimes vegetables. It's like a little scoop of Americana hanging out at the cool Korean kids table.

    Sounds like "Potato Salad". Ha!

    And now, for the main course. You'll have several options to choose from, but here are some of the most popular dishes...

    Bulgogi (grilled beef)

    Getty Images/iStockphoto Natta-Ang

    Ah, bulgogi... the queen of the prom. This is another well-known Korean dish, second only to kimchi probably. Expertly marinated beef is tossed onto the grill (sometimes you can even do it yourself) and then cooked to yummy perfection.

    Fun Fact: Bulgogi was listed at number 23 on the World's 50 most delicious foods readers' poll compiled by CNN Go.

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds like "Bull-Go-Ghee"

    Galbi (grilled ribs)

    Getty Images/iStockphoto JaysonPhotography

    If bulgogi had a naughty sister, it would be galbi. Made from beef short ribs with a similar marinade, galbi often has a more delicious flavor than bulgogi because of the fatty goodness from the rib bones. Simply put, more fat = more flavor (duh).

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds like "Gaul-Bee"

    Naengmyeon (Cold Noodles)

    Getty Images/iStockphoto japanese_photo

    For noodle lovers, this is a must. There are two major kinds of naengmyon: mul naengmyeon (served in cold beef broth, as pictured above) and bibim naengmyeon (spicy and sweet made with gochujang). Both are served cold and are popular choices in the summer.

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds like "Nang-Mee-Yuhn"

    Bimbimbap (mixed rice)

    Getty Images/iStockphoto Sezer Alcinkaya

    Literally meaning "mixed rice" ("bap" being the Korean word for "rice"), bimbimbap will often be served in a hot-as-f@&k stone bowl containing white rice topped with vegetables, meat, an egg (fried or raw, either way it'll cook, trust us) and most importantly gochujang. If you don't want to look like a noob, be sure to mix everything up before consuming.

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds like "Bee-Beam-Bop"

    Jjigae (Stew)

    Getty Images/iStockphoto Picheat Suviyanond

    Another dish served in a very hot pot, jjigae is a spicy, flavorful stew. It comes in many varieties, but is usually made with meat, seafood and vegetables. This one is both "heat" hot and "spicy" hot, so it's not for the faint of heart.

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds like "Jee-Geh"

    Bonus round: side dishes...

    Bindaetteok (pancake)

    Getty Images/iStockphoto tab1962

    Bindaetteok is a variety of jeon or pancakes. This one in particular is made with ground mung beans, green onions, kimchi and cooked on a frying pan. Unlike American pancakes these guys are salty/savory, so don't go topping it with syrup.

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds like "Bin-Day-Dock"

    Japchae (sweet-potato noodles)

    Getty Images/iStockphoto Paul Brighton

    This semi-sweet dish could almost be considered a entrée given the ingredients: sweet-potato based noodles, beef and vegetables. But frankly, Koreans don't really make it an entrée themselves, so neither should you. When in Rome Seoul, right?

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds like "Jop-Cheh"

    Mandu (dumplings)

    Getty Images/iStockphoto bm4221

    These lovely parcels are served with a dipping sauce made of soy sauce, vinegar and chilli. What's inside? Well, it can be anything from minced beef, pork or chicken to tofu and vegetables. Also, mandu can be served boiled (mulmandu), fried (yaki mandu) or in soup (manduguk). There are many options and all are delicious.

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds like "Mon-Doo"

    Tteok (rice cakes)

    Thinkstock / ronniechua

    These little "cakes" are made with rice flour and cooked by steaming. There are hundreds of different kinds of tteok: sweet, savory, spicy, plain, the list goes on.

    Fun fact: tteok guk is a soup (as pictured above) traditionally eaten on New Year's Day.

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds like "dock"

    Gim (dried seaweed)

    Getty Images/iStockphoto thegiffary

    Also known as "nori" in Japan (when making sushi), gim is simply dried and salted seaweed. It's another staple of the Korean diet and can be eaten on it's own or used to wrap up rice, meat, and vegetables (gimbap). Some people don't like the paper-like consistency, and if that's you it's okay... just skip it.

    How do I pronounce that?!

    Sounds the way it looks.

    And now you're ready to impress your friends with your worldly knowledge of Korean food. Happy dining!

    freshpet / Via gifsboom.net

    BuzzFeed Daily

    Keep up with the latest daily buzz with the BuzzFeed Daily newsletter!

    Newsletter signup form