A typical Korean meal consists of a bowl of rice, a bowl of soup or stew, and some side dishes as accompaniments. But within that basic structure, there is a deliciously wide variation of dishes for every season and palate.
Koreans use a huge range of vegetables from wild greens to the leaves of flowers, everything from the sea including seaweed and jellyfish, and all types of meat and poultry in diverse preparations. Koreans may have hundreds of ways to pickle vegetables and wild greens for long storage, but they also prize raw fish and raw meat dishes.
These are some of the classic plates you will find in Korean kitchens all over the world. Some represent humble fare and others will be seen most often at family gatherings and events, but all are beloved by Koreans everywhere.
Classic Korean Bibimbap
Korean bibimbap looks gorgeous on the plate. It is also one easily tweaked for more or less spice for different palates. This recipe uses six vegetables, but you can use whatever you have in your refrigerator or garden. Koreans usually eat this rice dish with beef, but can also top bibimbap with just an egg fried sunny-side-up.
Korean Beef Barbecue Bulgogi
Bulgogi is probably the most popular Korean dish, with thinly sliced meat that has a smoky sweet flavor. You can enjoy it broiled, grilled, or stir-fried. The beef is usually accompanied with lettuce wraps and spicy red pepper paste (gochujang) for wrapping and spicing up the meat.
Korean Dumplings (Mandoo or Mandu)
Mandoo is a symbol of good luck when prepared as part of Korean Lunar New Year festivities. Korean dumplings (mandoo or mandu) can be added to a beef broth or anchovy broth (mandu guk) and served with a traditional cylindrical rice cake (tteok manu guk). This Korean dumpling recipe is made with ground beef or pork, but you will see them made with chicken or only vegetables. You can prepare them in advance and store them in the freezer for future use.
Stir-Fried Korean Noodles (Jap Chae, Chap Chae)
Chap chae is one of the most popular noodle dishes in Korea. The glass noodles are made from mung bean or sweet potatoes, and they become translucent when cooked. You can enjoy this dish cold or hot and as an appetizer or main dish.
Korean Pork Belly (Bossam)
These deeply savory Korean pork belly lettuce wraps walk a fine line between a light meal and and indulgent feast. Serve them family-style so diners can assemble their own wraps according to their tastes.
Korean Stuffed Chicken Soup With Ginseng (Sam Gae Tang)
Korean stuffed chicken soup is easy to make. Like chicken soup in the West, it is often used as a restorative when you are sick. But it is especially used to fight heat with heat in the summer as the ginseng and ginger will make you sweat and detox.
Spicy Kimchi Stew (Kimchi Jjigae, Kimchichigae)
This spicy kimchi stew recipe is a great use for leftover or older kimchi. In fact, the older the kimchi, the better to add rich flavor. It's one of the most popular stews in Korea, and you'll find it in many traditional restaurants. It is served hot and you're guaranteed to break a sweat when eating it. Keep plain rice handy as an antidote.
Korean Ox Bone Soup
Ox bone soup is an easy recipe, but it's one that you will simmer all day. Called seollangtang in Korean, it is a milky, white soup made by the long simmering of the leg bones. The end result is a rich and meaty soup.
Galbi Tang (Short Rib Soup)
This rich but delicate short rib soup most likely originated more than 800 years ago, during the waning days of the Goryeo Dynasty. It is commonly served at traditional Korean wedding receptions as beef was a luxury item reserved for special occasions.
Spicy Pickled Cabbage (Baechu Kimchi)
Kimchi is one of the most distinctive parts of Korean cuisine, and the pickled and fermented vegetables are eaten at almost every meal. This pickled and fermented Napa cabbage is the most popular and recognizable form of kimchi. There are hundreds of different kinds of kimchi that are both spicy and mild and different regions in Korean have their own popular kimchi specialties.
Korean White Radish Kimchi (Dongchimi)
This is a white water summer kimchi that is vinegary rather than spicy. It's simple to make with a few days of brining, and it will keep for a long time in the refrigerator. You'll enjoy it as a side dish or a cold soup.