Korean Food Guide: All You Need To Know About Korean Cuisine

Korean ingredients and dishes explained, from bap to samgyupsal!

What is Korean Food?

Perhaps one of the easiest associations one can make when thinking of Korean food is kimchi, but there is so much more to Korean food and Korean cuisine than just this side dish of fermented vegetables. Korean cuisine reflects not only the rich culture and history of Korea; it also celebrates Korea’s natural geography as well as the Koreans’ love of fresh, healthy, and hearty dishes.

Korean food typically includes rice, vegetables, meat, and seafood. Kimchi is also served at every meal. While Korean cuisine places a lot of importance on the seasonality and freshness of the ingredients they use, Korean dishes also use a lot of fermented ingredients in their recipes, which gives Korean food a stronger flavor and sometimes more pungent smell.

a piece of pork belly or samgyupsal being lifted from the grill with tongs
There’s more to Korean food than just kimchi or KBBQ!
Photo by Shutterstock

If you’ve eaten at any Korean restaurant or even just watched a Korean drama, you might also have noticed that Korean meals usually have an elaborate table setting; more often than not, it’s composed of several bowls and dishes! This is because Korean food is also steeped in tradition and community, which is encapsulated by the Korean traditional meal table, called bapsang. Bap means “rice” or “meal,” while sang means “table”. A traditional bapsang would have bap or cooked rice, kuk, which can be a soup or stew, namul, a seasoned vegetable dish, jang or sauce, and at least two kinds of banchan or side dishes. Bapsang is not just a way to provide a complete and healthy meal; enjoying traditional meals together is also a way to spend time with the family or the community.


Common Korean Food Terms

flat lay of different korean food including jjajangmyun, bibimbap, jeyuk bokkeum, japchae, and various banchan
Learn these terms to make it easier to order the next time you’re in a Korean restaurant!
Photo by Shutterstock

Here are some Korean words you might encounter the next time you’re at a Korean restaurant or grocery:


“Bap” means rice, cooked rice, or meal. If encountered on a menu, anything that ends in “-bap” is probably rice-based, like kimbap (seaweed rice rolls) or bibimbap (mixed rice).


“Banchan” means side dish. Despite its translation, banchan are an integral part of a Korean meal. They are meant to complement, enhance, or provide contrast to the main dish. 


“Bokkeum” means stir-fried. When encountered on a menu, items ending in “-bokkeum” usually means they’re stir-fried (and in Korean cuisine, stir-fried dishes can be quite spicy). Examples are jeyuk bokkeum (spicy stir-fried pork) and eomuk bokkeum (stir-fried fish cakes).

Guksu (Myeon/ Myun)

Guksu are noodle dishes, and when encountered on a menu, items that end with “-guksu”, “-myeon”, or “-myun” (meaning “noodles”) are usually noodle-based. Examples include bibim-guksu (spicy mixed noodles) or jajangmyeon (black bean noodles).


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“Jang” means paste or sauce. The three most common pastes or jang you’ll encounter are: doenjang (fermented soybean paste), gochujang (chili bean paste), and ssamjang (seasoned paste used as a Korean dipping sauce).

budae jjigae or korean army soup in a big black clay pot
Budae jjigae or Korean army stew is one of the easiest jjigae to make.
Photo by Max Pixel


“Jjigae” means stew. When encountered on a menu, items that end with “-jjigae” are usually stews thickened or flavored with jang or paste. For example, sundubu jjigae (tofu stew) is made with doenjang, while budae jjigae (army stew) usually has gochugang.


Most people would associate kimchi with its most famous version: white cabbage kimchi. However, kimchi is actually a blanket term for all kinds of fermented vegetables. Aside from white cabbage, radish and cucumbers are also commonly made into kimchiKimchi has a strong, tangy flavor and a pungent smell, and is usually spicy. It can be paired with a wide variety of food, and can also be used to add flavor to some dishes.


Kuk/ Guk

“Kuk” or “guk” means soup. When encountered on a menu, items that end with “-kuk” or “-guk” are usually soups. Examples include haejangguk (hangover soup) and miyeok guk (seaweed soup).


Soju is an alcoholic beverage made with rice. It can be mixed with maekju or beer, and this mix is sometimes referred to as somaek (combination of soju + maekju).


Tang” also means stew. When encountered on a menu, items that end with “-tang” are usually soupy stews made by boiling the featured ingredient over a long period of time. Examples include galbitang (beef rib stew) and daktoritang (spicy chicken and potato stew).

Essential Korean Cooking Ingredients

doenjang, gochujang, and ssamjang
These are just some of the Korean ingredients you need in your pantry!
Photo by Sempio

Most of the ingredients you’ll need to create a Korean recipe at home are readily available in Korean or Asian grocery stores (or in the International Section of bigger supermarkets), but it can sometimes feel overwhelming when you’re staring down a whole aisle of products! Here are some essential Korean pantry ingredients to get you started: 

Anshim (Beef Tenderloin) or Deungshim (Beef Sirloin)

These beef cuts are most commonly used to make japchae or bulgogi.

Chunjang (Black Bean Paste)

If you’re a fan of jajangmyeon or black bean noodles, then you’ll want chunjang in your pantry! This is the paste used to make the black bean sauce for jajangmyeon.

Doenjang (Fermented Soybean Paste)

This fermented soybean paste is used to make flavorful jjigae or stews.

Eomuk (Fish Cakes)

These can be bought frozen and ready to stir-fry or boiled in broth for a quick and easy snack!

Kim (Seaweed)

Kim usually refers to the roasted seaweed that’s good for wrapping kimbap, but there’s another kind: miyeok, which is dried seaweed (similar to Japanese wakame) commonly used in seaweed soup.


It is entirely possible to make kimchi from scratch, but if you don’t have time for the long process, kimchi is readily available in most Asian groceries.

three glass jars containing kimchi
You can make kimchi at home, but you can also conveniently buy them at Korean groceries.
Photo by Shutterstock


This red, thick chili paste is used to flavor dips and sauces, such as ssamjang and bibimbap sauce.


Gochugaru (Chili Pepper Flakes)

Gochugaru is not only a great way to add spice to your Korean recipe; it is also an essential ingredient when making kimchi.

Mirim (Cooking or Rice Wine)

Similar to the Japanese mirin or rice wine, the Korean mirim is used to add sweetness to a dish or as a marinade ingredient, to remove undesirable smells or flavors from meat or fish.

Mulyeot (Korean Malt or Corn Syrup)

Korean malt or corn syrup is used as a sweetener for stews or sauces, like tteokbokki.

Roasted Sesame Oil

Korean sesame oil is usually roasted, which gives it a deeper, toasted flavor.

Ssal (Korean short-grained rice)

Most Korean dishes are eaten with this Korean short-grained rice, but this can easily be substituted with other variants.

Ssamjang (Dipping Sauce)

This is the dipping sauce commonly used in KBBQ restaurants. It is a thick dipping sauce that usually includes gochujang and other seasonings.

Samgyeopsal (Korean pork belly)

This cut of pork is commonly used in KBBQ restaurants; it is characterized by alternating layers of fat and lean meat.

Korean Kitchen Essentials

golden or brass korean noodle or ramyun pot
This Korean gold pot is perfect for cooking instant noodles.
Photo by Lazada

Most Korean dishes can be completed with basic kitchen tools, but here are some specialized tools and equipment you may need for specific recipes.

Bamboo Mat

Known as kimbal in Korean, bamboo mats or sushi rolling mats are used to make kimbap or seaweed rice rolls.


One of the main draws of KBBQ is the experience of grilling meats as you eat them. Smokeless grills are particularly convenient if you want to recreate the KBBQ experience at home.


Tongs are commonly-used kitchen tools, but they are especially necessary when grilling for Korean barbeques.

Kitchen Scissors

Korean barbeque restaurants usually give customers a pair of kitchen scissors in order to cut the cooked meat and make them easier to consume.

Yummy Editor Tip: They also use it to cut pajeon (Korean scallion pancakes) into smaller pieces, or japchae noodles into shorter strands to make these easier to grab with chopsticks.

Chopsticks and Spoons

These Korean utensils look a little different from their Chinese and Japanese counterparts. While Chinese and Japanese chopsticks are made from bamboo, Korean ones are made from stainless steel.

Long stainless spoons usually accompany the chopsticks. Unlike Chinese and Japanese culture where one is expected to pick up soup and rice bowls so the food can be scooped directly into one’s mouth with chopsticks, Koreans use spoons to eat rice and other food or to drink soup.


Korean Noodle Pots

You can use your regular pots to cook ramyun at home, of course, but what makes these golden Korean noodle or ramen pots unique, aside from the nostalgia it represents for a lot of Koreans, is that they are perfect for a single serving of Korean ramyun.   

Banchan or Korean Side Dish Recipes

Banchan or Korean side dishes are integral parts of a Korean meal, and they are usually prepared in big batches and served in smaller portions to complete a meal.

flatlay of different banchan or korean side dishes in small condiment dishes
Which banchan is your favorite?
Photo by Shutterstock

• Kimchi recipe (Also available in Filipino)

• Kongnamul-muchim/ Seasoned Beansprouts Recipe

Myulchi Bokkeum/ Stir-fried Anchovies Recipe (This sweet and spicy dilis recipe is a great alternative. For a more Korean taste, swap out the ketchup for gochujang and add gochugaru to taste.)

• Sigeumchi Namul/ Seasoned Spinach Recipe (This seasoned kangkong recipe may be a cheaper alternative to spinach.)

• Gyeran-jjim/ Steamed Egg Recipe

• Korean Corn Cheese Recipe

• Oi Kimchi/ Cucumber Kimchi Recipe

Korean Barbeque Recipes and Bulgogi Recipes

Gui are barbequed or grilled dishes in Korean cuisine. While KBBQ is sometimes referred to as samgyupsal in the Philippines, samgyupsal actually refers to the pork cut used in the barbeque! Aside from samgyeopsal, there are many other cuts you can use for KBBQGui encompasses a wide variety of grilled Korean recipes, including one of the most popular Korean dishes: bulgogi!

Gui or Korean BBQ meals are traditionally eaten with the grill on (or built into) the table, so that diners can eat and cook at the same time.

beef bulgogi in a black serving bowl
Beef bulgogi may be the most popular kind, but you can also make bulgogi with pork or chicken.

• Beef Bulgogi Recipe

• Spicy Pork Bulgogi Recipe

• Chicken Bulgogi Recipe

• Bulgogi Marinade Recipe


• Korean Beef Barbeque Recipe

• Korean Chicken Barbeque Recipe

• Grilled Korean Pork Belly with Kimchi-Apple Slaw

• Sizzling Korean Chicken Barbeque Recipe

• Oven-baked Korean BBQ Drumsticks Recipe

• Samgyupsal Bites Recipe

• Beef Bulgogi Rice Bowl Recipe

Korean Stir-fry Recipes/ Bokkeum Recipes

Bokkeum or Korean stir-fried dishes are usually cooked by sauteeing the ingredients in a hot pan, and then adding the sauce or seasoning mix towards the end. Bokkeum usually have savory, sweet, and spicy sauces; gochugaru, gochujang, and mulyeot are some Korean pantry staples that are commonly used in these recipes.

jeyuk bokkeum or pork stir fry in a stainless steel pan
This spicy and sweet Korean stir fry will leave you wanting more.
Photo by Patrick Martires

• Jeyuk Bokkeum Recipe/ Korean Pork Stir-fry Recipe (Also available in Filipino)

Korean Fried Chicken Recipes

Korean fried chicken combines a masterful frying technique that makes the chicken super crunchy with flavorful glazes that make each bite so irresistibly flavorful! Here are our best tips to make Korean fried chickenall the ingredients you’ll need to make your best Korean fried chicken yet, and all the sauces that go amazingly well with Korean fried chicken recipes. We’ve even got a little bonus: a secret ingredient to add to your Korean fried chicken sauce!

three kinds of korean fried chicken in a wicker serving bowl
There are so many sauces and glazes you can use with Korean fried chicken recipes!
Photo by Bianca Laxamana

• Dakgangjeong Recipe/ Sweet and Spicy Korean Fried Chicken Recipe

• Korean-style Honey Butter Chicken Recipe

• Korean-style Fried Chicken Recipe with Soy-Garlic Glaze

• Korean Fried Chicken Recipe with Spicy Sweet Soy Glaze

• Korean Chicken Wings Recipe (Available in Filipino. You can also watch how to make Korean Chicken Wings here.)

Korean Noodle Recipes

Guksu can mean “noodles” or “noodle dish” in Korean and is one of the staples of Korean cuisine. Korean noodle dishes are diverse in terms of cooking method and the type of noodles used; some of the most popular include japchae, which is stir-fried glass noodles, and ramyun and jjampong which are both noodle soup dishes.

korean spicy seafood noodles topped with shrimp, shellfish, and veggies in a white bowl
If you love spicy food, this spicy Korean seafood noodle dish is for you!
Photo by Patrick Martires

• Japchae or Chapchae Recipe (You can also watch how to make japchae here.)

• Jjampong Recipe/ Korean Spicy Seafood Noodles Recipe

• Kimchi Ramyun Recipe

• Easy Ram-don Recipe

• Grilled Beef and Glass Noodles in Kimchi Broth Recipe

• Korean Spicy Seafood Ramen Recipe (Also available in Filipino)

• Jajangmyeon Recipe

• Spicy Peanut Jjajangmyun Recipe

Bibimbap Recipes

Bibimbap means “mixed rice” in Korean, and is a rice bowl topped with meat, vegetables, and sometimes, fried egg. It is served with bibimbap sauce, which is sweet and spicy, and this ties together the rice and toppings as everything is mixed before it is eaten.

bibimbap topped with zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and a fried egg
Bibimbap is a Korean rice dish that is made by mixing rice, meat, vegetables, and bibimbap sauce.
Photo by Yummy

• Classic Bibimbap Recipe

• Breakfast Bibimbap Recipe

• Bacon Bibimbap Recipe

Kimbap Recipes

Kimbap comes from “kim”, meaning “seafood” and “bap”, meaning “rice”. It is a rice roll in a seaweed wrap and is usually filled with meat, scrambled eggs, pickled radish, and other vegetables.

tuna kimbap and ham kimbap on a plate
BTS Jungkook and Jimin made these two kinds of kimbap: tuna kimbap and a ham kimbap.
Photo by Roselle Miranda

• Classic Kimbap Recipe


• BTS Jungkook & Jimin’s Kimbap Recipe

Kimchi Fried Rice Recipes

Kimchi fried rice, or kimchi bokkeum-bap in Korean, is a popular rice dish in Korea. It is usually cooked by stir-frying kimchi with leftover rice, along with ingredients that are readily available (usually also leftovers). 

kimchi fried rice topped with nori strips in a bowl
Kimchi fried rice is easy and takes only a few minutes to make.
Photo by Riell Santos

• Kimchi Fried Rice Recipe

• Spam and Kimchi Fried Rice Recipe

• Korean-style Steak and Eggs Recipe

• Chicken and Kimchi Fried Rice Recipe

• Spam and Kimchi Fried Rice Recipe

• Beef Short Ribs with Kimchi Fried Rice Recipe

• Anne Curtis’ Bacon and Kimchi Fried Rice Recipe

Korean Soup and Stew Recipes

Guktang, and jjigae, which are Korean for “soup or stew” (sometimes used interchangeably), are hearty dishes that feature meat and vegetables that are usually boiled in flavorful broths. Depending on the recipe, they may contain jang or Korean pastes like doenjang and gochujang.

korean beef stew with mushrooms in a square serving bowl
Korean beef stew is hearty and best eaten with rice.
Photo by Bianca Laxamana

• Korean Beef Stew Recipe (Also available in Filipino)

• Korean Beef and Mushroom Stew Recipe (You can also watch how to cook Korean beef and mushroom stew here.)

• Budae Jjigae Recipe/ Army Stew Recipe

Instant Budae Jjigae Recipe/ Instant Korean Army Stew Recipe

Korean Dumpling Recipes/ Mandu Recipes

Korean dumplings are called “mandu” in Korean and are commonly filled with meat, vegetables, and glass noodles. They can be boiled, steamed, or fried. 

several small korean dumplings or mandu
Korean mandu can be steamed, boiled, or fried.
Photo by Patrick Martires

• Mandu Recipe/ Meaty Korean Dumplings Recipe


• Pork and Onion Mandu Recipe/ Korean Pork and Onion Dumpling Recipe

Korean Bread Recipes and Korean Snack Recipes

Most of the following recipes are usually eaten as snacks or street food in Korea, like the Korean corn dogs and the Korean cream cheese and garlic bread. Others, like the hotteok and tteokbokki, are also associated with Korean street food and are usually sold in stalls in Korean markets.

<img src="https://images.yummy.ph/yummy/uploads/2020/10/koreangarliccheesebreadrecipe-small3-2.jpg" alt="two pieces of korean cream cheese garli

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