Tteokbokki or spicy rice cake is a popular street food in Korea. It is a mix of rice cakes, fish cakes, boiled eggs, and scallions. Korea saw a tteokbokki craze back in 2020 where various new flavors were released and became a big hit. These flavors include very spicy tteokbokki, carbonara, rosé, and basil cream, all of which are well-loved. The number of clips with tteokbokki content from both Koreans and non-Koreans alike also rose on YouTube, with many gathering high view counts.
Up next is Korea’s national dish, kimchi. This staple side dish has long been a favorite as it complements other dishes very nicely. It also has its health benefits as it contains a good number of antioxidants and anti-aging properties. Compared to 2011, kimchi has seen an increase in exports, with about 89 importing countries in 2021. For people tasting it for the first time, kimchi is an acquired taste but after taking a couple more bites, it can be quite addicting even for foreigners.
Gimbap is a dried seaweed and rice meal that can be made easily. This snack can be made with a variety of flavors depending on one’s preferences. Some of these ingredients may or may not include pickled radish, fish cakes, carrots, eggs, beef, spam, and even crab meat making it an all-in-one meal served in bite-sized slices. This meal is perfect to have when one is on-the-go or simply off to a picnic.
Jeon, or Korean “pancake”, is another tasty treat. This dish uses ingredients like pancake batter, green onions, shredded potatoes, and other fresh vegetables. It comes in different variants such as kimchi pancake, green onion pancake, pumpkin pancake, and seafood pancake. Jeon can be eaten as a breakfast meal, a snack, or even a side dish. Its cross-border popularity can be seen from the long lines of hungry customers of all nationalities queuing up at stalls in the Gwangjang Market in Jongno.
Last but definitely not least is galbijjim, or braised beef short ribs. The meat has a soft texture and a sweet and savory taste that diners cannot help but fall in love with. Adding mozzarella cheese, while certainly unorthodox, has also made the meal even tastier, which makes it even more popular. Galbijjim also comes at the top of the list of Korean holiday foods that foreigners enjoy.
Sources: Korean Food Promotion Institute (KFPI)