Korean Food City: Destinations for the Hungry Traveller!

Korean Food City: Destinations for the Hungry Traveller!

One of the best parts of Korean culture is the food. And what better way to experience it than to visit a Korean food city? Keep going for must-visit stops and popular dishes to try. Warning: don't read on an empty stomach!


Overhead shot of Jeonju hanoks

Image Credits: rawkkim via Unsplash

We're starting strong with Jeonju, a UNESCO-certified Food City. (Well, technically the Creative City of Gastronomy, but you get the idea.) Located in North Jeolla Province, it's famous for its traditional Korean dishes and vibrant culinary culture. The biggest claim to fame is its bibimbap (전주비빔밥): rice mixed with vegetables, meat, egg, and of course gochujang (고추장).

Bibimbap in a stone bowl with metal chopsticks and spoon on the side

Image Credits: tiger lily via Flickr

Another popular Jeonju dish is kongnamul gukbap (콩나물국밥, below). It's soybean sprout soup with rice mixed in. (Jeonju residents love their rice!) Besides these meals, the city is also well-known for its take on Choco Pies and the hearty tofu stew sundubu jjigae (순두부찌개). It's no wonder Jeonju cuisine earned its certification: it has both quality AND quantity!

Soybean sprout soup in a stone bowl

Image Credits: Enjoy the Universe via Flickr


Overhead view of Gyeongju by the water

Image Credits: Learn Korean Japanese English via Instagram

Another Korean culinary city, Gyeongju has many gastronomic delights on offer. It's especially famous for its beef, which can be eaten in several different ways: thinly sliced, marinated, and grilled as bulgogi (불고기, below); in a lettuce wrap with rice and a spicy sauce (ssambap, 쌈밥); and short rib patties (tteok-galbi, 떡갈비), just to name a few.

Beef bulgogi and cabbage in a red broth in a white bowl

Image Credits: Grete Howard ARPS via Flickr

There are other local specialties, like hangover soup (haejang-guk, 해장국) and raw fish (hoe, 회). However, Gyeongju's other claim to fame is its Gyeongju bread (or Hwangnam bread). The pastry is made with eggs and wheat flour and contains red bean filling, with a pretty chrysanthemum imprinted on top. Whether you're into sweet or savory food, Gyeongju is the place for you!

A hand holding a box with chrysanthemum-imprinted breads

Image Credits: Agatha via Instagram


Kimchi jars and banners on display

Image Credits: gwangju kimchi via Flickr

Kimchi (김치) lovers need to visit Gwangju! Said to be the birthplace of this iconic dish (fermented vegetables, usually cabbage), you can find a museum, shops, and even a festival dedicated to making and eating kimchi. Used as a side dish (banchan, 반찬) or added to many classic Korean foods like bibimbap and jjigae, we can't stress enough how important kimchi is to Koreans.

Women in aprons and hair coverings at a table with kimchi ingredients and a red tablecloth

Image Credits: m0onbeem via Flickr

But kimchi isn't the only food Gwangju has to offer. You can also eat duck soup (oritang, 오리탕), tteok-galbi, and "fried lettuce" (sangchu twigim, below), which are deep-fried squid wrapped in lettuce. And the street food is so good, it rivals what you can find in Seoul's markets! Make Gwangju your next stop if you'd like a mix of history, culture, and food.

Deep-fried squid in baskets with lettuce, gochujang, and other side dishes

Image Credits: Korean Food Guide via Instagram


Busan skyscrapers by the sea

Image Credits: James Cheung via Flickr

Busan is a vibrant seaside city, renowned for its stunning beaches and delicious cuisine. With its proximity to the ocean, there are fresh fish and seafood caught everyday and sold at markets including Jagalchi Market and Millak-dong Raw Fish Town. Popular dishes include hoe and fish cakes (eomuk, 어묵).

Two ladies talking beside buckets of octopus

Image Credits: Alex Haeusler via Flickr

There are other specialty dishes that a visitor to Busan has to try. For starters, there's Busan's version of naengmyeon, or cold buckwheat noodles (냉면): milmyeon (밀면, below), made with wheat flour noodles. The city also has its own variation of hotteok (호떡). Instead of cinnamon sugar, this pancake is filled with sunflower or sesame seeds and is called ssiat hotteok (씨앗호떡).

A metal bowl with a boiled egg, meat, and noodles in cold broth

Image Credits: lazy fri13th via Flickr


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Jeju Island

Aerial view of Jeju Island

Image Credits: susmai via Flickr

You've heard of Jeju Island's beautiful parks and beaches and strange dol hareubangs, but have you heard of its cuisine? Korea's Hawaii has some excellent local dishes that we must share with you. The most recognizable is its black pork, made from the native Jeju Black pig. The meat is chewy and slightly nutty, due to the pig's acorn diet. Eating black pork is a must-do if you're on Jeju Island!

Pieces of Jeju Island black pork on a grill with gochujang

Image Credits: A hungry bear via Instagram

Like Busan, Jeju Island has lots of fresh seafood and fish. Another one of its most popular dishes is jeonbok-juk (전복죽), porridge made with white rice and abalone. Called the "king of porridges" due to its high-quality ingredients, jeonbok-juk is as healthy as it is expensive. You can also eat abalone raw or in a hot pot, as well as other animals like sea bream and octopus.

A bowl of abalone porridge with chopsticks overtop and a smaller bowl of broth beside it

Image Credits: do1phin via Flickr


A hillside shot of Daegu

Image Credits: MJ008 via Flickr

Gather round, beef lovers, because we have another stop for you: Daegu! It has some truly unique dishes that we're sure you'll love, from braised ribs (jjim-galbi, below) to spicy beef soup (yukgaejang, 육개장). They go well with ttaro-gukbap (따로국밥), a pork soup with the broth and rice separated.

Braised short ribs with various banchan

Image Credits: Kukkii Crumb Trails via Flickr

More adventurous eaters might want to try mungtigi (below), or marinated raw beef, and makchang (막창), which is cow abomasum. There's also bogeo bulgogi: deboned blowfish grilled and served with bean sprouts. Daegu is definitely the place to step out of your comfort zone, one baby step at a time!

A white plate with sliced raw beef pieces

Image Credits: Korean Food Guide via Instagram

 Andong Hahoe Folk Village

A woman in black walking down a stone wall-lined lane with traditional Korean houses

Image Credits: My photo-video diary via Instagram

You may remember the Andong Hahoe Folk Village from our soju blog. Besides brewing a very strong version of Korea's favorite national drink, Andong is also famous for its Andong-jjimdak (안동찜닭), chicken and vegetables steamed or boiled in ganjang-based sauce. Be warned: it also contains chili peppers that give the dish a strong kick!

A metal bowl of spicy chicken and vegetables

Image Credits: Chris and Sue via Flickr

Then there's heotjesabap/heotjesatbap (헛제삿밥), or "fake jesa meal." It is Andong's take on bibimbap and has a few differences, such as switching gochujang with ganjang (soy sauce) and adding grilled fish. Like the name suggests, heotjesabap isn't offered up during a jesa ceremony; it was actually eaten by scholars studying at night. Give this meal a try!

Table with fish, eggs, sliced meat, and other foods in shadow

Image Credits: jk079 via Flickr


Gwangjang Market at night

Image Credits: Artem via Flickr

We can't omit Seoul's street markets. Gwangjang, Myeongdong, and Namdaemun are just three of the city's markets, and all three have awesome street food. One of the most common is tteokbokki (떡볶이), rice cakes cooked in spicy sauce that is a fixture at many street stalls at Gwangjang.

A woman ladling out tteokbokki from a metal pot

Image Credits: Travel Archive via Flickr

Then there's mayak gimbap (마약김밥, below), nicknamed "drug gimbap" due to their addictive nature. Keep walking and you'll find mung bean pancakes (bindaetteok, 빈대떡), the previously mentioned hotteok and eomuk, and other strange and savory delights like tornado potatoes (hweori gamja, 회오리 감자) and blood sausage (soondae, 순대). One thing's for sure: you'll leave the market with an emptier wallet and a fuller stomach!

Packaged and unpackages mayak gimbap

Image Credits: jacqui via Instagram


No matter what kind of food you like - meaty, fishy, sweet, spicy - Korea has them all. Check out one or more of these cities to give your taste buds the ultimate experience. Comment below your favorite Korean food and which city you've visited or like to visit. We want to hear from you!

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