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South Korea Food and Drink

Korean cuisine is punchy and bold flavoured; fermented foods are common and dishes are often heavily laced with red pepper and generous amounts of garlic. Rice is omnipresent at pretty much all meals, except for the odd occasion when noodles take centre stage.

A typical Korean meal consists of warm rice, soup, rice water and between eight and 20 side dishes of vegetables, fish, poultry, eggs, bean curd and sea plants. All dishes tend to be served together and are shared among the group.

Korea’s best-selling spirit is soju, a clear liquor similar to, though milder than, vodka. Soju is frequently mixed with beer to create a drink known as somac.

Specialities

Bibimbap: A bowl of boiled rice mixed with vegetables, chilli peppers, meat and an egg.
Kimchi: A beloved funky-flavoured side dish made from fermented Chinese cabbage, turnips, onions, salt, fish, chestnuts and red pepper.
Bulgogi: Also known as Korean BBQ, Bulgogi is thin slices of marinated beef cooked on a table-top grill.
Grilled galbi: Beef short ribs marinated in ganjang (Korean soy sauce).
Haemultang: A spicy stew made with red pepper paste and an assortment of seafood and vegetables.
Chijimi: A savoury vegetable pancake.
Tteokbokki: This spicy snack of sticky rice cakes in a chilli sauce is a popular Korean street food.
Soju: A clear vodka-like spirit usually distilled from rice or sweet potato.
Hite: This mild-flavoured lager, along with beer brands Cass and OB, dominate the Korean market.
Makgeolli: A low alcohol milky liquor made by fermenting steamed rice and water.
Ginseng wine: A strong and sweet wine, similar to brandy, believed to have medicinal properties.

Things to know

The most common type of drinking establishment is the suljip (Korean-style wine bar), but there are also pubs serving well-known European brands. Koreans offer glasses of liquor to each other as a gesture of camaraderie; never fill your own glass and remember, juniors pour for seniors.

Tipping

Although not a Korean custom, most hotels and other tourist facilities add a 10% service charge to bills.

Drinking age

19.