Bibimbap: This Korean dish has a focus on ingredient color. / whitewish / Getty Images
After years in the shadows of Japanese and Thai food, Korean cuisine is having its day in the sun, showing up on menus of casual chains and five-star restaurants. “Korean food is flavorful and balanced,” says Daniel Gray, partner at O’ngo Food Communications, a culinary tourism company in Seoul. “Wrapping Korean barbecue in a lettuce leaf and topping it with pickled vegetables is delicious and healthy.” So, what do you order? Daniel Gray of O’ngo Food Communications, a culinary tourism firm in Seoul, suggests starting with these:
Bibimbap. A bowl of rice, topped with layers of cooked vegetables and a fried egg, stirred together just before eating. It can have 10-plus ingredients, including bean sprouts, spinach, bellflower roots, sesame oil, chili paste, chestnuts and ginkgo nuts. “Koreans believe that eating foods of different colors is nutritious and creates a balanced flavor and texture,” Gray says.
Kimchi. This signature dish starts with salt-brined cabbage. “The salt is rinsed off and a mixture of garlic, onion, ginger, radish, chili powder and shrimp paste is rubbed on each leaf,” Gray says. After two days of fermenting in the fridge, the cabbage can be served as appetizer, soup or stew.
Bulgogi. Thin slices of marinated grilled beef are popular at Korean barbecues. They may be served on a bed of lettuce, which you can use to pick up and wrap around the beef before eating.