5 Essential Korean Dishes to Know

Going through the basics of Korean cuisine with Hyosun Ro

Bulgogi is one of the most easily recognized and popular dishes in Korean cuisine.

It can be both intimidating and exciting to approach a new cuisine, whether one is trying a new restaurant, heading to a friend's house for dinner, or trying to cook an unfamiliar dish for the first time. Perhaps we should say especially if someone is trying to cook something new for the first time.

But, armed with the right ingredients and a few simple tips, it can be a lot of fun. And the surprising thing is, often many of the techniques that one may already be familiar with translate over to a new cuisine.

Such is the case with cooking Korean food. We got in touch with Hyosun Ro, author of the award-winning blog Eating and Living, who kindly offered to walk us through the basics of Korean cuisine for someone approaching it for the first time. It's certainly easier than one would think. Ro says, "Most Korean dishes are relatively simple to make. If you have a few essential ingredients at hand, you can put together delicious Korean dishes fairly easily." Here's the rest of our chat.

For someone who is new to Korean cuisine, what five dishes would you suggest cooking?

Bulgogi is the first one that comes to my mind. Bulgogi is one of the most well-known dishes. It is made with thin slices of beef marinated in a slightly sweet soy-based sauce. The same marinade can also be used for chicken or pork.

Click here to see the Beef Bulgogi Recipe. For a healthier alternative, also try the Chicken Bulgogi Recipe.

Pajeon is a savory Korean pancake made with scallions. This is also very simple to make. Throw in some scallions and seafood (usually a combination of squid, shrimp, mussels, oysters, and clams) into the flour-based batter and pan-fry until crispy. In no time, you’ll have one of Koreans’ favorite snacks/appetizers.

Click here to see a variation on pajeon, Mung Bean Pancakes.

Japchae is a traditional noodle dish made with sweet potato starch noodles (dangmyeon) as well as beef and vegetables. The cooking process seems involved because the ingredients are separately cooked to develop the layers of flavor, but each step in the process is very simple for this delicious and colorful dish.

Click here to see the Japchae Recipe.

Bibimbap is another great dish to make. It’s basically a collection of several easy-to-make side dishes (banchan) using common vegetables such as spinach, cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, bean sprouts, etc. Again, the recipe does seem long, but it’s not difficult at all. This is a good way to learn how to make a few simple side dishes.

Click here to see the Bibimbap Recipe.

No Korean meal is complete without kimchi. While the traditional Napa cabbage kimchi is not one of the easiest Korean dishes to make, there are many quick and easy kimchi varieties you can make with more common vegetables like cucumbers and green cabbage.

Click here to see the Kimchi Recipe.

For tips, advice, and more recipes, continue to the next page.