In Korean culture, food isn’t just food. Food means I care about you, please stay in good health, and make sure you get enough energy to get through the day. Food simply means I love you. Similar to other Asian cultures, overt expressions of feelings or emotions are not always commonplace in Korean culture. Thus, food is critically used to convey love and appreciation towards others. Whether someone makes a homecooked meal or brings fresh fruits or breads as a gift, there is an unspoken understanding of what that food symbolizes. When in Korea, there are several dishes that are crucial to know when understanding more about the culture.
Soup is the first type of comfort food that encompasses a wide array of essential dishes that make up Korean cuisine. Whether that is kimchi-jiggae (김치찌개), haejang-guk (해장국), soondubu (순두부), or sullungtang (설렁탕), the selection of stews to choose from is infinite. These dishes usually veer on the healthier side being made with vegetables, hearty broths, and served with rice and an array of banchan, or side dishes.
Second on the list is Tteokbokki (떡볶이), most popularly served in stalls in the street. These spicy rice cakes are often eaten with fishcakes (오뎅) , fishcake broth, sundae (순대), and an array of fried foods (튀김). Tteokbokki is a dish that is constantly evolving, always having new trendy ingredients added to it. Additionally, it has recently become a popular delivery food.
The third comfort food fundamental to Korean cuisine is Shin Ramyun. These South Korean instant noodles are a classic part of what is considered to be Korean “fast food”. Sold essentially everywhere in Seoul, you can take your pick on the kind of ramen you want to eat and make it in less than 5 minutes.
Of course, kimbap (김밥) had to make the list as it's a classic go to comfort food. Made with seasoned vegetables and meats and wrapped in rice and seaweed, it is commonly referred to as the Korean version of sushi. Kimbap is especially perfect for when you need a quick, easy to eat meal.
Lastly, when you ask a Korean what their comfort food is you can expect a common answer to be their mom’s cooking. Nothing quite beats a Korean mom's home cooking because of the love and care it is made with. In general, most people find comfort in food, whether it is a dish from your childhood, or from your favorite restaurant. There is an unexplainable feeling of content when digging into a delicious, hot meal. In Korea, everyone has their own list of comfort foods, which is why I encourage you to make their own list of Korean foods that you love and find comfort in!