Your Go-To Guide to Korean Food + The Best Korean Restaurants in Dubai
Ah, South Korea, the wonderful land of K-Pop and K-Dramas. As Hallyu or the Korean Wave unrelentingly takes over the world, the marvel that is Korean cuisine is also increasingly getting the attention it deserves.
One of the healthiest cuisines in the world, much of Korean cuisine and the customs have its roots in the ancient Korean royal courts, but you don’t have to be royalty to indulge in the delectable textures, spiciness, and variety that it has to offer!
Whether you’re planning to visit Korea or looking to eat out at a Korean restaurant, here are all the basics you need!
Korean Cuisine 101
Intricate, flavourful, and varied, Korean cuisine originated from the agricultural traditions in Korea and has changed over the years. Hot, humid summers and biting cold winters largely influenced the food, and the close proximity to China and Japan, and trade with Europe introduced new styles of cooking and preserving food.
Fun fact – Korea beats out Italy in its consumption of garlic
Korean cuisine is largely based on rice, meat, seafood, vegetables, and tofu. Deriving its flavours from various combinations of sesame oil, soybean paste, soy sauce, garlic, chilli pepper, ginger, salt, and pickled vegetables, the variety of foods differ seasonally. Given that Korea is a peninsula, seafood is consumed in large quantities, but the use of meats like Pork, Beef, and Chicken have also skyrocketed over the past few decades and Korean Barbeque, Fried Chicken, and Fried Pork Belly have become some of the most prized dishes in Korean cuisine.
Kimchi is one the most essential parts of a Korean meal. Made from fermented vegetables, most common ingredients in Kimchi are garlic, ginger, red pepper powder, carrots, green onions and more.
An absolutely essential condiment is Gochujang or fermented bean paste with red pepper powder, soybean powder, and rice flour ground into a thick, spicy paste. Gochujang is frequently used in Korean barbeque, Tteokbokki, and Bibimbap.
Another star in Korean cuisine is the Hot Pot. Recorded earliest as a method of cooking in China, hot pots were supposedly created by Mongol soldiers who in their travels would overturn their helmets and cook in them due to being unable to carry other utensils. Pouring water into these helmets, these soldiers added meat, vegetables, and spices and heated the mix over flames.
One of Korea’s most iconic dishes, Bbudae Jjigae or Army stew is one of the most popular varieties of the hot pot. A fusion stew dish, Bbudae Jjigae marries elements of American cuisine with traditional Korean ingredients and was a staple during the Korean War.
Koreans are fond of sharing food and are very welcoming to guests! However, being polite and following etiquette is super important. Besides, it makes you a great guest and speaking from experience, good manners always get you invited back for delicious food.
- The first thing that could catch your attention as you enter a Korean restaurant or household is Banchan, or the side dishes that accompany steamed rice and other main courses. Banchan are not appetizers and are a category of their own, typically not listed on the menu.
- The Korean way of “doing food” is by sitting around a big table, surrounded by delicious food, with eating becoming the catalyst for conversation.
- Being polite is a biggie in Korea, so before you start your meal, acknowledging your host and the delicious food they’ve prepared by saying Jal-meok-gesseum-nida (잘 먹겠습니다) or “I will eat well”. It’ll score you some serious guest points and impress your host.
- All dishes are served at the same time and are eaten with a pair of chopsticks and a spoon. Lifting your bowl is frowned upon, so even if you have to stoop very low, that’s far better than lifting the utensil.
- Never stick your chopsticks right into the bowl. This is rude and is a part of a ceremony that happens at funerals (yikes!). Instead, set it down on top of the bowl or beside the bowl when you are finished.
- Rank and age are very important in Korea, so the oldest sits down first and at the head of the table. The youngest sits at the end, and if you happen to fall into this category, always match the speed of others eating to avoid looking like you’re rushing through the meal.
Keeping track of the rules may be a bit challenging at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll be like second nature!
Now if you want a taste of authentic Korean cuisine and traditions right here in Dubai, not to worry, we’ve got you covered!
Location: O2 Residence, Cluster O, Jumeirah Lakes Towers
Must-try dishes: Korean Barbequed Beef, Tofu Soup, Kimchi Pancakes
Timings: 11:00 AM-3:30 PM, 6:00 PM-10:30 PM, Daily
Location: Asiana Hotel, Deira
Must-try dishes: Traditional Korean dishes, Jeongol, Jjajangmyeon
Timings: 6:30 AM – 10:00AM, 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM, 6 PM – 11:00 PM, Daily
Location: Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek
Must-try dishes: Slow-smoked beef with Kalbi sauce
Timings: 7:00 PM-11:00 PM, Daily
4. KPOP Chicken
Location: Indigo Icon Tower, Cluster F, Jumeirah Lakes Towers
Must-try dishes: Korean Fried Chicken, Beef in Bulgogi Sauce, Stir-fried Seafood Dubbab
Timings: Sat-Wed: 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM, Thu-Fri: 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM
5. Seoul Garden
Location: Zommorodah Building, Al Karama
Must-try dishes: Hot Pot dishes, Naengmyeon, Bibimbap
Timings: Sun-Thu : 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 11:30 PM; Fri-Sat : 12:00 PM – 11:30 PM
Location: Al Ketbi Building, Al Hudaiba
Must-try: Hot Pot dishes, Galbi Gui, Ginseng Coffee
Timings: 11:00 AM – 11: PM, Daily
Location: Conrad Dubai, Trade Center Area
Must-try dishes: Chimaek, Kimpo Pizza, Korean Bulgogi Sloppy Joes
Timings: 5:00 PM – 2:00 AM, Daily