1. Haejangguk (해장국)
My dad would order this when he’d get wasted the night before (or he was just jonesin’ for some coagulated cow blood, who can tell, Korean dads are usually drunk anyway). It’s considered a hangover stew that consists usually of meaty pork spine, coagulated ox blood (similar to blood pudding), and vegetables in beef broth. Yum.
2. Jokbal (족발)
It’s pigs feet that you dip into a red shrimp marinade (and it tastes delicious).
3. Soondae (순대)
Soondae is a Korean-style sausage stuffed with boiled sweet rice, cow or pig blood, potato noodles, mung bean sprouts, scallions and garlic. The casing? Well, they used to be stuffed in the animal’s intestines, but now, I’m not too sure. Fun story: My mom bought some for my dad in Flushing and forgot that she placed it in a side pocket in the trunk (Honda Pilot trunk space is HUGE). Five to six days later, we would get a whiff of some nasty, rotting stench — my mom thought I stepped in dog shit, until we found the soondae in the trunk, wasting away under the balmy New York summer sun. Can’t say I enjoyed the moment where I fished it out and felt the slime under the plastic bag.
4. Jjajangmyeun (짜장면)
Just from that picture you might be in your chair, questioning my palate. What the fuck is this kid doing, eating noodles coated in black shit? Well, readers, this is jjajangmyeun, the staple takeout food of Korea. Many a college student has filled their stomach with this delicious noodle dish. The color comes from a salty soybean paste and there’s occasionally seafood or diced meat (beef or pork) thrown in with a mix of julienned cucumbers and carrots. Honest to goodness, this is delicious. Make sure you wear a bib, though. The stains don’t come out.
5. Kimchijjigae (김치찌개)
Just when you thought kimchi couldn’t get anymore pungent, we took it one step further. It’s far more potent as a stew. The closest thing I can come up with is spicy sauerkraut simmered in its juices and you eat it with rice. People love it or hate it (we fucking love it).
6. Seolleongtang (설렁탕)
Ox bone soup. Yeah, you heard me right. You boil ox bones in water for 10 hours, where the bone marrow meets the water and boom, heaven on earth. Add some scallions, salt and pepper to taste, a bowl of rice and you have a hearty, delicious meal. Fun fact: I read a food review in the Buffalo News of a Korean joint in a strip mall, where the food critic had this or gomtang and they called it bland. Someone didn’t tell her that you needed to add salt, so she had a bowl of bone-flavored soup. The restaurant got a 3/5 rating because they only took cash.
7. Bundaegi (번데기)
Okay, I’ll be honest. I’ve never, ever tried silkworm pupae. My dad loves it though. He’d pound a can of OB and a can of this and he’d be on his merry way down alcohol lane. And if Korean supermarkets stock these by the boxes, they must be flavorful.
8. Japchae (잡채)
Cellophane noodles tossed in a skillet with some sesame oil, carrots, onions, spinach, beef (sometimes), peppers, is served either hot or cold at parties or special occasions (like at picnics). This and some rice will take your Korean friend back to the good old times.
9. Sannakji (산낙지)
Live octopus. Yeah, you read that right. Let me tell you: These fuckers are delicious. Eating them whole? Nah, cut ’em up with scissors. Fresh. And raw too.
10. Doenjang jjigae(된장 찌개)
This is like a mac n’ cheese casserole dish to me. Nothing screams Michael, you’re motherfuckin’ home than a nice, hot, steaming bowl of doenjang jjigae. Made with soybean paste that you’d probably find revolting (particularly because it looks like someone took a nice ol’ shit in a bucket — it smells pretty bad too), but jesus christ, do we Koreans love this. Fun fact: When we go out to eat Korean BBQ, (the best thing to do with your friends, if you love meat, don’t care that you’ll come back smelling like meat) dip the kalbi in some doenjang. The saltiness cuts the sweetness of the marinade, making for some amazing party-in-your-mouth flavor.
11. Nokdumuk (녹두묵)
Green bean jelly. It’s not the type of jelly you’re thinking about — you can’t take jell-o shots with these suckers. These are served usually at ceremonies, but I’ve been to a couple of restaurants where they serve these as banchan (side dishes).
12. Miyeok guk (미역국)
Eaten usually on a birthday (or if you’re pregnant), this soup is rich in vitamins, particularly because of the wakame that’s used as the main ingredient. My favorite was when my mom would add meat that was boiled, cut into small pieces, sprinkled with sesame seeds to the soup.
13. Kongnamulguk (콩나물국)
My mom swore that this was the cureall for colds. The “chicken noodle soup” of the Korean family? Perhaps so. In any case, this is always good with some gochugaru sprinkled on top for some heat.
14. Nurungji (누룽지)
This is like, the rice that’s been cooking between the stoneware pot and the rest of the rice. They’ve hardened to the point where they’re crisp, but not to the point where they’re burnt — to be honest, I’ve never seen burnt rice. God forbid the day I do. It was eaten as like a palate cleanser or something, but I ate it when I had an upset stomach — sort of like saltines, except with flavor.
15. Hotteok (호떡)
No, don’t pronounce it like “Hot Teok,” please don’t. It’s Ho-tteuk. It’s this awesome pancake that’s filled with melted brown sugar, chopped nuts, cinnamon and honey — it’s oh-so-delicious. You’d normally eat these on cold winter nights, chumming it up with your friends or sharing it with your “special friend.”
16. Gopchang jeongol (곱창전골)
Intestine casserole. Homey and full of flavor.
17. Eomuk (어묵)
It’s odeng — processed fish cakes in a spicy, sweet soup. My dad used to make the best odeng soup, I want one so bad right now.