If you’re a spicy food lover like us, then you will find yourself enjoying plenty of the spicy Korean food dishes Korea has to offer. Koreans are famous for turning up the heat on their food! Even foods that aren’t labelled spicy, can pack too much heat for foreigners with a sensitive palette!
Sometimes the server will ask to be sure you can handle that kind of hot heat. If you think you can, tell them to bring it on! After living here two years we sometimes notice people chuckling at us as our eyes water and our nose runs out of control. Yet, we love it!
As we are enjoying our final weeks in Korea we are trying to fit in all our favorite spicy Korean foods that we adore before we put the land of the morning calm in our rearview mirrors. To honor our tingling taste buds we put together a list of some of the best spicy Korean food dishes we know!
Before we dive in, let us warn you that the foods we are going to mention may look like they we thrown together by a five year old. Don’t let the looks stop you from trying these delicious dishes.
La Bokki & Budae Jjigae
Budae jjigae is also known as “army stew” and was born during the Korean war near the American military base. Koreans were introduced to foods like canned beans, meat, Spam, ham, and sausages for the first time. Soon the Koreans on base were mixing these foreign ingredients with local ingredients including gochujang (hot pepper paste) making a hot and spicy hodge podge of a stew. Nowadays, restaurants will add tteok (rice cakes), cheese, hard boiled eggs, and fried mandu to give you one heavenly comfort meal. La bokki is very similar, and for us we have a hard time differentiating between the two dishes until one of my students explained that la bokki is essentially the same as budae jjigae except for the added ramen noodles.
In Korea, ramen isn’t for poor college students. In fact, Korea loves instant ramen and it happens to be most of our student’s food of choice! There are entire grocery aisles with an overwhelming amount of flavors to choose from. It’s very common to see people posted up at any local convenience store eating ramen as their lunch or dinner. It’s actually a pretty awesome quick, inexpensive meal if your in a bind. We have tried quite a few flavors and found out the hard way that some flavors are actually quite spicy. Some of the most spicy flavors include bul dak (spicy chicken), shin ramen, and yeol ramen. But there are way more spicy flavors than we have tried. Check out this ultimate guide for Korean Instant Ramen from 10 Magazine to figure out which flavor is best for you!
This is the mother of all dishes for us because it’s our favorite Korean meal ever! We actually eat this almost every week because we are such big fans! Dak Galbi is a spicy chicken stir fry with vegetables, gochujang (spicy red pepper paste), tteok (rice cakes), and melted savory cheese on the top. Typically this dish is already pretty spicy, which we love, but at some restaurants you have the option to make it even spicier! There have been times we have ate this dish and were crying because it was so spicy (and so good). I have tried to replicate this dish several times at home and just can’t get it right. It will be hard to break up with this dish when we leave Korea soon!
Another wonderfully spicy chicken dish and great for on the go. Dakgangjeong is basically boneless fried chicken bites with a gooey spicy sauce that will get the temperature rising in your mouth! Delicious small tteok (rice cake) bites mixed in the bunch make this meal the perfect guilty pleasure! We find that a cold local beer helps cool the mouth down after a few spicy bites. Gamaro Chicken is a chain in Seoul which is our favorite place to get this dish. If you’re not a spicy food lover then you’re in luck with this dish because they also offer a sweet and sour sauce!
Jjimdak is another chicken dish famous from an area called Andong. We ate this meal three times while in Andong! Pretty impressive, we know! Jjimdak is a giant pot filled with chicken, vegetables, glass noodles, ganjang (Korean soy sauce), and cheongyang gochu (a fresh green chili pepper). You can ask for more heat if you so desire, which we always do! This happens to be one of Scott’s favorite meals. The blend of the soy sauce and spiciness makes this dish more unique from the rest of Korea’s spicy foods. Especially since most of the others are distinctively red.
I’m not going to lie, this dish tastes great, but it destroys your stomach afterwards. This is one of those meals that has no nutrition value at all, but it’s a meal that feels like a kid who likes all of these things decided to put it all in one big pot and call it a meal. I mean it tastes good, but it feels like unhealthy kids food.
This meal comes in a spicy gochujang (red bean paste) sauce, with soft tteok (rice cakes), and any other fixins you want on the side including hard boiled eggs, tempura battered veggies, and fried mandu (dumplings). To top it all off there’s a healthy portion of gooey, thick white cheese on the top. Six people could have chowed down on our order for two. Cheese tteokboki brings the heat. Luckily it comes with a peach flavored yogurt drink to cool the taste buds.
The yogurt scared us at first. However it was a complimentary and much needed relief from this incredibly spicy dish. Again, we must warn you, we felt like sh*t after eating this meal, but it tasted good and was extra spicy!
This spicy chicken nirvana is probably the hottest food we have ever eaten in Korea. Buldak literally translates to “fire chicken” and this meal had our eyes watering and our noses running. Yet we couldn’t stop eating this heavenly mixture of a whole rotisserie chicken, tteok (rice cake), spicy sauce, melted cheese, corn, and crunchy rice that cooked in the hot pan. Even though we scorched our tastebuds on this dish, it happens to be one of our favorites and one that we can only eat once in awhile.
Dak Dori Tang
This spicy soup happens to be another spicy dish that we eat rather frequently. It’s the perfect comfort food on a rainy or chilly day. This soup features braised chicken, spicy gochujang soup base, onions, potatoes. As a bonus option you can add ramen or kalguksu (flour noodle) on the side. We love letting the broth boil down and thicken before we add the noodles and eat. This dish will make your eyes water so bring tissues!
What’s your favorite spicy dish? Share it in the comments below, we’d love to hear about it!
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