Thursday, November 12, 2009

What do Koreans eat anyway?

Hello everyone!

Lately, I have been cooking and eating Korean food for every meal. Two reasons. One, I've been craving Korean food so much lately that I couldn't resist it any longer. Two, I'm trying to eat healthier. Since I don't tend to eat a lot of vegetables when they are prepared in American ways (Please don't take offense by this comment. It's not that I don't like it. I do. Sometimes American style vegetable dishes are a little bland to me. You'll see what I mean when you see these side dishes below. Koreans use a lot of spices!!) I thought I'd try to make more Korean side dishes to force myself eat more vegetables and less fat. (And may I add that I lost a few lbs as a result?)

I was concerned that my husband was going to get tired of eating Korean food everyday for two weeks but to my surprise, he really enjoyed it. Even my 20-month-old son loved it. Korean food isn't really hard to fix. It does take some time to prepare side dishes. However, normally, they don't make all side dishes everyday. When they make side dishes, they make them in large volumes so they last a long time (about a week or so). But they do make fresh rice and soup everyday - or just rice occasionally.

Traditionally, Koreans eat rice, soup, a few different side dishes for every meal. Although younger generation tends to eat more cereal or toasted bread for breakfast nowadays. But when I was growing up, my mom would always fix freshly cooked rice and soup every morning before I went to school. Okay, now I must confess, this is one of reasons why I am grateful that I live here... I don't have to get up an hour earlier than everybody else to fix breakfast every morning. My husband can fix his own breakfast quickly - cereal or toasts - How simple and easy is that?

Okay, the picture only shows two side dishes but normally Koreans prepare 4-6 different side dishes. They are usually vegetables seasoned with Korean spices. They also prepare fish dishes frequently. When I came to America for the first time, quite a few people asked me if I ate a lot of fish in Korea. I did. And it was great! Seafood dishes here in America are quite different from the ones in Korea. They like to put a lot of different ingredients and spices to their fish dishes. My husband got to experience a lot of different kinds of fish side dishes and he loved every single of them. Korea is a very small country, probably the size of Idaho, maybe even smaller. And it is surrounded by the Ocean. So they get fresh fish every morning. It doesn't matter where you are. You can find any kind of fish at any markets and they are all very fresh. That is one of things I miss about Korea.

Anyway, today, I am posting some of my favorite Korean side dish recipes for you. They are easy to make and taste fantastic! We loved all of them. These are only some of side dishes that Koreans eat. I will post more side dish recipes as I make more. Hope you enjoy these recipes!

This pan-fried potatoes (감자채볶음) have always been one of my favorite side dishes! It is also very traditional and Koreans eat this very often. The key ingredients are potatoes and garlic. The combination of those two ingredients is so great and it smells wonderful.

감자채 볶음 (Pan-fried Potatoes)


2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly in strips
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Salt to taste


In a large pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and garlic, and stir frequently so that the potatoes don't stick to the pan and cook about 5-7 minutes. When the potatoes start to soften, add the fish sauce, sesame oil and soy sauce, stirring frequently. Add salt to taste. Cook the potatoes until they are softened and sprinkle sesame seeds.

Now 단무지 (Yellow pickled turnip, also known as Daicon) is also very popular among Koreans. They also serve these at Korean-Chinese restaurants. They say they're good when eating oily food. Daicon and oily food go well together. This daicon dish is very simple to fix.

단무지 무침 (Spiced Daicon)


1 Daicon (단무지)
1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Korean red crushed pepper flakes
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
pinch of sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil


Cut daicon in thin slices. Place daicon in small bowl and add the sugar, Korean red crushed pepper flakes, vinegar, sesame seeds and sesame oil. Mix them together until the ingredients are well coated on daicon.

오이무침 (Spiced Cucumbers) is also a well known side dish in Korea. I used American cucumbers but if you can get Korean cucumbers, go ahead and use those. American grown cucumbers tend to be a little bitter. But this cucumber dish was still a hit. It's a little bit spicy but the freshness of the cucumber made every bite crunchy and delicious.

(Spiced Cucumbers)

*If you want it to be really spicy, add more Korean red crushed pepper flakes*

2 cucumbers, very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon coarse salt
5 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Korean red crushed pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 garlic clove, minced


In a small bowl, place the cucumbers. Sprinkle coarse salt and let stand for 10-15 minutes. Rinse the cucumbers in water and get rid of as much as water you can. Add the next five ingredients to the cucumbers and mix well.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I will post more soup and kimchi recipes in the near future. Please let me know if you have any questions on where and how you could get some of these Korean ingredients.

Sook the Cook


  1. Thank you for posting these side dishes, I have been searching for these recipes for a while now. Every time I go to Korean restaurant always get full from them since they're so good, I just can't stop eating them. I can't wait to get all the ingredients on my next trip to the Korean Market in Santa Clara.

  2. Hey Sook! When I saw your dishes, remind me when I had lunch with my good friend from Korea at her home.

  3. I want to come and live with you :) Or have you has my personal chef at the very least...

  4. Keep these recipes coming! I just recently discovered a love for Korean food and am trying to find fun, accessible recipes.

  5. Always wanted to try diacons, but never knew how to prepare them. Thanks! Also, Brian still makes me get up to fix him breakfast. I enjoy it though. I bet it will be different once we have kids lol.

  6. I should give these side dishes a try! This would probably make a nice bento box! I have most of the ingredients at home & the recipes look fairly simple to follow! Plus, I should really start eating healthier too.. :'(

  7. Thankyou for this post! I understand Korean food so much better thanks to you! What a great staple meal: soup, rice, and wonderful side dishes!

  8. Hilary - I actually want to hire you as my personal baker! :) All your stuff on your blog look so delicious!

    Janice - I hope these side dishes satisfy your taste bud! I really liked all these side dishes.

    Amy - The yellow daicons are fantastic. They are a little bit sweet and tiny bit sour. They are perfect when you're eating a noodle dish.

    GF Gidget - I plan to make more Korean food more often. I will be sure to post more recipes.

    JK - Korean food is very healthy and it helps you eat more vegetables. :) I always say I will eat more Korean food when I'm pregnant. I will get all the good vitamins by just eating Korean food! :) But of course, the only things I crave are hamburgers and soda. Ugh!

    Joy and Anncoo - I am so glad you enjoyed this post. Thanks for your comments!

  9. Stan is going to make Korean food next time he cooks so I am glad you are putting up all these recipes. We haven't found a place to eat Korean here in Portland, but we used to eat it all the time in AZ. Can't wait to try these recipes.

  10. Korean food is one of my fav cuisines, love all the wonderfully seasoned side dishes!

  11. I've actually never eaten Korean food! But I am always open to trying new cultural tastes :-)

  12. Korean food sounds delicious!!!I love all the side dishes!

  13. Samira- I'm so glad that you and Stan enjoy eating Korean food. I hope you find a good Korean restaurant in Portland!

    Pigpigscorner- I'm glad you enjoy Korean food. Isn't it so great?

    Casaundra - You should try some Korean food when you can. It's definitely different from American cuisine but very good.

    Erica - Thanks for your comment!

  14. Every time I go to H-Mart I get a big thing of spiced cucumber! I love to put it on banh mi, which I realize is mixing cuisines a bit but it's really great. Now I'll try making it myself. Thanks for posting all these great Korean recipes!

  15. Mixing cusines is great I think. Sometimes I eat Korean food with American side dishes or main dishes. :) Thanks for your comment Tasty Trix

  16. My hubby is a bit scared of the bright yellow daikon. He thinks it's unnatural and won't eat it. LOL!

  17. Tamar- that is funny! has he even tried it?