Skip to main content

Favorite Korean Foods for Your Winter Olympics Party

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in an international sporting event is to taste the cuisine of the host country, especially if you're watching from half a world away. And with South Korea hosting the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, you're in for a culinary treat. If you've never had Korean food before, we'll introduce you to a few essential ingredients, basic cooking techniques, and some of our favorite (and easy-to-make) recipes so you can cook up a world-class viewing party as the winter games begin.

Easy Bulgogi (Korean BBQ Beef)

Get this recipe: Easy Bulgogi (Korean BBQ Beef) | Photo by Kim's Cooking Now!

Essential Ingredients

Korean cuisine centers around fresh vegetables, rice and noodles, and meats; and its distinctive flavor comes from a variety of familiar Asian ingredients, such as sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, and fish sauce. Beyond that, Korean cuisine uses a few specialty ingredients that are worth a trip to your local Asian grocery or finding online.

Gochujang or Kochujang (fermented spice paste): A bit savory, a bit sweet, a bit unusual, and packing a lot of heat, this fermented soybean and red pepper paste is a must for any Korean dish. It is as present in Korean food as ketchup is at American dinner tables, and gets stirred into stews, stir-fries, and sauces. Heat levels can vary, so start with a little and add more to your liking.

Gochugaru (red chili powder): A special chili powder blend with a combination of sweet, smoke, and heat. If you can't find it, you can get by with cayenne or crushed red pepper in a pinch (or a lot of pinches). It's great for seasoning dishes and makes for a pretty garnish.

Doenjang (fermented bean paste): This fermented soybean paste is salty with a nutty flavor. It's the perfect base for soups and sauces. Can't find it? Try substituting Japanese miso for that irreplaceable savory component.

Ganjang (Korean soy sauce): Similar to soy sauce used in China and Japan, this salty and earthy fermented sauce is used throughout Korean cooking. It tends to be less salty than other varieties of soy sauce, so purchase low-sodium soy sauce if you can't find a Korean brand.

Cooking Techniques

You've probably used these basic cooking methods while preparing other kinds of foods, so this should all feel familiar.

Grilling: One of the most common types of cooking you'll find both at home and in restaurants. Thinly sliced meats and fresh seafood are marinated, then cooked quickly over hot coals.

Stewing: Most Korean meals feature a soup, stew, or broth, even at breakfast. This cooking method helps to break down tough pieces of meat, and also serves as liquid refreshment, as beverages are not commonly served at the table.

Frying: Korean cuisine often features pan-fried savory pancakes called jun, which are packed with kimchi or vegetables, meat, and seafood. Other dishes, like tofu, meat, and fish are also pan-fried.

Pickling: Many of us are familiar with sauerkraut. Koreans use a similar pickling technique to make traditional kimchi, a spicy condiment that goes in and on many dishes. You can make your own (a quick pickle or the fermented version) or buy a jar at your local Asian market.

Serving Style

Serving Korean Food

Serving Korean Food Photo via Bigstock

Korean food often features several small side dishes, called banchan, ranging from vegetables to meats and fish. They are all served at the same time, along with plenty of rice. Whether it's a side dish or a main dish, most food is served family-style from the center of the table. All the ingredients are cut into bite-size pieces, so there is no need for anything but a set of chopsticks and a spoon.

Party-Worthy Recipes

Gather your friends and family for an easy feast of Korean favorites.

Kalbi (Korean BBQ Short Ribs)

The key to this popular (and incredibly easy) Korean grilled dish is the cut of beef. Ask your butcher for flanken-style or Korean-style short ribs. Watch the video to see how to marinate and grill these delectable ribs.

Bibimbap (Korean Rice With Mixed Vegetables)

This comforting meal in a bowl is a mainstay of Korean food. Rice is topped with a savory mixture of vegetables and a fried egg, and seasoned with spicy gochujang.

Bibimbap (Korean Rice With Mixed Vegetables)

Bibimbap (Korean Rice With Mixed Vegetables) | Photo by iYing

Jab Chae (Korean Noodles)

Also called jap chae and japchae. Smooth, translucent sweet potato noodles are tossed with stir-fried beef and vegetables, and served as a banchan (side dish) or a main dish.

Jab Chae (Korean Noodles)

 Jab Chae (Korean Noodles) | Photo by Buckwheat Queen

Korean Fried Chicken

Crisp, tender, juicy, flavorful--this Korean street food favorite is everything you want in fried chicken. Watch the video to see how to make it, then make a great big batch of it, plus the zesty sauce that goes with it.

Spicy Cabbage Kimchi

This spicy, slightly sweet cabbage side dish is fermented for four days before it's ready to eat. Make sure to wear plastic gloves when working with the spices!


Kimchi | Photo via Bigstock

You can serve kimchi as a condiment or use it to spice up a dish. Take a look at this video for Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi Bokkeumbap) to get an idea of how to use this popular pickled vegetable.

Kimchi Jun (Kimchi Patty)

Kimchi is battered and fried into a savory pancake, served with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, sesame seeds, sesame oil, green onions, and a pinch of red pepper powder for heat.

Kimchi Jun (Kimchi Patty)

Kimchi Jun (Kimchi Patty) | Photo by Soup Loving Nicole


Jackie Freeman

About Jackie Freeman

Recipe developer, food stylist, culinary tinkerer and mama of two kitchen monkeys! When I'm not cooking (or cleaning up after cooking), I'm outside running, skiing, gardening and dodging Nerf bullets.