5 Unique South Korean Foods You Can Order Online - Gastro Obscura
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5 Unique South Korean Foods You Can Order Online

Celebrate the Winter Olympics with tangy rice wine and acorn jelly.

Just because you can’t make it to Pyeongchang for the Olympics doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the food. Thanks to the wonders of the internet and local specialty markets, people cheering their countrymen on from outside Korea can toast a figure skater landing a triple axel with a 2,000-year-old rice wine or fortify themselves for a long night of curling with a war-era stew—all without getting on a plane.

Slices of dotorimuk.
Slices of dotorimuk. HapaK/CC BY-SA 2.0

Acorn Jelly

Prepared Food

To make this traditional Korean appetizer and side dish, chefs soak peeled acorns in water for up to a week, then grind them into a powder that they cook with water and sugar. The end result is dotorimuk, a light brown jelly with a silky texture and mild, savory flavor when eaten plain. Chefs can easily customize dotorimuk to individual meals, but the most traditional seasonings are soy sauce, sesame seeds, pickled cabbage, red chili, and green onion. Outside of the lengthy soaking time, the dish is relatively simple to make and goes with just about anything.

Where to get it: Skip the foraging and buy your powder online.

Street vendors typically sell beondegi in small cups.
Street vendors typically sell beondegi in small cups. gk18_antalan/Used With Permission

Beondegi

Meat/Animal Product

On the streets of Seoul, you might find vendors sizzling up little nuggets that look like coffee beans but smell like seafood. These are actually crunchy, rich silkworm pupae known as beondegi, and you can order them to enjoy at home. Of course, the packaged version won’t be as fresh as it would be streetside, but you can customize the bugs however you like. Common seasonings include salt or even sugar if you prefer your silkworms sweet.

Where to get it: Cans of beondegi are available online.

Makgeolli pairs well with almost any Korean dish.
Makgeolli pairs well with almost any Korean dish. Hirotomo t/CC BY-SA 2.0

Makgeolli

Drink

Once the drink of choice among farmers on their breaks, this light rice wine has recently become something of a hit trend in cities both in Korea and abroad. It’s about as light as a beer (6 to 8 percent alcohol), with a slight lingering fizz from fermentation. Don’t let the milky color fool you: Makgeolli has a sweet tang, making it the perfect pairing for spicy dishes.

Where to get it: You can find bottled makgeolli in Korean stores and markets around the world. Some Korean restaurants, especially in New York and Seattle, also serve fresh versions. And if you’re up for it, you can order a DIY brewing kit online.

A typical packet of Job's tears tea powder.
A typical packet of Job’s tears tea powder. sky4everwen/Used With Permission

Job’s Tears Tea

Drink

It may be named for a tragic biblical figure, but this tea is a warm, nutty delight. The sweet beverage is a blend of the Job’s tears grain, corn, walnuts, almonds, black beans, black sesame, brown rice, and lots of sugar. Some fans say that when you mix it with hot water, the result is a creamy, crunchy mix that tastes like a peanut-dipped ice cream cone. Thanks to the plethora of vending machines around Korean cities, the drink is a preferred pick-me-up among workers and students. Those outside Seoul can simply buy the powder online and mix their own. A warm cup might be the perfect chaser of comforting sweetness after watching your favorite Olympic skier have his dreams dashed on the slopes.

Where to get it: You can order Job’s tears tea powder online.

A hearty bowl of budae jigae.
A hearty bowl of budae jigae. Jasmine Colvin/Used With Permission

Army Base Stew

Prepared Food

Make like an athlete and load up on carbs and protein with this savory stew of SPAM, hot dogs, noodles, and beans. Budae jjigae, or “army base stew,” is just that: During wartime food shortages, some Koreans had to purchase or scavenge army leftovers. The options weren’t always stellar (sometimes the scraps contained cigarette butts), but when combined with local ingredients such as kimchi, garlic, vegetables, and gochujang, the processed meat made for a hearty, satisfying stew. So satisfying, in fact, that a black market for American processed meats emerged after the Korean government banned importing them. Thankfully, the ban was lifted, and budae jjigae has become a popular hot pot option at Korean restaurants, especially among college students.

Where to get it: Outside Korea, you likely won’t be able to simply order Army Base Stew online. But budae jidgae is easy to make, and most of the ingredients are available at any grocery store. Korean seasonings such as gochujang are available online, as are many great recipes, such as this one.

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