Whether you’re in NYC or LA, Koreatowns in the USA are culinary wonderlands. With bustling streets and neon signs beckoning foodies to explore the diverse world of Korean cuisine, there are more unique dishes than you might expect.
While everyone raves about the classics like bibimbap, bulgogi and BCD, there’s a whole universe of underappreciated Korean delights waiting to tantalize your taste buds.
Buckle up for a flavor-packed journey as we unveil the 11 most underrated Korean foods you must try in Koreatown!
1. Gamjatang: Pork Bone Soup Powerhouse
Warm your soul with a bowl of gamjatang, a hearty soup made with pork bone, potatoes, and vegetables. The rich and spicy broth will make you a believer in the comforting powers of Korean soups. Gamjatang is also a perfect hangover cure!
2. Bossam: Porky Perfection Wrapped in Leaves
Bossam is a Korean delicacy that often flies under the radar, but once you try it, you’ll wonder how you’ve been missing out. It’s a feast of boiled pork belly slices, served with a variety of condiments and wrapped in fresh, crunchy lettuce leaves.
The art of enjoying bossam lies in the assembly – create your own bite-sized wraps by adding garlic, kimchi, fermented shrimp sauce, or ssamjang, and pickled radishes. The combination of tender pork, bold flavors, and the satisfying crunch of the lettuce makes bossam essential for any adventurous food enthusiast exploring Koreatowns in the USA. It’s a hands-on experience that brings together diverse flavors in a single, delicious bite.
3. Japchae: The Stir-Fried Noodle Extravaganza
Japchae often takes a backseat to its more famous counterparts, but this stir-fried noodle dish deserves the spotlight. While being a holiday food in the motherland, you can easily spot it in K-town grocery stores and restaurants.
Made with sweet potato noodles, colorful vegetables, and a savory-sweet soy sauce, it’s a celebration of textures and flavors that will leave you wanting more.
4. Yukhoe: Korean Steak Tartare
For the adventurous foodie, yukhoe is a game-changer. It’s essentially Korean steak tartare, featuring raw, thinly sliced beef seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic.
Served on a bed of Korean pears, top it with a raw egg yolk for the ultimate indulgence.
5. Kimbap: Sushi Roll’s Korean Cousin
Often overshadowed by its Japanese counterpart, kimbap is a Korean rice roll that deserves a spot in your culinary adventures. Filled with a variety of ingredients like pickled radish, spinach, carrot, and protein of your choice, it’s a perfect on-the-go snack or light meal.
You can try Kimbap at Trader Joe’s, or any Korean grocery store in the States.
6. Bindaetteok: Pancake Paradise
If you think pancakes are only for breakfast, think again! Bindaetteok, or mung bean pancakes, are crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and filled with vegetables.
Often served with a soy-based dipping sauce, these savory pancakes are a delightful snack or appetizer.
7. Buchimgae: Korean Pancake Party
If you liked Bindaetteok, you’ve got to try Buchimgae, or Korean savory pancakes, that come in various forms and flavors. From kimchi jeon to haemul pajeon (seafood pancakes), these crispy delights are a fantastic way to explore different tastes.
Dip them in a savory soy-based sauce for an extra burst of zest. They make for a delightful and shareable appetizer during your Koreatown culinary exploits! Buchimgae is best paired with Makgeolli or Korean rice wine.
8. Soondae: The Hidden Gem
Move over, sausages! Soondae is Korea’s answer to blood sausage, and it’s worth a try. Stuffed with noodles, veggies, and pig’s blood, it might sound intimidating, but the combination of textures and flavors will surprise you.
Dip it in salt or ssamjang (southern style) for the perfect bite. Soondae is also Tteokbokki‘s best friend!
9. Eomuk: Fish Cake Fantasy
Eomuk, or fish cakes, are a popular Korean street food that doesn’t get enough credit. These savory fish delights come in various shapes and sizes, often skewered and served with a side of tteokbokki sauce.
It’s the perfect snack to satisfy your craving for something savory and slightly sweet. Have a sip of salty and soothing Eomuk soup in winter, and you’ll be warm and toasty in no time!
10. Banchan Bonanza: A Symphony of Small Plates
While not a single dish, banchan deserves a spot on this list for its often overlooked role. These complimentary small side dishes accompany your main meal and provide a symphony of flavors, from pickled vegetables to marinated tofu.
Don’t underestimate the power of these little wonders to elevate your dining experience.
11. Hotteok: Sweet and Chewy Pancake Surprise
If you have a sweet tooth, Hotteok is your new best friend. These sweet pancakes are filled with a delightful mixture of brown sugar, honey, chopped nuts, and cinnamon. Served warm, they’re a heavenly treat that will transport you to dessert paradise.
There you have it! The underrated stars of Koreatown, USA are waiting to be discovered. So, venture beyond the familiar and let your taste buds embark on a delicious journey through the lesser-known gems of Korean cuisine. Your palate will thank you!
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