Korean Food In Britain

Did you know that Korean food is one of the most popular types of cuisine in Britain right now? There are more and more Korean restaurants opening up, serving dishes such as bibimbap, bulgogi, kimchi and gochujang. Korean food has become so popular that even British celebrity chefs such as Tom Kerridge and Anthony Bourdain have tried their hand at Korean-inspired recipes. However, what exactly is Korean food? And why has it become so popular in Britain at this particular moment? To answer these questions, we’ll explore the history of Korean cuisine and some of its most representative dishes. Let’s get started!

What is Korean Food?

Korean food is a collective term for the traditional cuisine of Korea. First of all, it’s important to understand that there is no such thing as “Korean” food per se. The cuisine of Korea is as varied as that of any other country. However, there are some unifying characteristics that link all types of Korean food.

Korean cuisine is known for its use of fresh, seasonal ingredients. It’s also very health-conscious and vegetable-heavy, making use of a lot of fermented vegetables and beans. A lot of Korean food makes use of gochugaru, which is a type of red chilli pepper. Many dishes also incorporate soy sauce and fish sauce.

The History of Korean Cuisine

The history of Korean cuisine goes back to the Three Kingdoms Period (7th century AD). During this period, the Korean peninsula was divided into three kingdoms: the Baekje, Silla and Goguryeo kingdoms. Each of these kingdoms had its own sophisticated culture, and its diet was closely linked to that of the neighboring Chinese and Japanese. The foods of the period were rich and varied, and included rice, barley, millet, wheat, legumes, yams and taro, as well as various fresh and saltwater fish, birds and wild game.

The Goryeo period (935-1392) saw the rise of Buddhist temples, and a vegetarian cuisine that used a lot of tofu and mock meat dishes made from pulses, soybeans and wheat gluten. The Joseon era (1392-1910) saw a further simplification of the cuisine and the emergence of Korean table etiquette. All of these factors and more have contributed to the foods that we see in Korean restaurants today.

Bulgogi, Galbi and Other Marinated Meats

Bulgogi is a dish of marinated, barbecued beef, while galbi is a dish of marinated and grilled pork ribs. Both of these dishes are usually accompanied by a generous helping of assorted vegetables, and are often served with lettuce wraps. You can eat the meat with the lettuce leaves instead of rice, as they are very low in calories.

The kimchi that accompanies these dishes is made from fermented vegetables such as cabbage, radish and spring onions, and has become an iconic Korean side dish. It’s sour and spicy and is often eaten with everything – you’ll find it served at breakfast and dinner, but not as a snack. There are lots of other marinated and grilled meats on Korean menus such as galbitang (beef rib soup), dong-eo-jig-tang (pork spine and ox bones) and sundubu (soft tofu stew).

Kimchi and Other Side Dishes

Kimchi is one of the most well-known Korean dishes, but there are actually hundreds of different types of kimchi, each with its own unique flavor. Kimchi is made from fermented vegetables and is eaten at every meal and is usually served alongside bibimbap. Bibimbap is a rice bowl dish with white rice topped with an assortment of vegetables, meat and an egg yolk.

Most Korean restaurants serve a range of different side dishes alongside their main dishes. These include naengmyun, which is a cold noodle dish with a broth, gojuchang and edamame, which is steamed soya beans.

Rice and Noodle Dishes

There are a variety of Korean noodle dishes served in Korea, including naengmyun and shikkebab. These are often served with a variety of accompanying condiments such as gochujang (red pepper paste), doenjang (soybean paste), ssamjang (a mixture of gochujang and vinegar) and chopped scallions. Wheat-based dishes include bibimbap, haemul pajeon (seafood and green onion pancake) and kong-buk-gi (sweet and spicy stir fried chicken).

Another rice dish is dolsot bibimbap, which comes in a hot stone bowl. Like other bibimbap dishes, it is served with a variety of side dishes and a raw egg yolk.

Desserts: Try Mugunghwa and Maeshi

Desserts in Korean cuisine are heavily influenced by traditional East Asian desserts. For example, gureombu, a Korean variant of red bean soup, is very popular during cold weather. Mugunghwa is a Korean dessert made from dried purple sweet rice. This is placed in a pot with a sweet syrup, and then left to “age” for several months. It’s a very tasty and unusual dessert that is served either cold or at room temperature.

Maeshi is a traditional Korean rice cake dish. Different types of maeshi exist, but they all typically consist of rice mixed with honey and sesame seeds and then formed into shapes or baked in a mould.

The most popular dishes in Korea

  • Bibimbap: In Korean it means “mixed rice.” It is a very popular Korean dish that is eaten at all times of the year—even in the coldest of winters. It is a bowl of steamed white rice topped with sautéed and seasoned vegetables, a raw or fried egg, sliced meat, and gochujang (red pepper paste).
  • Japchae: A sweet and savory stir-fry made from sweet potato noodles, vegetables and meat, served with a sweet and salty soy sauce-based sauce. Japchae is a very popular Korean dish that is enjoyed at home by families and friends, as well as in Korean restaurants.
  • Kimchi Jjigae: This is a Korean stew made with fermented vegetables, meat, fish and/or seafood and a variety of spices, such as gochugaru, garlic, ginger, scallions and red pepper flakes. It is one of the most popular Korean dishes, enjoyed as a side dish or a light and healthy meal.
  • Korean Fried Chicken: This is a dish made with whole chickens or parts, which are marinated and then fried in vegetable or peanut oil. This dish has been gaining popularity around the world in recent years, especially in North America, Europe and Australia.


Korean cuisine has quickly become one of the most popular types of cuisine in Britain. This is due to a number of factors. Firstly, the rise of Asian food has made it easier to access authentic Asian cuisine, thanks to the increasing number of Asian-owned restaurants and the popularity of Asian fusion dishes. These changes have been accompanied by a growing interest in Asian culture and history on the part of Westerners.

These cultural and culinary trends have also been influenced by political developments. For example, the Korean pop culture boom of the late 2000s, as well as the hosting of the Winter Olympics in South Korea in 2018, have increased people’s awareness of Korean culture. This, in turn, has made it easier for people in Britain to try different types of Korean cuisine.