One of the driving forces behind starting KPOP Foods was to invite more people to discover and enjoy Korean food and flavors. It takes just a quick taste of any of our asian sauces to spot the distinct flavors that make Korean food so unique. Yet, despite this distinction, we’ve strived to make it as easy as possible to show how Korean food and flavors can best be integrated into American foods, and where the similarities best represent themselves. While most of us may not regularly consume the perfect savory and spicy combo that Koreans crave in their everyday meals, there’s certainly a place for these flavors in our favorite American dishes.
Below, we’ve outlined 9 different Korean dishes that look similar to classic American favorites. We didn’t go for comparisons between obvious Korean food like Galbi (marinated beef short ribs) and Ribs, Kimbap (roasted seaweed and rice) and Sushi, or Samgyeopsal (pork belly) and Bacon. No, we went for the ones you wouldn’t necessarily expect, and before you think, “These aren’t even the same,” we know. Our logic behind these pairings is the frequency and occasion of how these foods are consumed, and the overall vibe of the meal. Feel free to let us know if you disagree!
Jjigae vs. Chili
Just like the different types of chilis, Koreans have a variety of jjigae, or stews. Jjigae is typically made with meat, seafood, or vegetables in a broth that is seasoned with different pastes, such as gochujang (fermented Korean chili paste) and doenjang (fermented soybean paste). These Korean dishes are usually served hot and in a communal pot or bowl. Like chili, jjigae warms the soul and can be enjoyed for lunch or dinner, by yourself or with friends and family. Both chili and jjigae are also usually accompanied with other appetizers and dishes.
Rice vs. Potato
Koreans eat rice with pretty much every meal. It’s a staple in their diet and a primary source of carbs. I was torn between bread and potatoes, BUT potatoes won me over with their versatility and simplicity. Like rice, you can mix potatoes with just about anything. Fry, bake, steam, or stir, the possibilities are endless. You never really feel full until you’ve eaten your rice or potatoes.
Jjajangmyeon vs. Spaghetti
Spaghetti is an American classic. It’s easy to cook and tasty, just like jjajangmyeon. Jjajangmyeon is basically the Korean version of spaghetti using black bean sauce instead of marinara sauce. The widely popular Korean dish is actually an adaptation of a Chinese noodle dish made from fermented black bean paste sauce, diced pork, vegetables, and occasionally seafood. Both dishes are frequently enjoyed for lunch and dinner.
Tteobokki vs. Mac n’ Cheese
Tteokbokki is the mac n’ cheese of Korean dishes. Like mac n’ cheese, tteobokki is frequently served with cheese and can be a bit spicy. When I say a bit spicy, I mean a lot spicy. Instead of using macaroni pasta noodles, tteobokki uses small rice cakes that are also soft, chewy, and delicious. Tteobokki is made from rice cakes, cheese, and Korean gochujang - all stir-fried compared to the traditional oven bake of mac n’ cheese. Both dishes are simply irresistible and no shame, guilty pleasures.
Bingsu vs. Ice Cream
Bingsu is a popular Korean dessert that is both refreshing and delicious. Bingsu is shaved ice served with toppings such as sweet red beans, fruits, mochi, and condensed milk. Ice cream and bingsu are just as tasty on scorching summer days as freezing winter nights. It’s also a must-eat if you ever find yourself at a Korean sauna. Wait...Korean saunas have food? Yes, Korean saunas have refreshingly delicious Korean food and desserts, but that’s a story for another time. Bottom line: if you ever find yourself visiting one, make sure to indulge in Bingsu.
Soju vs. Water
In every restaurant across America, they offer you water, right? Well, in every Korean restaurant, they offer you soju. It’s not just restaurants, go to any Korean household and there’ll be bottles of soju in the refrigerator. I know because I’ve had bottles of Korean soju and beer in my fridge since I can remember, and the supply seems endless. And, like water, Koreans drink soju with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Read more about the different ways to drink soju.
Sam Gye Tang vs. Chicken Noodle Soup
Back when you were a kid and you’re sick, what did your mom make for you? Chicken noodle soup! Koreans do the same thing, except we stick the whole chicken into the soup along with rice, ginseng, garlic and jujube. Korean dishes like Sam Gye Tang (ginseng chicken soup) are eaten to promote health and replenish energy. Both these soups are my go-to when I need some serious rejuvenation.
Miyeokguk vs. Cake
When we were younger, we all looked forward to eating cake on our birthdays. Whether you eat a slice or the whole cake for your next celebration, no judgement. For Koreans, miyeokguk, or seaweed soup, is traditionally the first meal you eat on your birthday. Why, you ask? It all starts with your mom. Miyeokguk is the #1 meal given to postpartum moms due to the high iron and vitamin content in the seaweed. As such, Koreans eat miyeokguk on their birthdays as a reminder of all the hard work mothers put in raising them. Pretty sweet, right?
Kimchi vs. French Fries
Just like kimchi, french fries are EVERYWHERE. Wherever you go, french fries are offered as a side or included in the meal because they go well with everything from salads and soups to steaks. The same goes for Kimchi. You can literally eat it with anything - except maybe cereal and ice cream. Kimchi is offered as a side and is included in every Korean meal whether you go to a restaurant, get fast food, or order delivery. Kimchi is always offered free of charge with the purchase of any meal. Now only if that was true with french fries.