19 Food and Nightlife

Mikayla Faires

South Korea has a rich food and nightlife culture. Food is important to South Koreans. Food brings families together, which is vital to creating a strong bond. Meals are elaborate with many banchan (side dishes), rice, and a main dish like soup, noodles, or meat. Coworkers eat together on their lunch breaks to strengthen their bond. Coworkers and friends will go out to drink and Norebang (karaoke) to relax and have fun.


Image by jcomp on Freepik

Kimchi is a spicy fermented cabbage served in almost every Korean meal. Kimchi has different varieties, including radish, water, and cucumber kimchi. Communities produce large amounts of kimchi together in late autumn, so every family has enough throughout the winter. Basic kimchi has cabbage, garlic, scallions, ginger, gochugaru (chili powder), fish sauce, onion, and salt. When Koreans started using agriculture, they had to preserve their food in salt to keep it from freezing during the harsh winters. Kimchi is in writing during the Goryeo period when cabbage entered Korea. Originally, kimchi had radish because it was a local crop.


Image by jcomp on Freepik

Tteokbokki are spicy rice cakes made from rice flour, gochujang (Korean chili paste), gochugaru (Korean chili flakes), soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and Korean soup stock. Popular add-ins are fish cakes, eggs, and scallions. Tteokbokki is a popular street food sold in food stalls, markets, and restaurants in Seoul.


Image by jcomp on Freepik

Jjajangmyeon is noodles in black bean sauce, traditionally with pork belly and pickled radish. Jjajangmyeon is a popular take-out food, and it’s a tradition to eat Jjajangmyeon when moving houses because it’s an easy and convenient meal. Jjajangmyeon came from China in the late nineteenth century when Chinese men were sent to Korea by the Chinese military. It was a cheap meal to produce so everyone could eat after a long day.


Image by 30000006475 on Lovepik

Koreans eat seaweed soup on their birthday because during the Goryeo Dynasty, “people started noticing whales eating seaweed after giving birth. Traditionally the soup symbolizes and honors Samsin Halmoni, a goddess who helps women through pregnancy and childbirth.” Eating seaweed soup on one’s birthday is a way to show respect “for the one that brought them into this world.”

MYEONGDONG NIGHT MARKET                                                                                                                                                                               

Image by jcomp on Freepik

The Myeongdong night market is a famous market in Seoul that sells lots of street food. Popular foods include, but are not limited to, tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), Korean fried chicken, Gimbap (very similar to sushi), dumplings, fish cakes, and mochi. Myeongdong market is visited by locals and foreigners every day.


Image by gstudioimagen on Freepik

Noraebang is a popular activity after drinking with friends. Noraebang is done in a private room, not among strangers, which makes it less embarrassing. The rooms include big TVs, couches, tables, disco lights, and karaoke machines. Customers can order food and drink as well. There are many Noraebang places in Seoul.


Image by jcomp on Freepik

Soju is a colorless, distilled alcoholic beverage that comes in different flavors and is available in many restaurants in Seoul. Soju is the most popular alcoholic drink in Seoul and has specific rules. A person has to be served a glass of soju by someone else and must hold it with two hands to show respect. They must also drink the glass in one shot. If someone is offered a glass by their elder, they must accept it. Another popular drink is a soju bomb, where soju and beer are mixed.


The History of Kimchi, Everyone’s Favorite Side Dish – KORELIMITED                                                                                                      Kimchi: What Is It and What Are the Health Benefits? (
Tteokbokki (Spicy Rice Cakes) – My Korean Kitchen
Miyeok-guk – Wikipedia
Why do Koreans eat seaweed soup on their birthdays? The answer ‘whale’ surprise you (
Myeongdong Night Market | Best Street Food In Myeongdong (
Noraebang (노래방)–You Might Call It Karaoke | The Korean Way (
How to drink Korean soju – A World of Food and Drink (


Media Attributions

  • Image by jcomp on Freepik
  • Soju bottles and Korean side dishes on the menu


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Food and Nightlife Copyright © 2022 by Mikayla Faires is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book