7 Western Foods in Korea That Are Nothing Like What You’d Find in the West


(GIF credit: 민호리따)

While you can get just about any Western food you desire in Seoul, you may be surprised by the way it’s prepared. Having been raised on rice, grilled meat, spicy soups, and pickled vegetables, many Koreans feel overwhelmed by certain flavors found in your everyday American and European foods. As such, they’ve modified many Western staple dishes to suit their palate. Sometimes it works out well… other times, not so much.

1. Sweet sauces… and sweet pickles?


(Instagram: donnarita_hikoco)

Most of the changes in Korean-ized Western food are centered around the level of sweetness. It may surprise you to learn that Koreans actually prefer sweeter foods when it comes to foreign cuisine. Although Korean food is quite savory, Koreans tend to find the same level of saltiness unpalatable when combined with a lot of oil and grease, or presented without white rice. Your typical marinara sauce in an Italian restaurant, or a curry in an Indian restaurant, will therefore taste a lot more sugary than you’d expect. To further cut down on the “greasy/salty feeling,” almost every non-Asian restaurant will offer a side of sweet pickles for you to chomp on.


(So… we’re just including this picture of Chanyeol because he visited the restaurant linked earlier and they posted it on their Instagram last week.)

2. If it’s edible, you can probably find it on a Korean pizza


(Instagram: misuny1224)

Korean pizza. These two words, when combined, strike a chill in the hearts of many foreigners. Even the most gastronomically adventurous expat is usually defeated by the sight, smell, and taste of a pizza loaded with broccoli, shrimp, steak, cream cheese, and cranberries. And if you think we’re describing several different pizzas, think again – this is just one of the latest pizzas offered by Pizza Hut in Korea. Other typical toppings include sweet potato paste, pineapples, and cream sauce. And yes, Korean pizza is sweeter than any pizza has a right to be.

Or if you totally roll this way and the prospect of a cranberry cream cheese shrimp steak pizza sounds too mundane for your tastebuds, fear not – Korean pizza chains generally offer garlic butter sauce or sweet chili sauce for dipping. Just in case you need more flavor.

3. Winner winner, (fried) chicken dinner (and beer)


(Instagram: ppiseul1)

Wherever you live, we hope that there’s a Korean fried-chicken joint around you, because if you haven’t gotten to enjoy Korean fried chicken, you are definitely missing out. Korean fried chicken differs from American fried chicken in that it’s fried twice, resulting in a pleasantly crunchy, thin, and light outer texture that makes a nice counterpoint to the juicy chicken meat inside. The chicken used here is smaller than your typical fried chicken, resulting in more tender meat.

There’s no one style of Korean fried chicken – you can get a plain fried chicken with a side of salt and pepper for you to dip your drumstick, or you can get a sweeter version coated with a delicious mixture of honey, soy sauce, and garlic. Yet other versions are fiery or cheesy. Regardless of the flavor you choose, what’s certain is that you cannot enjoy Korean fried chicken without beer. Koreans call this combination “chi-maek” (치맥), which is an acronym for “chicken” and “maekju” (beer). If there was ever a meal that seems most suited to evenings and late nights, chi-maek is it. It’s definitely a “kick back and relax after a hard day of work (or long night of partying)” kind of thing.

4. Waffles: No longer just a breakfast food


(Instagram: _honey_bin)

In the U.S., waffles are a breakfast dish served with maple syrup, or perhaps strawberries and whipped cream. In Korea, waffles are also sometimes served with strawberries, but are usually thought of as a good accompaniment to ice cream. They are served at cafes, usually with whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. You could still eat it for breakfast, we suppose, if you don’t mind having an insanely sugar-filled start to your day.


(Or if that’s just too much sugar overload for you, you can follow HyunA‘s lead and order a plain waffle. But we should mention that even this kind of waffle usually come in sandwich form with two scoops of ice cream inside!)

5. Hot dog!


(Instagram: jiyeonny87)

In the U.S. and elsewhere, when you order a hot dog, you receive a hot dog. In Korea, when you order a hot dog, you might get a hot dog. Or you might get a corn dog. Koreans don’t differentiate. It’s kind of like how certain tribes don’t have many words for “blue” because they don’t need to describe the color very often. Or not.

We really just wrote this so we could have an excuse to post this picture of a corn dog with fries and ketchup. Look at that.

6. Korean toast is a definite bread-winner

honey butter bread

(Instagram: jinhee7kim)

Many countries have their own variation of toast. In Korea, you can order this concoction of thick white toast glazed with butter and topped with honey sauce and whipped cream, at many cafes. There’s also a savory version which is covered with a thick garlic butter sauce. This dish is usually eaten with friends, so the toast is precut for easy sharing. Hint: If you’re ballsy, go first for that middle square that’s right underneath the whipped cream. That’s always the best piece. Your friends can eat those corner squares which have the highest crust-to-bread ratio and the least amount of sauce.

7. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers… and bulgogi burgers


(Instagram: song_youngbin)

To be fair, if you want a plain old American hamburger in Korea, you can totally get it; McDonald’s and Burger King do hamburgers the same way here as they do everywhere else. But they’ll also offer a special version for folks with a more down-home palate: the bulgogi burger, which is basically what it sounds like – a regular hamburger but with the same sweet bulgogi marinade typically found in Korean barbecue. McDonald’s and Lotteria (a popular fast-food chain in Korea) also offer a shrimp burger, featuring a fried patty bursting with full-sized shrimp:



(That’s it for us! We’ll just close with an older photo of Youngjae enjoying a burger… because it’s Youngjae and it’s a burger so that’s like double win.)

So what do you think? Have you tried any of these foods, or would you like to?

melkimx wonders which made you hungrier: the article, or the Onew GIF at the top.