How To Order Food In Korea

Before I left, people kept asking me if I spoke Korean. A logical question, considering where I’m about to spend the next year of my life. The answer was, and still is, a resounding no. I’ve recently mastered “hello” and “thank you,” but something like ordering in a restaurant is still a challenge.

Some restaurants have pictures on their menu, making it easy for foreigners to order. Others trick you by having pictures outside of their restaurant, but a Korean-only menu inside. So, I’ve developed two methods for handling this.

The first is to simply point at something random and hope it is food and something you like. I’ve done this a few times with varying degrees of success. Alex and I went to a sushi place a couple weeks ago, and employed the point-and-order method. Unfortunately, all we ordered was some kind of drink. Apparently the food was 49,000+ won, so we had our drinks and made a shameful exit.

I’ve done this a couple times since and had more luck. I happened upon another sushi place while walking home from the gym this week, and saw a Korean menu outside with items listed, and the number of pieces that came with it. It had to be sushi or sashimi! So I went in, pointed out what I would like on the menu, said my gamsamhamnida’s and went on my merry way with some sashimi.

The second way to order food in a Korean restaurant is the I’ll-have-what-he’s-having method. At lunch the other day, Alex and I tried a new place near work that had a Korean-only menu. Alex ordered the dankatsu:

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I wanted to try something different, and the lunch that the businessmen next to us were enjoying looked pretty good. So when the waitress took our order, I pointed to their lunch. Turns out it was this:

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A curry dish with chicken, vegetables and of course, rice. Even better, I had our waitress point out the dish on the menu, wrote it down in Korean and took it back to school to have one of the teachers translate. Ordering food will be much easier once I learn to read some basics: rice, pork, vegetables, etc.

I would say the food situation has improved from my post last week. Cooking is a little difficult:

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I also get home so late, and am so hungry once I arrive, that cooking dinner is not all that appealing anyway. I have been making some good salads though. The only problem is that a small bottle of dressing is about five bucks.

Time to get ready for work. It’s Friiiiday!

PS The donkatsu at the place we usually go. I like the other one better:

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3 thoughts on “How To Order Food In Korea

  1. Well, you certainly have come up w/ some interesting food stategies! It’s good you’ve developed a sense of adventure in dining.
    I can’t believe how kind the Koreans are to foreigners. Very nice.
    Maybe a cooking fest on Sunday for week night leftovers? (Yoyu know me, always practical.)

  2. It looks like you’re having fun! I spent half a year in China last year, and had some of the same issues. My Chinese isn’t bad at all, but when I first came, I’d never really practiced using it in an outside of classroom situation. I’ve used just about every technique you’ve mentioned here… and I can attest to the fact that they don’t always work, but that they can sometimes turn out pretty good.

    • Haha, you really have to be ready to try anything and everything! I’m afraid I’ve learned little Korean since coming here but I can still get by. China must have been very cool though; I have a friend who just spent 9 months in Beijing studying Chinese. She loved it!

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