Chinese Food: Korean Style

If there is one food that is all over the world, it’s Chinese food. For most people, it’s not hard to believe that the food they eat at a Chinese buffet is not exactly what Chinese people eat every day at home, but what people don’t always realize is that Chinese food is not the same in every country. There were Chinese foods in Canada that I have never seen in the US and I have heard of differences in other countries as well.

However, nowhere (in my experience) is Chinese food as different as in Korea. I have heard that what is considered Chinese food in Korea comes from the northeast of China, but it is quite unique (except for fried rice: everywhere has fried rice). Here are the main dishes you see at Korean Chinese restaurants.

Jajangmyeon

Jajangmyeon (자장면): Jajangmyeon is kind of the go-to Korean Chinese food. It is noodles in a black soybean-based gravy. It doesn’t have a strong flavor, but it’s very good. There is also jajangbap, which is the same, but with rice instead of noodles.

 

jjambbong

Jjambbong (짬뽕): This is the other main Chinese food here. Jjambbong means something like “hodge podge” so it’s a mixture of many things. As you can see by the color, it is very spicy. Jjambbong consists of noodles and various types of seafood such as squid, mussels, sea cucumber, and if you get the expensive stuff, a lot more. It also has a lot of onions in it.

 

tangsooyook

Tangsooyook (탕수육): This is fried pork (or beef, if you want the really expensive stuff) served with a sweet and sour sauce. In some ways it is similar to sweet and sour pork in North America, although (in my opinion) it’s a ton better and also is a lot more expensive. A small serving is about $15 and a large is $20 or more. Of course, a small serving is enough for 2-3 people. This is one of those dishes that only comes in group sizes. Koreans almost always eat out together and so a lot of their food is geared towards groups (I have been turned away from restaurants for being alone, since they had nothing on the menu for only one person). This is one of my favorite Korean Chinese foods.

japchae

Japchae (잡채): This is the final mainstay of Korean Chinese food: japchae. This is perhaps a little more familiar looking. It is rice noodles mixed with meat and vegetables. It’s usually pretty mild, although some places make it really spicy.

Here’s what it looks like when you get it delivered:

chinese korean delivery

This is a meal that my wife and I ordered last November when we wanted to splurge. She got the fried rice and I got the jjambbong (lower right). The three-section dish in the lower center is a constant with Korean Chinese food: yellow pickled radishes (which are Korean, originally from Japan), black soybean paste, and raw onion pieces (not pictured, because my wife eats them immediately).

The tansooyook is in the middle, with a big bowl of its sauce. And as if that’s not enough food, they also threw in an order of mandoo, or dumplings, (upper right) for free. Because Korea is all about the free stuff.

They give you wooden chopsticks, but real spoons and real dishes. You eat and when you’re finished, you put them outside your door and the delivery boy comes and gets them later. I’m very glad this system works here, since using real dishes is so much nicer than styrofoam or paper.

I have grown very fond of Korean Chinese food but the problem is, that once I leave Korea, it will be very hard to find. It’s not Korean food, so you can’t find it in most Korean restaurants outside of Korea. And it’s not normal Chinese food, so Chinese restaurants don’t have any of it. There are restaurants in Korean districts, such as in New York or LA that have it, so I’ll have to make a trip to a city every now and then to get it. If you’re near a Korean district, I’d recommend seeking it out.

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About David Stewart

I am a writer of anything quirky and weird. I love most genres of fiction and in each there are stories that I would consider "my kind of story". View all posts by David Stewart

29 responses to “Chinese Food: Korean Style

  • EagleAye

    I notice a big difference in the Chinese food between the California and Texas. In short, not nearly as good in Texas. I haven’t tried east coast Chinese but I expect to someday. That’s some great looking food there. Now I’m hungry. Thanks.

  • MissFourEyes

    Wow, your pictures look amazing. I’m hungry.
    I really like the system with the dishes. I wonder how they make it work so well. Don’t they ever get the dishes confused with other restaurants? Or is it just the one restaurant that has that system?

    • David Stewart

      I think they must get them confused sometimes, although I guess they know their own pretty well. All restaurants that deliver use reusable dishes and you can get almost any kind of food delivered. Even barbecue and soup, I think, where they’ll bring a small burner to your house. I’ll have to do a post sometime about all the different kinds of food you can get delivered here.

  • The Bumble Files

    That’s so interesting how everything is geared toward groups and that you were actually turned away for being alone. That’s a cultural difference, which I kind of like actually. Food looks delicious, although different! The dishes…we talked about that…would never work here! Highly unlikely. I bet people would keep them. Do any other countries do the real dishes that you know about?

    • David Stewart

      I’m not sure. I’ve never lived in any other countries besides here, Canada and the US and Canada is pretty much like the States in that regard. It would be interesting to find out.

  • cocacolafiend

    I actually dated someone Chinese for two years. I always knew that what you get in Chinese restaurants is not real Chinese food, but never recognized a single vegetable I ate while at his house, apart from onions…

  • nightlake

    very informative and interesting. The first dish mentioned, Jajangmyeon, looks really tasty. Since it does not contain meat, it is perfect.. at least for me:) also like the idea of yellow pickled radish

    • David Stewart

      the jajangmyeon usually does have little pieces of pork in it, but it’s not essential so you could ask for it without that. I had a vegetarian friend who always got it that way. Are you near any Korean centers?

      • nightlake

        Nope, no Korean centres around my place:) But, it is usually difficult to get veg food in many parts of the world. The choice is very limited

        • David Stewart

          In Korea you can, but they do like meat too. There aren’t very many Korean vegetarians and most of what they eat when they go out together is meat, so it can be hard on vegetarians. I guess in most places, the main dish is usually some sort of meat.

  • bonesofculture

    Great post!

    But It makes me long for the Chinese restaurant across from the hagwon I taught at.

    My wife and I had a Korean-to-English menu for that restaurant, made by our thoughtful boss. We were down in Gyeongju, and we wandered into a Chinese restaurant.

    After several minutes of failing to make an order–the fault of our terrible Korean and awful accents–I pulled out the menu I just happned to have in my bag. Same food. Same prices (probably). Score!

    • David Stewart

      Yeah, there isn’t much variety between Chinese restaurants. The quality might change, but you pretty much know what you’re getting from one to the other. Are you still in Korea now?

  • Sharmishtha

    they look rich, spicy and scary 🙂
    are they good for tummy?

  • Luddy's Lens

    It is interesting the way cuisine adapts to the country it’s in (Mexican food in the U.S. barely resembles Mexican food in Mexico). I saw a documentary a few years ago on the Chinese diaspora as told through Chinese restaurants. I haven’t found it on disc, but here’s a link:

    http://www.linktv.org/programs/chinese

    That black soybean gravy really does look good!

    • David Stewart

      That’s very interesting. There’s a lot of culture in food. It’s strange, but Koreans have latched onto the idea that Mexican food = fried chicken. There is almost no real Mexican food in Korea, outside of Seoul, but Mexican Fried Chicken restaurants are really common.

      That sounds like an interesting documentary. I’ll take a look.

  • Kim

    The Tangsooyook and the Japchaelook delicious……but I would not want pork, I’d prefer beef….:)

  • Tammy

    You can find japchae in any regular Korean restaurant in the states. There are some Korean/Chinese restaurants in San Francisco and Oakland though, including Zazang Korean Noodle in San Francisco and YuYu Za Zang Restaurant in Oakland.

    • David Stewart

      I’m sure in California it would be easier to find Korean Chinese food, considering there are a lot of Koreans there. I know you can get it in New York City or Toronto. Interesting that they spell it as Zazang.

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