Korea is at a geographical crossroads, so its cuisine is a blend of Mongolian, Japanese and Chinese elements, meaning a host of delicious dishes, many of them ideal for carb-conscious diners. Korea also has a long coastline, so fish, crab, shrimp, clams, oyster and squid all make up a large part of the typical diet. Some seafood is dried, pickled or used to make a paste. Fresh fish is usually grilled or stewed in a sauce.
On the Menu
Soups are popular in Korean cuisine, but they’re almost inevitably noodle-based. Pork, beef and chicken are also found in Korean dishes, often marinated and grilled, and served with rice or noodles. The defining flavors of Korean foods are garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and pastes made from fermented soybeans or chilies, which can lend considerable fire.
Korean chefs are experts at blending sweet, salty, bitter, sour and hot flavors. A good example of combined flavors is kimchi, which is an assortment of fermented vegetables such as cabbage, turnips, radishes or cucumbers, seasoned with hot chilies, salt, garlic, onions, ginger and oyster or fish sauce. Kimchi is one of the best-known Korean specialties, and you should definitely give it a try.
Watch the Sauces
Beef plays a significant role in Korean cuisine, so it’s a good choice for anyone who’s doing Atkins. Some dishes, like kalbi tang, a marinated beef-rib stew, are served with rice. The meat is delicious; just pass on the starch. Korea is also known for its barbecue (bulgogi). Thin slices of a premium cut of beef like rib eye, prime rib or sirloin are dipped in sauce and cooked over charcoal at your table. You take a piece of meat, add a bit of sauce, and roll it in a lettuce leaf and pop it in your mouth. A Korean restaurant may also offer barbecued chicken and pork; you might also find fish and squid bulgogi on the menu, but skip the sauce: It’s most likely sweetened with sugar.
A carb-smart Korean meal might start with a bowl of soup, an entrée of beef or pork, and an assortment of tiny dishes—sometimes as many as 10 or more—containing various sauces, pickles and preserved fish. You’ll enjoy the wonderful variety, without veering from your program.
Have This Instead of That
- Order tofu, either cold or fried, instead of the scallion pancake called pa jon.
- Try Twoenjangguk, a soup made with fermented soybean paste and baby clams, instead of Korean dumplings.
- Savor Shinsollo, a hot pot of meat, fish, vegetables and tofu, rather than any of the rice dishes.
- Enjoy any of the delicious barbecue dishes in lieu of a rice-noodle dish.