In Korean restaurants, you can’t always expect a menu to have an English translation.
A complete beginner might be handed a menu in Korean without any pictures for guidance.
This could happen when you’re in a less touristy restaurants which often means – better food!
For those of you who see yourselves in this scenario, here are some tips on how to read a menu at a Korean restaurant.
1. Asking for a Menu 메뉴판 요청
The original word for menu in Korean is “charimpyo“ (차림표) or “sik-sa-ryu“ (식사류).
However, Korean people do not use these words anymore these days.
Korean people just call menu “mae-nyu“ (메뉴) just like in English. But “mae-nyu-pan“ (메뉴판) which means menu panel or menu board would be more precise.
2. Reading a Korean Menu 한국 메뉴판 읽기
Korean menus are usually divided (나누어지다) into several categories like cold or hot (뜨거운) dishes, rice (밥) dishes, meat (고기) dishes or drinks (음료).
You can differentiate through the categories based on what you feel like eating.
You can also look at the flavors (맛) and cooking style (조리법) to see how the dish is made.
3. Flavors and Cooking Styles 맛과 조리법
For the flavors, there are usually spicy (맵다), sour (시다) and sweet (달다).
You can usually ask for less spicy if you are not so good at eating spicy food.
For the cooking styles, you can watch out for the words in front like stir-fried (볶다), grilled (굽다), deep-fried (튀기다), steamed (찌다) or boiled (삶다).
Korean main dishes are often seen with these cooking styles on the menu.
4. Noodle Dishes 면요리
For noodles, it is quite easy to watch out for. Noodles is called “myeon” (면).
So you can just watch out for any dishes that has a “myeon“ word. But there is also another word for noodles called “guksu“ (국수).
Examples of “myeon“ dishes are “ramyeon“ (라면), black bean noodles (짜장면), mixed noodles (비빔면).
Guksu dishes include knife cut noodles (칼국수) and banquet noodles (잔치국수).
5. Other noodle dishes 다른 면요리
As mentioned before, you can find noodle dishes from “myeon“ and “guksu“, but there are exceptions for two other noodle dishes which is japchae (잡채) and jjamppong (짬뽕).
Japchae is the famous stir-fried Korean glass noodles and jjambbong is the Korean Chinese spicy seafood (해물) noodle soup.
6. Rice and Stews 밥과 국/찌개 요리
If you feel like eating rice (밥), you can look out for dishes that have the rice word behind.
It usually goes like mixed rice (비빔밥), rice balls (주먹밥) or fried rice (볶음밥).
There is also soup with rice called “guk-bap“ (국밥).
Soup dishes in Korea comes in two different ways which is stew (찌개) or soup (국/탕).
Examples of stew dishes are kimchi stew and army stew while soup dishes have seaweed soup (미역국) or clam soup (조개탕).
7. Extra or Sides 재료추가랑 사이드 요리 (반찬)
On Korean menus, you also have the extra options (추가).
It means you can add on certain ingredients for your dish. Examples include cheese (치즈), onions (파), noodles, seaweed (미역), rice or rice cakes (떡).
While the sides menu, it will contain food like seaweed (김말이) or egg rolls (계란말이), pancakes (전), dumplings (만두) and spicy rice cakes (떡복이).
8. Drinks and Beverages 음료수
And lastly, there are the drinks menu.
Famous drinks in Korea include Fanta (환타), Milkis (밀키스), Coke (콜라), Beer (맥주), Soju (소주) and Soda (사이다).
For other drinks like tea (차), you can choose to order cold (아이스/차가운 음료) or hot (따뜻한 음료).
9. Please Remove “this“ “이거” 빼주세요
As for removing something that you can’t or don’t eat, you can just tell the waiter “yi-geo bbae-ju-sae-yo“ (이거 빼주세요).
You can just add the word (단어) of the thing you want them to remove like “yang-pa bbae-ju-sae-yo“ (양파 빼주세요) which means please remove the onions.
Other ingredients that are often asked to remove include peanuts (땅콩), garlic (마늘), chili (고추).
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