It’s always a pleasant surprise when you brace yourself for the harsh heat and humidity of the summer before stepping outside only to be met with a cool breeze and breathable air instead. You can relax a bit and enjoy the stroll home comfortably without having to worry about being drenched in sweat by the time you arrive. Finally, we can be thankful for the coming Autumn that is so close we can actually feel it, but the weather isn’t the only thing that changes. It’s the time for harvest and all of our favorite fruits are soon to be in season, but for those of us who aren’t spending the season in our home countries may stop and take stock of what seasonal foods Korea may have to offer. Maybe this is your first fall in Korea, or maybe you’ve never taken notice of the changes in menu options. So look and take note on what Korean seasonal cuisine you would be interested in trying this fall! After all, we can’t survive on our pumpkin spiced lattes alone.
So there are some items that are available year round, but you’ll find them to be especially delicious this fall and one of these items is rice, the main staple of any Korean meal. Though, due to the climate given for the peninsula rice is only harvested once a year and that time has come. Where once you may have picked up a casual serving of 떡볶이 (ddeokbokki) while strolling the streets late at night and thought it was so-so I implore you to give it another go. Made with the freshest rice available the 떡볶이 is bound to be more delicious with a slightly sweeter taste. Nothing really compares to a lightly grilled rice cake covered in spicy sauce or drizzled in honey. But this change isn’t limited to just 떡볶이.
You can also find the subtle savory change in whatever your favorite dish is that has rice, which is just about anything. Also available year round is any assortment of fruits. Most notable would be the delicious apples from the middle of the country in 경상북도 (Gyeongsangbuk-do) and 전라북도 (Jeollabuk-do). It’s even said amongst Koreans that those who eat plenty of apples throughout their lives are bound to be more beautiful so why not update your beauty regimen while treating yourself to a great snack? Following in line with delicious, sweet, and simple is the Korean pear. Much larger than most pears we may know and about twice as juicy for sure. A great way to enjoy them is in thin slices drizzled with honey though you’re more than welcome to eat them however you chose. Korean pears are so delicious you’ll even find them as part of the table setting during 추석 (Chuseok) which is commonly referred to as the Korean Thanksgiving. It doesn’t get more festive than that. There’s also the child favorite persimmon. Easy for parents to prepare as a snack, but also has the potential for a great dessert. If you let the persimmons, known as 감 (kam) in Korean, age until they become soft and juicy they will become sweeter as well and eating them in this way is known as 홍시 (hongshi).
But let’s take a moment to step away from the fruits and to jump into what is a personal favorite of mine. Porridge or 죽 (juke) is essentially the same as to what may come to mind when you think of porridge. The difference is that here in Korea it isn’t limited to just chicken or oats. You can get this warm creamy dish in a variety of flavors to include mushroom, chicken, pumpkin, abalone (for a shocking blue or green color depending on where you go) and even red bean known as 팥 (pat). These are some of the most common flavors though I’m certain you can find one of the many others to match your tastes.
After a great appetizer of porridge you may find yourself craving something else that has a little more substance to hit the spot. With the fall and harvest comes the influx of maritime commerce. Being that Korea is a peninsula you’ll be hard pressed to find a Korean who doesn’t enjoy seafood and that’s reflected in the many types of delicious dishes you’ll find come Autumn. There are so many types of dishes that there could be an article dedicated to it all its own, but I’ll share some of the most popular. There’s the plentiful 전어 (gizzard shad) which could be smoked, grilled, or pan-fried as well as the freakishly large, and rightfully named, 대하 (giant shrimp). Another favorite worthy of multi-media are the adorable looking 갑오징어 (cuttlefish) and 쭈꾸미 (webfoot octopus) which just may be too cute to eat, but as cute as they are you can bet they’re twice as tasty! Jumping up in the price is a commodity well-known to Korea due to the huge impact it has on the economy as well as the fact that merely fishing for it can cause tensions to increase between the two Koreas.
The Blue Crab or also known as flower crab (꽃게) are huge crabs with a blue-ish tint to their shell, particularly on their legs, whose breeding grounds fall off the coast along the 38th parallel. These tasty bad boys will run you about ₩10,000 per crab (approximately $8.00) and if you eat crab like the women in my family that can break the bank in on meal.
If you thought that was bad, another pricey item on the menu is 갈치 (cutlass fish). These are characterized by their metallic long slender bodies and their just as equally shiny price tags. One cutlass can run you anywhere between ₩50,000 and ₩70,000 depending on the market! That’s approximately $45-$60 for one fish!
Now, these are definitely great items to splurge on, but admittedly, not everyone has that kind of money for a meal or even likes fish to begin with. The last three items I would suggest you have are perfect for snacks to warm you up as you walk around breathing in the crisp air, or while you’re out enjoying the changing color of the leaves. First is the remarkably simple 고구마 (sweet potato) and while this is not too different from the yam or sweet potato you’ll find in the Americas, there is a slight sweetness that makes for munching on a steamed potato more appetizing than it should be. In a more traditional direction there’s 더덕구이 (grilled dodok root) which is a spicy rendition of a type of bell flower that is guaranteed to keep you warm and lastly, what can only best be likened to as a Korean spin on mulled wine, is 수정과 (sujeonggwa). Essentially sujeonggwa is a Korean traditional cinnamon punch made from dried persimmons, cinnamon, and ginger and is often garnished with pine nuts and can be served either chilled or hot. I would definitely recommend drinking it warm.
And there you have it. An introductory list for the dishes that will be popular this fall. If you ever find yourself itching to try something new just grab your nearest Korean friend and recommend any of the above dishes that grab your interest and I’m sure they’ll meet you with enthusiasm and you will most likely impress your friend with your perceptive and timely knowledge of Korean cuisine!
Were there any dishes I missed out on that you would recommend? Have you ever tried any of the above and have thoughts on it? Let us know below and don’t forget to like and share with your friends!