What are some traditional South Korean drinks to try alongside street food?

Traditional South Korean Drinks to Try

South Korean cuisine is famous for its delicious, spicy, and savory street food. However, what many people miss when visiting South Korea is the wide range of traditional drinks that complement the flavors of their food. South Korea has a rich culture of traditional drinks that offer unique flavors and aromas. Some of the popular drinks include soju, makgeolli, and sikhye.

Soju is a clear, distilled liquor made from rice, wheat, or barley. It is the most popular alcoholic drink in South Korea and is consumed by locals as well as tourists. Soju has a distinct taste, is smooth, and has a high alcohol content. Makgeolli, on the other hand, is a milky, unfiltered rice wine that is slightly sweet and has a low alcohol content. It is often served cold and is a perfect complement to spicy street food. Sikhye is a sweet, non-alcoholic drink made from rice, malt, and sugar. It has a unique flavor and is often served as a dessert after a meal.

Pairing Drinks with Street Food

When it comes to pairing drinks with street food, one can never go wrong with soju and makgeolli. Soju is best paired with meat-based street food such as grilled pork belly, chicken skewers, and beef bulgogi. The high alcohol content of soju helps to cut through the richness of the meat, offering a perfect balance of flavors. Makgeolli, being a lighter drink, is best paired with spicy street food such as kimchi pancakes, tteokbokki, and spicy fried chicken. The creamy texture of makgeolli helps to soothe the palate and reduce the spiciness of the food.

Sikhye is often paired with sweet street food such as hotteok (sweet pancakes), bungeoppang (fish-shaped waffles), and hoddeok (cinnamon sugar pancakes). The sweetness of the drink complements the flavors of the sweet street food, offering a perfect balance of flavors.

Must-Try Beverages in South Korea

South Korea has a diverse range of traditional and modern beverages that are a must-try for any visitor. Other than soju, makgeolli, and sikhye, some other popular drinks include:

  • Bokbunja Ju: A sweet, fruity wine made from black raspberries.
  • Dongdongju: A cloudy rice wine that is slightly sour and has a low alcohol content.
  • Baekseju: A herbal liquor made from ginseng, cinnamon, and other herbs.
  • Yuja Cha: A sweet, citrus tea made from yuzu fruit.

In conclusion, South Korean street food and traditional drinks offer a unique culinary experience that is worth trying. Whether it is soju, makgeolli, or sikhye, these drinks complement the flavors of the street food, offering a perfect balance of flavors. So, the next time you visit South Korea, do not forget to try these traditional drinks and immerse yourself in the rich culture and culinary heritage of this amazing country.

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Written by John Myers

Professional Chef with 25 years of industry experience at the highest levels. Restaurant owner. Beverage Director with experience creating world-class nationally recognized cocktail programs. Food writer with a distinctive Chef-driven voice and point of view.

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