Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Drinking in Korea - Food (Anju)

One of the most important part of Korean drinking culture is the food. If you go out drinking Korean-style, you'll find that drinking and eating go hand-to-hand together. The food you eat while drinking, the Korean barfood, drinking food, etc. is called Anju (안주).


More after the jump.
Why do Koreans eat while drinking?

The answer is probably simple. If you drink on an empty stomach, you get inebriated extremely fast, and get sick/drunk/pukey real quick. Drinking is an occasion for socializing, meeting people, and enjoying. Also, kind of like how red wine goes well with red meat and white wine goes well with seafood, soju and other Korean alcoholic drinks go well with certain food (except for Koreans it's the food complementing alcohol, not the other way around). 

Traditionally, when serving someone drinks, Koreans serve a table full of food to eat. This generally consisted of: dried meat, dried fish and other dried food, Korean pancakes(전), slices of boiled meat, steamed dish, brass chafing dish, and other boiled food/souplike dish, raw fish, wild vegetables, kimchi, and/or fruits. When serving Sake, Korean pancakes, boiled meat, kimchi and few other dried dish were served. 
So drinking while eating has been a long tradition. And I ain't talking about eating some fries with beer, I'm talking about a full blown meal with drinks.

So What kind of food do Koreans eat with Soju?

Some of the generally popular Anju are : nuts, pretzels, fruits, dried squid.

I always ended up with these in Ktown Bars in LA...

Honestly, you can eat whatever the heck you want. But depending on whether you're drinking soju or beer the general rule says :

Soju goes well with Soupy(찌개) stuff. Sort of like Kimchi Soup (김치찌개) or Boodae Jjigae (부대찌개, similar to kimchi soup but has sausage, ham and other stuff in it). 
 Pic : Boodae Jjigae

Beer goes well with more oily stuff. Like fried chicken, sausages, and other fried things like tempura. 
Personally, I think fried chicken in Korea is 
a lot better than it is in the US for some reason...

If you're drinking Makguli (막걸리), Korea's traditional alcoholic rice drink, then Korean pancakes are delicious.  
Pic : Green Onion Pancake (파전)

The list of Korean Anju goes on and on. There's the everlastingly popular Jokbaal(Pork's feet), dried fish, all kinds of seafood, chicken gizzard, french fries, tofu and kimchi... 

If you ever go to a Korean bar, you'd be amazed how much variety of food they offer for bar food. If you live near Ktown, have Korean friends, live in Korea, or just interested in Korean things... Drinking+food culture is a must.


  1. Thank you for the detailed explanation. Very helpful! :)

  2. In the picture captioned "I always ended up with these in Ktown Bars in LA..." what are those exactly and do you have any idea how they're prepared?