The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics are right around the corner. While the events are the main attraction of course, here at AllTheRooms, we always like to scope out some of the other, lesser known, often more delicious, draws. This unique opportunity is a chance for food-lovers to indulge their taste buds in the exotic and delicious flavors Pyeongchang has to offer as well as for regular travelers to find the best spots to eat in Pyeongchang whether they want to eat at the best restaurants, be a local eating at a street market, or cook their own food with local ingredients. Whatever the case may be, it’s always better to come prepared, so check out this guide to what to eat during the Winter Olympics.
As with other Asian gastronomies, Korean cuisine centers around fresh vegetables, rice and noodles, and meats. However, its distinctive flavor comes from a variety of Asian ingredients and spices such as sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, and fish sauce. Other specialty ingredients that make Korean cuisine tasty include Gochujang or Kochujang (fermented spice paste). Packing a lot of heat, this fermented soybean and red pepper paste is ever-present in any Korean Dish, either included in the preparation or as a side sauce. Gochugaru (red chili powder) is also a sweet, smokey and hot chili powder used for seasoning and as a garnish. Another fermented soybean is Doenjang (fermented bean paste), but this one packs a nutty flavor and is the base for soups and sauces. Finally, another distinctive ingredient of Korean cuisine is Ganjang (Korean soy sauce), which is similar to Chinese or Japanese soy sauces but tend to be less salty.
Cooking Techniques and Serving Style
One of the most common techniques used by people in Pyeongchang and South Korea, in general, is grilling. All kinds of sliced meats and fresh seafood are marinated and cooked over hot coals, both at home and in restaurants, as well as in street markets.
Most Korean meals feature some kind of soup, stew, or broth, sometimes even at breakfast. Stewing is a common cooking method used to break down tough pieces of meat and serves as a liquid refreshment since beverages are not commonly served at the table.
Pan-frying is also a staple of Korean cuisine. From pan-fried pancakes filled with kimchi, vegetables, mean, and/or seafood, to other dishes like tofu, meat, and fish are also commonly pan-fried.
Finally, another very widely used technique is pickling. Koreans use pickling techniques to make their traditional kimchi, which is a spicy condiment used in almost all dishes.
As far as the serving goes, Korean tradition is to serve food in several small side dishes called banchan, including vegetables, meats, seafood, and fish served all at the same time with plenty of rice. All ingredients are usually cut into bite-sized pieces and are served in the center of the table to be eaten with a set of chopsticks and a spoon.
Where and What to Eat
Home to top restaurants and buzzing street markets, Pyeongchang offers a wide variety of places to eat and dishes to try. Rated as some of the best in town are the Wow Daegwallyeong Hanwoo Jinbu, the Hanwootown, the Dakidakpam, and the Hometown Story, all of which serve everything Korean — from grilled delicacies to traditional pan-fried staples and side dishes that will make you a diehard fan of Korean food.
If your style is to feel more like a local, or if your budget doesn’t allow for fancy restaurant eating every day, visit the Pyeongchang Olympic Market for one of the most extraordinary street food experiences out there. Carts and vendors offer customers dishes that range from grilled and skewered meats and seafood to breaded and fried pastries filled with all sorts of toppings. Some must-try include egg bun & fish-shaped buns, Korean pancakes, Ho-tteok, Sweet and Sour Chicken () and Chicken Skewers (Dak-kkochi), Hoeori Gamja Special Hot Dogs, fish cake & Stir-fried rice cakes, and jab chae (Korean noodles), among many others.
For those staying in a place with a kitchen in Pyeongchang, cooking at home is a great way to save money and try to master some of the techniques of the local land. Being a modern region with all the comforts of modern life, Pyeongchang has plenty of grocery stores, supermarkets, and markets for everyone to find the ingredients they need to prepare food the way each one likes it. You’ll even find many western products, as well as the local ingredients to experiment with new flavors.