Everyone loves the spicy sweetness and garlic pungency of Korean food, served with a panoply of banchan that contribute saltiness, crunch, sugar and chile burn. Korean food has never been more popular in Boston, and here are a few of the best eats in town for when you're craving that authentic flavor.
Why You'll Love It: At Cambridge’s iconic Korean barbecue palace, you sit around a grill table and cook your own meal—meats, fish, poultry and vegetables— which you into roll into lettuce wraps then dunk into dipping sauces. Try the galbi (short rib), bulgogi (rib eye), pork belly and beef tongue. The extensive menu also offers non-barbecue items—soups, stews, noodles, rice dishes and sushi. Regulars rave about Koreana’s excellent rice-flour pancakes, stuffed with seafood, kimchi and bits of vegetable.
Why You'll Love It: If you’re into homemade Korean noodles, you can slurp your way to happiness at Buk Kyung’s two area locations. There is a delicious selection of jambong spicy noodle soups, jajangmyum (noodles smothered in sweet black bean sauce with pork and potatoes) and gangjagang (noodles topped with spicy black bean sauce and seafood). If you don’t want to wear dinner home on your shirt, ask your server for scissors to cut the long noodles into easier-to-eat segments. Buk Kyung is also known for its excellent man-doo—stuffed, steamed and pan-fried dumplings.
Why You'll Love It: You’ve never had fried chicken until you’ve had Korean fried chicken, which was introduced to Boston by international chain BonChon Chicken in Allston six years ago. The chicken is deep-fried plain, dipped into batter and fried a second time, which renders out the fat and makes the skin taste like bacon. Brushed with soy-garlic sauce or not-as-hot-as-Buffalo hot sauce, this miraculously non-greasy chicken gives new meaning to KFC. There’s also a sushi counter.
Why You'll Love It: Beef stock takes center stage here, where the main dish is seolleongtang, a centuries-old soup made from slow-simmered ox bones, and served with brisket, marrow, beef tendon and noodles or rice, depending on your preference. Before today’s celebrity embrace of “bone broth,” Koreans esteemed seolleongtang for its healthful benefits and deep, long-cooked flavors. Order your soup solo or in combination with Korean culinary staples like bulgogi and kalbi.
Why You'll Love It: This is where to head for Korean home cooking. The family operated, 16-seat, no-frills, East Cambridge restaurant serves up dishes in generous portions with a garnish of pride. Try the dduk-bokki rice cake smothered in carmine red sweet and spicy pepper paste, the kimchi fried rice, or jigae tofu stew (either with kimchi or miso-like daeng-jang). Beef bulgogi (with rice, vegetables, fried egg, and incendiary mixing sauce) is bargain basement priced at $10.
H Mart & Reliable Market
Why You'll Love It: If you’re in town for the long haul and want to dine on Korean at home, H Mart in Central Square, Cambridge, and Reliable Market, in Union Square, Somerville, have all the ingredients and many ready-to-eat dishes that satisfy knowledgable and inexperienced Korean palates, alike. Each store boasts shelves of imported Korean and Asian foodstuffs, large produce departments, fresh fish, poultry, and meats, as well as dozens of prepared main dishes, banchan sides, and multiple varieties of kimchi.