Boasting some of the most delicious choices of food in the world, it is always good to learn common vocabulary and sentences related to food.
Below is a list of vocabulary you may find useful during a meal or in a restaurant setting.
김치 = kimchi
밥 = rice (or a “meal” or “food”)
반찬 = side dish
식사 = meal
물 = water
음료수 = beverage
맥주 = beer
소주 = a type of Korean traditional alcohol
막걸리 = a type of Korean traditional alcohol
콜라 = cola (Coke/Pepsi)
사이다 = “cider” (this tastes similar to Sprite/7-Up)
고기 = meat
돼지고기 = pork
소고기 = beef
해물 = seafood
재료 = ingredients
국내산 = some product/food from Korea
식당 = restaurant
맛집 = delicious restaurant
젓가락 = chopstick
숟가락 = spoon
포크 = fork
접시 = plate
그릇 = bowl
탁자 = table
상 = small traditional Korean table that folds out
냄비 = pot
냉장고 = refrigerator
김치냉장고 = kimchi refrigerator
냉동실 = freezer
메뉴 = menu
먹다 = to eat
마시다 = to drink
요리하다 = to cook
따르다 = to pour
주다 = to give
주문하다 = to order
시키다 = to order
계산하다 = to pay
내다 = to pay
비싸다 = expensive
싸다 = cheap
배고프다 = hungry (sometimes said as 배가 고프다)
배부르다 = full (sometimes said as 배가 부르다)
맛있다 = delicious
맛없다 = not delicious
There are some words in Korean that we don’t have a good word for in English:
짜다 = “salty”
In English, I would only ever say this word if something literally has too much salt on it. In Korea, they use this word to refer to anything that has been over-spiced, which is, in effect putting too much salt in something. Therefore, while it might be rare to hear somebody say that something is “too salty” in English, you will hear it every day in Korean.
느끼하다 = “greasy”
Korean people use this word to describe the food, or the feeling after eating a type of food that is very doughy. The biggest culprit of this in Korea would probably be spaghetti, but other things like Pizza, bread, doughnuts or other things with lots of cheese/wheat will make Korean people feel “느끼해.” The best way to combat this feeling in Korea is to eat something pickled, which means that pickles often come as a side dish when you order pizza or pasta.
고소하다 = “nutty”
Korean people use this word to describe the feeling/taste when you eat something that tastes “nutty.” It is hard to explain this perfectly, but the most common time you will hear this word is when somebody eats sesame oil (참기름).
아침(식사) = breakfast
점심(식사) = lunch
저녁(식사) = dinner
While the word for “breakfast” can be seen as “아침식사,” it is very common to refer to it simply as “아침.” Note that this word also means morning (hence, 아침식사 means “morning meal), but the context always makes it clear if you are referring to the morning, or breakfast. For example:
저는 아침에 일찍 일어났어요 = I woke up early in the morning
저는 아침을 먹었어요 = I ate breakfast
The same thing can be said for 점심 and 저녁.
For help memorizing these words, try using our Memrise tool.
Now let’s look at some specific sentences that you may find useful when in a restaurant setting:
건배! = Cheers!
어때요? = How is it?
이 게 맛있어요 = This is delicious
그 게 안 매워요? = Is it not spicy?
아직 배고파요? = Are you still hungry?
더 먹고 싶어요? = Do you want to eat more?
다 먹을 수 있어요? = Can you eat it all?
더 시킬까요? = Shall we order more?
소주를 좀 더 따라 줄까요? = Shall I pour you a bit more soju?
막걸리를 좋아해요? = Do you like 막걸리?
편히 앉아 = Sit comfortably
In Korea, it is common to sit on the floor during a meal. It is polite to first kneel in an uncomfortable way, and then be told to sit down comfortably.
Deciding What to Eat/Before Eating
뭐 먹을래요? = What shall we eat?
뭐 먹을까요? = What shall we eat?
뭐 마실래요? = What shall we drink?
밥 먹자! = Let’s eat!
점심으로 뭐 먹고 싶어요? = What do you want to eat for lunch?
그 식당이 어디에 있는 지 알아요? = Do you know where that restaurant is?
맛집을 핸드폰으로 검색해보자 = Let’s search for a good restaurant on my phone
식당은 은행 옆에 있어요 = The restaurant is next to the bank
그 식당이 오래되었어요 = That restaurant is old
주문할게요 = I’m going to order now
주문했어요? = Did you order?
뭐 시켰어요? = What did you order?
맛있는 것을 사 줄게요 = I will buy you something delicious
제일 맛있는 게 뭐에요? = What is the most delicious thing?
김밥 1줄 주세요 = One (line) of kimbab please
김밥 is in the shape of a line, so the counter they use for it is “줄” (which means “line”)
김밥은 얼마예요? = How much is (the) kimbab?
같이 먹자! = Let’s eat together!
저는 아직 안 먹었어요 = I haven’t eaten yet
저는 아무것도 먹고 싶지 않아요 = I don’t want to eat anything/I want to eat nothing
어떤 종류 음식을 먹고 싶어요? = What type of food do you like the most?
딴 것(을) 먹을래요? = Shall we eat something else?
You wouldn’t say this while eating and suggesting to eat something else. Rather, you would say this if you are trying to decide what to eat, and your friend suggests something you don’t like. As if you were saying “let’s eat something else instead.”
식사 할 거에요? = Will you eat?
The word “식사” is also used when people have some sort of soup/stew at a restaurant. For example, you might walk into a Korean BBQ restaurant, and only want to get a soup/stew. At this point, you can say “식사만 할 거에요.” This would often translate to “I’m just going to have a meal,” but in this context, it indicates that you are going to have this specific type of meal.
Asking for Something While Eating
여기요! = Excuse me!
(If you want someone to come to help you with something at a restaurant)
물 주세요 = Water, please
맥주 2잔 주세요 = Two glasses of beer, please
물을 갖다 주세요 = Please go and get me water
물을 이 컵에 따라 주세요 = Please pour water into this cup
삼겹살 2개랑 밥 2공기 주세요 = Two orders of Samgyupsal, and two orders of rice, please
소스를 더 주세요 = Please give me more sauce
소주 2병 주세요 = Please give me two bottles of soju
조금 더 주세요 = Just a little bit more, please
판을 바꿔 주세요 = Please change the pan
(This is common when eating Korean BBQ because the meat eventually burns the pan a little bit, so you need to change it for a new one)
잘 먹었습니다 = “I ate well”
If somebody buys/provides/cooks you with a meal, it is polite to say this after you are finished to show your thanks. It is also common in Korean to say this to people who you ate the meal with, even if they had no role in buying/providing/cooking the meal. For example, if you and all of your friends are at a restaurant, right before getting up to leave, they might all say this to each other. They would probably also say the same thing to the owner/cook/whoever when they leave the restaurant as well.
잘 먹었어? = “Did you eat well?
많이 먹었어? = “Did you eat a lot?”
Both of these are commonly said by older people in Korean to younger people (or people of the same age) to ask if they had a good meal.
점심은 어땠어요? = How was lunch?
점심을 먹었어? = Did you eat lunch?
무엇을 먹었어? = What did you eat?
식사 하셨어요? = Have you eaten? (formal)
밥 먹었어? = Have you eaten? (informal)
점심으로 뭐 먹었어요? = What did you eat for lunch?
저는 아침식사로 밥을 먹었어요 = I ate rice for breakfast
불을 빼 주세요 = Please take out the fire (common in a BBQ restaurant)
나는 그만 먹을래 = I’m done eating (I’m finished eating)
저는 밥을 많이 먹었어요 = I ate a lot of food (rice)
접시를 치워 주세요 = Please clear the plates (from the table)
계산이요 = Said when you want to pay for your meal at a restaurant
제가 낼게요 = I’ll pay
점심을 누가 냈어요? = Who paid for lunch?
저는 밥을 친구랑 저의 어머니랑 먹었어요 = I ate with my mom and my friend
2(이)차를 갈까요? = Shall we do round two?
(After a meal, it is very common for Korean people continue their outing with friends/coworkers by going to another restaurant or bar. They call this “Round two”)
많이 드세요! = Eat a lot (enjoy your meal) (formal)
많이 먹어! = Eat a lot (enjoy your meal) (informal)
맛있게 드세요! = Bon Appétit (formal)
김치에 재료가 많이 들어가요 = There are a lot of ingredients in kimchi
저는 어제 고기를 2번 먹었어요 = I ate meat twice yesterday
저는 지난 번에 돼지고기를 먹었어요 = We ate pork last time
저는 밥을 5시에 먹을 거에요 = I will eat at 5:00
저는 사흘 동안 밥을 안 먹었어요 = I didn’t eat rice for 3 days
저는 2주일 동안 한식을 안 먹었어요 = I didn’t eat Korean food for two weeks
저는 아침식사로 밥을 먹었어요 = I ate rice for breakfast
저는 보통 점심식사로 과일만 먹어요 = I usually only eat fruit for lunch
저는 빵을 친구랑 먹었어요 = I ate bread with a friend
저는 밥을 먹고 갈 거에요 = I will eat and then go
저는 엄마가 밥을 먹은 지 안 먹은 지 몰라요 = I don’t know if mom ate or not
밥을 먹은 지 5분 됐다 = I have been eating for 5 minutes
Things you might see written in a restaurant
어서 오십시오 = Come in!
물은 셀프입니다 = Water is self-serve
반찬을 남기지 마세요 = Don’t leave any ban-chan (side dishes)
반찬을 먹을 만큼만 가져가세요 = Only take the amount of side-dishes that you will eat
Korean restaurants display the country of origin of their food products. If the product came from Korea, you will see “국내산.” For any other country, the country name is placed before “~산.” For example:
소고기 – 호주산 = Beef – Australia
돼지고기 – 미국산 = Pork – America
김치 – 국내산 = Kimchi – Korea (domestic)
What do Korean People Eat?
Korean people traditionally eat rice with every meal. These days, with the continual influx of Westernized restaurants and eating habits, this doesn’t happen all of the time, but it is still the norm. The word rice (밥) is often used to refer to a meal in general, regardless of if the meal actually had rice in it or not. For example, if you just wanted to ask somebody if they ate, you could ask them:
밥을 먹었어? = Did you eat (rice)?
Rice is the staple food at the table, and each meal will consist of various different types of 반찬. “반찬” typically translates to “side-dishes” in English, but they are not a typical side-dish in the way western people think. To me, a side dish is something you order (and pay more for) when you go to a restaurant – like an appetizer or something like that. In Korea, 반찬 are pre-made foods that are often able to be stored for a long time (due to fermentation). At home, Korean people store all of their 반찬 in dozens of Tupperware containers in the refrigerator.
The most common 반찬 of all (both in Korea and worldwide) is 김치. Korean people have so many Tupperware containers full of 김치 at their house, most people have a separate refrigerator (that looks like a deep freezer) that holds only 김치.
During a Korean meal, various반찬 are spread across a table – in what looks to be an enormous amount of food.
Various side dishes (반찬) on a traditional Korean table (상) at a Korean house
During the meal, Korean people will eat their bowl of rice and have a few pieces from their various 반찬 along with their rice. At home, at the end of a meal, these 반찬 go back into their Tupperware containers and put back into the refrigerator for the next meal. At a Korean restaurant, you will be given anywhere between 1 and 15 (or so) different 반찬 to graze over with your meal. You can typically order more of any 반찬 you want as long as you keep eating it. Whatever you don’t finish at a restaurant will be thrown away.
Here are some examples of some common 반찬 you will find in Korea. The translations of these are meaningless in English mostly because we would never eat something like this in a Western Culture. Pay more attention to the Korean word and how it looks instead of trying to understand what the thing might be based on the English word:
(배추)김치 = (cabbage) kimchi
There are many types of kimchi, but the one that most people are referring to when they just say “kimchi” is the one made from Korean cabbage (배추). Although it can be called “배추김치,” saying “김치” usually is sufficient.
김 = seaweed
깍두기 = diced radish kimchi
무생채 = sliced radish kimchi
오이김치 = cucumber kimchi
총각김치 = radish kimchi
열무김치= radish kimchi
나물 = seasoned herbs/vegetables
콩나물 무침 = seasoned beansprout
Listing out all the 반찬 and explaining what each one is would take forever. There are hundreds of different types, and they all can’t really be explained in English.
In addition to the rice and 반찬, there are various soups (국) and meats (고기) that Korean people enjoy.
There are three different things that Western people might call “soup.” You will see many different foods ending with 국, 찌개 or 탕. The difference between them confuses me even to this day. If you ask a Korean person what the difference between 국, 찌개, and 탕 is they will say
“탕 is 탕, 국 is 국 and 찌개 is 찌개.”
Really, they are all very similar and it’s best to just know each individual food by its respective name and not worry about the difference between these three.
국 = this is more of a soup with one main ingredient and a lot of water
찌개 = this is more of a stew with less water and lots of things boiled up together
탕 = this is watery, but boiled for a long time and there is a bunch of stuff in it
Below are some of the more common and popular soups, stews, or whatever you want to call them:
미역국 = seaweed soup
만둣국 = dumpling soup
삼계탕 = chicken soup with ginseng
닭볶음탕 = stir fried chicken pot
해물탕 = spicy seafood stew
된장찌개 = bean paste stew
김치찌개 = kimchi stew
감자탕 = pork vertebrae stew
감자 also means “potato” in Korea, so many foreigners (and even some younger Korean people) incorrectly assume that 감자탕 should contain potatoes. You’ll often see potatoes in 감자탕, but I’ve heard that this is a modern phenomenon caused by people ordering 감자탕 and arguing that there is no potatoes in their “potato stew.”
부대찌개 = Army soup
(During the Korean war, the US military used to give extra food to Korean people on the street. This usually consisted of things like hot-dogs and stuff like that, so Korean people at the time took all the ingredients and made a stew out of it)
Korean meat is often fried in-front of you, and you typically do it yourself. This style of food is usually translated to “Korean BBQ” in English. Having a room full of people Barbequing their own meat in an enclosed restaurant usually results in a lot of smoke, and meat-smelling clothes by the end of the night.
Below are some of the more common and popular meats you will find Korean people eating:
삼겹살 = pork belly (similar to bacon, but thicker)
오겹살 = pork belly (but there are five layers of fat instead of three)
목살 = pork neck
갈비 = ribs
LA 갈비 = short ribs
닭갈비 = stir-fried chicken
불고기 = meet marinated in sweet soy sauce
삼겹살 with 반찬
In addition to those, below are some other common foods you will find in Korea:
김치볶음밥 = Kimchi fried rice
김밥 = A roll of rice and other ingredients wrapped in seaweed
떡 = Rice cakes
(Rice cakes are soft and doughy and are not the same as the dry rice cakes that we are used to in the West)
Mmm… so much delicious food.
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