A Traditional Korean Breakfast Features A Variety Of Savory Side Dishes

Outside of the U.S., breakfast looks different in other countries. Eating the famously sticky natto beans, raw eggs, and rice is a typical breakfast in Japan. Across China, congee and warm soymilk are common breakfast items. And instead of omelets, French toast, pancakes, or bagels, a traditional South Korean breakfast features rice, soup, and a variety of savory side dishes known as banchan (or 반찬), such as kimchi, pickled or steamed vegetables, delicious Korean potato salad, or seasoned soybean sprouts. So, instead of using a fork and knife, you'll probably use chopsticks and a spoon at the South Korean breakfast table.

The banchan we mentioned often accompanies steamed white rice, soup such as haejangguk (a Korean hangover soup made with seaweed, mushrooms, cabbage, and other ingredients), and a small portion of meat or fish like grilled mackerel. Other popular Korean breakfast soups include manduguk, or dumpling soup. Sometimes, breakfast in South Korea or a South Korean diaspora household could also consist of reheated leftovers from lunch or dinner, including seafood pancakes and kimchi stew. 

Convenient and Western-style breakfasts are gaining popularity across South Korea

Another common South Korean breakfast dish is gimbap, or seaweed rice rolls. When sliced, gimbaps resemble sushi at first glance but are usually made with cooked vegetables, eggs, and meats rather than raw fish. Gimbaps are convenient and filling and readily available in convenience stores. While it is still common for South Koreans to enjoy traditional breakfasts featuring a variety of side dishes, over on Reddit, users also reported eating on-the-go items like toast, sandwiches (like convenience store egg sandwiches), and pastries from Asian bakeries.

Additionally, you can easily find Western breakfast items in South Korea. In fact, Western and processed food items have gained popularity as breakfast dishes there in recent years. Coffee shop culture has flourished in South Korea in the form of dabangs, with 70,000 cafes and counting now spread across the country. There are at least 25 unique themed cafes in Seoul alone. Most of these cafes serve Western-inspired food, including American and English-style breakfast dishes. Tasting Table has also covered Gilgeori toast, South Korea's savory go-to breakfast sandwich, which is making a resurgence across the country.