Food Lifestyle

The Plate Exchange: Korean Cuisine at Christmas

Christmas comes but once a year, and one of the more prominent parts of this festive season is the food! But how can we incorporate our love of all things Korea into our Christmas dinner? Well, here are a few ideas on how you can add that Korean twist to your yuletide this year! Or if you don’t celebrate the festive season, then these are great foods for the winter season either way!

Persimmon Punch/수정과 Su-Jeong-Gwa

© Persimmon Punch, Maangchi, 20.10.2017,

© Persimmon Punch, Maangchi, 20.10.2017,

Mulled wine or cider is a popular drink at Christmas time, especially in countries in the northern hemisphere where Christmas is during winter. In Korea mulled wine is readily available, but if you want something a little more traditional, Su-Jeong-Gwa is the drink for you!

Su-Jeong-Gwa’s sweet persimmon flavour mixed with the warmth and spice of both cinnamon and ginger give this drink a very festive feel. Traditionally it is served chilled with adorning pine nuts. The pine nuts which you typically see floating atop each cup is actually not just for the aesthetic we are told, but they are used as a sign that the drink has a strong flavour and detoxifying effect, and should be consumed slowly.


Roasted Chestnuts/군밤 Gun-Bam

© Roasted Chestnuts, Lotte Plaza, 20.10.2017,

© Roasted Chestnuts, Lotte Plaza, 20.10.2017,

Although we’re not exactly sure when the tradition began, this has become a symbol of the winter season in many countries around the world, and Korea is no exception.

Not exactly chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but it is close! Gun-Bam is an essential winter street food in Korea. It is something most enjoy as a before or after work/school snack. You can find them being sold pretty much anywhere in the colder months and some vendors will sell them all year round, however, for the best flavour, winter is the ideal time to eat them!


 Sweet Pancakes/호떡 Ho-Tteok

© Hoteokk, Maangchi, 20.10.2017,

© Hoteokk, Maangchi, 20.10.2017,

Fruitcakes, fruit mince pies, puddings, gingerbread men, and many other yummy treats are the usual go-to’s when December rolls around, but what if you were to add something different into the mix, something equally as delicious and amazingly Korean that will wow your friends and family…

The sweet scent of cinnamon seeps into the cities and towns giving a warmth that every Korean is familiar with. People line up at all hours of the day and night to get their hands on this scrumptious treat.  The crispy-chewy texture of the outside and the heavenly gooey filling of brown sugar, cinnamon, nuts, and sometimes honey…yes it’s ho-tteok. This is probably the most loved and most looked forward to winter street-food in Korea.  The smell and the taste of ho-tteok remind us of Christmas! Ho-tteok is something we believe every person must try and eat, multiple times in the winter season.


Whole Chicken/통닭 Tong-Dak

© Tong-Dak, Tripadvisor, 20.10.2017,

© Tong-Dak, Tripadvisor, 20.10.2017,

When it comes to poultry at this festive time, turkey is the most common choice of meat. But in Korea, turkey is not a meat they would usually eat, in fact, you would have a very difficult time finding a turkey in any of their stores even if you wanted one. So, if you want a Korean style poultry fix this Christmas, you can’t go past tong-dak!

Tong-dak, also known as yen-nal-tong-dak 옛날통닭 (“old-time whole chicken”) originally began to make waves in Korea in the 1960-70’s when the  American soldiers posted there during the Korean War began to sell American style food to the public. When Koreans took the American style fried chicken and made it their own, tong-dak was born. To this day there are many family-owned restaurants all over Korea that still prepare tong-dak the original way, and have been for over forty years.


Boiled Pork Wrap/보쌈 Bo-Ssam

© Bossam, InspireMeKorea, 28.10.2017

© Bossam, InspireMeKorea, 28.10.2017

At Christmas time many families serve roast ham for dinner, but if you perhaps wanted to add a Korean zing to your feast, you could try Bo-ssam!

Bo-ssam has been eaten in Korea for many years, dating back as far as the Joseon period. The cut of pork meat, usually pork belly or shoulder, is boiled and then sliced thinly and served with either, salted napa cabbage, perilla leaves, or lettuce. You wrap the pork and other various side dishes in a leaf and enjoy! To give this a more Christmas feel, you could easily add cinnamon, clove, and honey to the water when boiling the pork!


Roasted Sweet Potato/군고구마 Gun-Go-Gu-Ma

© Roasted Sweet Potato, Seoul Travel PASS, 20.10.2017,

© Roasted Sweet Potato, Seoul Travel PASS, 20.10.2017,

No Christmas feast is complete without potatoes, mashed or roasted, you won’t find many western countries who don’t serve them on Christmas day in some form. In Korea however, if you’re talking potatoes, then you’re most likely talking go-gu-ma.

Koreans are pretty much in love with anything and everything sweet potato. The most popular way to eat sweet potatoes in Korea is roasted! When you buy a gun-go-gu-ma from a vendor they will give it to you wrapped in newsprint and it’s such a magical experience that just telling you about it doesn’t cut it! This is something you definitely have to experience for yourself to feel the magical-ness of this autumn/winter tradition. Roasting a whole sweet potato without removing the skin would be a very easy way to add something Korean to your Christmas meal!

Have you tried any of our suggestions before? Are you planning to? Have any ideas for us? Let us know! We would love to hear your ideas!

However you decide to spend this holiday season, we hope you have a very happy and safe Christmas season.

메리 크리스마스 from all of us at InspireMeKorea!

Want to experience more of Korean culture? Why not subscribe now to the Inspire Me Korea CULTURE BOX to receive a box of goodies sent to your door every month? We ship internationally! Find out more here

Featured Image Source: © Korean Flag Christmas Table, InspireMekorea, 20.10.2017,

Matthew Keeler

American-born Australian planning on making Korea my home. 4-Dimensional optimist :D Love life and live with no regrets. Be yourself, and treat everyone with kindness.^^



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