Dining Out: Korean

How to choose healthy dishes when enjoying this cuisine

Plate with Chopsticks
Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Characterized by tabletop cooking and lots of condiments, Korean cuisine promises a variety of simple but robust flavors. Common ingredients include rice, noodles, mung beans, meat (especially beef), seafood, garlic, soy/miso, and kimchi (a spicy vegetable pickle considered the national dish of Korea).

Best bets:

Pindaettok (Korean pizza): Thick pancake made from ground mung beans and topped with marinated meat and vegetables.

Chongol: Strips of beef, sliced vegetables, and tofu cooked in simmering broth at your table. This is a great one to order because you can control what's added.

Bibimbop: A one-dish meal of rice, beef, and vegetables served with red-pepper sauce and kimchi on the side. An egg usually tops the dish.

Chopchae: Sautèed cellophane noodles often served with vegetables and beef (if desired). Your healthiest bet is to ask for vegetables only.

Surprise thumbs-up to:

Bulgogi: Although barbecue may not sound light, this dish―thin slices of marinated beef barbecued at your table and wrapped in lettuce with rice and spicy accompaniments―isn't bad if you forgo the dipping sauces, which can add a lot of sodium.

Tips for the savvy Korean diner:

Control your sodium intake by going easy on the dipping sauces.

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