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The Absolute Best Korean Foods To Pair With Soju

Keep these snacks in mind the next time you buy a bottle with your barkada.
PHOTO: istockphoto

An inuman session will not be complete without some pulutan. It's true whether you're knocking back a glass (or five) of wine with spicy tapas at a bar or sharing local beers and chips with your barkada at a house party.  
It's also true when you and your friends (or just you, happily alone) decide to recreate a K-drama scene and pick soju as your poison. And, to make your drinking sessions more pleasant, you have to pick the best food to pair with Korea's favorite alcoholic beverage.

Here's a list of Korean food you can try with soju:


Most—if not all—Korean barbecue joints in the Philippines offer soju to patrons getting their fill of grilled pork belly. It's the same in Korea, as samgyupsal is arguably the best food to pair with soju. The juicy, savory meat just complements the bittersweet drink. All that grease can help slow down the alcohol absorption, too, if you eat before drinking.
Pro tip: As this couple of vloggers would tell you, the best kind would be ~*fresh*~ samgyupsal (labeled "saeng" in Korean restaurants).

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Shredded Dried Squid

It's a humble yet popular anju (what Koreans call the food they eat with alcohol) that is offered in Korean bars. The simple salty treat gives your palate a break from intoxicating soju shots. If you're a Korean drama fan, you've probably seen this snack before. In fact, it was in a memorable scene in Encounter.
In the second episode of the drama, Park Bo Gum's character, Jin Hyuk, got all adorably drunk and pocketed a handful of shredded dried squid for bedtime. When his boss Soo Hyun (played by Song Hye Kyo) took him home in her car, he offered her a bite and forced her to chew on it so that she wouldn't be sleepy on the road back home. Haha!

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Surprise, surprise: Another pork dish! This one is boiled pig's trotters in soy sauce and other seasonings. Jokbal doesn't sound so appealing on paper, doesn't it? But the meat is so tender and tasty IRL. It's even on the expensive side of things when you see it on the menu in Korean restaurants.
Watch this ASMR-rich mukbang, and see how she just had to reach for a shot of soju in the middle of wolfing down pieces of jokbal.

Spicy Fish Stew

Called maeuntang in the Land of Morning Calm, spicy fish stew is the favorite food pairing of the average ahjussi for soju. Like how a Pinoy tito prefers papaitan with gin, older Korean men like eating hot soup with their soju. Traditionally, spicy fish stew is cooked with chrysanthemum greens that give it a herby taste.
This scene from Fight for My Way with Ae Ra's dad is actually a pretty common setup in neighborhood Korean restaurants that serve alcohol. A big pot of maeuntang is shared by the group as they finish bottles of soju.

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Pickled Radish

It usually serves as banchan (side dish) for Korean fried chicken. In the Philippines, you can buy packs of pickled radish at Korean grocery marts. Make sure to look for the diced white radish and not the yellow variety (although that does taste yummy, too, and pairs well with jjajangmyeon).
Picked radish was the favorite anju of Sunny (played by Yoo In Na) in Goblin. Okay, the scenes were sad when they showed it, but didn't they make you so curious if pickled radish does go well with soju?

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Grilled Shellfish

When you find yourself at a seaside province or city, why not indulge in some edible underwater treasures? Grilled shellfish like clams would be a perfect complement to your soju by the sea.

P.S. Wait for the clam to open before seasoning and eating them. (The opening is how you tell when they're done, but they don't open at the same time).
In Korea, Seoul residents even drive hours—all the way to the provinces like Daechon for grilled shellfish. In Listen to Love, the K-drama characters traveled to a seaside location despite nightfall.

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Grilled shellfish is also a special treat that you can't find just anywhere. In The Secret Life of My Secretary, Min Ik and Gal Hee (played by Kim Young Kwang and Jin Ki Joo) also enjoyed grilled clams with soju while awaiting some important news in the drama. (Well, Gal Hee enjoyed the soju, while Min Ik—the designated driver—stuck to soda).

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Instant Ramen

This last combo is quite easy to assemble—practically all major supermarkets have both items: instant ramen and soju. The saltiness of the broth makes it a nice chaser for alcohol.

You can experiment with different soju flavors or create cocktails with soju, and they'll all pair well with instant ramen. Or, you could get your drink on and save the ramen as your comforting hangover soup.
So, the next time you're planning Korean-themed inuman session, don't forget to prepare or order the best anju for your soju!

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