Korean Meals in 10 Minutes or Less

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Use this list if you recognize any or all of these scenarios: You are hungry and tired and there's just “nothing to eat”. The kids are starving and are starting to nibble on each other's limbs. Your friends drop by, end up staying awhile, and you can now hear their stomachs growling. Your dog chewed up all your takeout menus.

These Korean meals are not full recipes, just guidelines to throw together some ultra-fast meals. I hope you can use these in a pinch, and also use some of the ideas to be creative with the contents of your own fridge and pantry. Although there's nothing groundbreaking here, it's hard to think when you're starving and that low blood sugar starts to kick in.

Some notes:

  • I hope you have a rice cooker and some of the meals only work if there's some rice actually keeping warm in your rice cooker. If you don't have one, then I suggest you go buy one. It's a good investment.
  • I am not including the time that it takes to boil water or broth. It takes just a moment to put a pot of water on the burner and no matter what you say, I'm not going to believe that boiling water is hard.
  • Kochukaru is Korean chili pepper powder and Kochujang is Korean chili pepper paste.

Leftovers Bibim Gooksu

Boil somyeon noodles, soba, or linguine. Cool under running water and serve with a dollop of spicy sauce (1 tablespoon kochujang, 1 tablespoon kochukaru, 1 tablespoon vinegar, ½ tablespoon honey, ½ tablespoon sugar), sesame oil, and slices of any fresh vegetables or protein you have in your fridge. Ham, leftover chicken, carrots, Asian pear or apple, canned tuna, sliced firm tofu, hard-boiled eggs, bagged salad greens, and cucumbers all work.

Fish with Beans and Rice

Heat some olive oil and a couple pats of butter in a saute pan. Put some white fish fillets and a little bit of chopped garlic, soju, and soy sauce in a saute pan and steam fish for about 5 minutes (or until done) with the cover on. At the same time, boil some frozen edamame. Serve with rice.

Dumpling Soup

Bring diluted store-bought chicken or beef broth to a rolling boil. Season to taste with splashes of soy sauce. Add frozen Korean dumplings (mandoo) and boil for a few minutes, until they float. Drop an egg or two into the soup when it's almost done cooking. Top with thin slices of roasted seaweed (kim).

Green Eggs and Ham

Make microwave steamed eggs and top with slices of roasted seaweed or sauteed spinach. Fry some ham or Spam. Serve with rice.

Korean “ Salad Nicoise”

Mix canned tuna with some leftover cooked rice, soy sauce, a couple drops of sesame oil, and chopped scallions. You can add mayo if you like, but you don't need to if you use tuna canned in oil. Plate with steamed green beans, hard boiled eggs, sliced red onions, and lettuce. Serve salad with spicy Korean dressing.

Korean Egg Drop Soup

Bring some diluted chicken or beef broth to a rolling boil and whisk in some raw scrambled eggs. Season to taste with splashes of soy sauce.

Fried Rice

Bokumbap takes 10 minutes if you have rice already made and you omit the kimchi.

Steak Salad and Eggs

Broil a thin steak, about 4 minutes per side. Slice steak and lay pieces on top of a salad of lettuce and chopped scallions with Korean dressing. Serve with bowls of rice topped with fried eggs, sunny side up.

Sort-of-Kimchi Soup

Boil about 8 cups of water. Meanwhile, soak Korean vermicelli noodles (dang myun) in hot water. When water is boiling hard, add finely chopped Napa cabbage, some chopped bacon, and a couple tablespoons of kochujang. Boil hard and add drained vermicelli noodles after 5 minutes. Add kochujang and kochukaru to taste. Serve with rice.

Korean Linguine with Clams

Steam some clams in a large covered saute pan with soju, minced garlic, and kochukaru until they open. Serve over linguine seasoned with olive oil, a couple drops of sesame oil, chopped chives, and kochukaru.

Chicken Katsu

Dip thin pieces of chicken breast in some milk, coat with panko bread crumbs, and pan-fry. Drizzle Worcestershire sauce on top. Serve with wedges of iceberg lettuce drizzled with thousand island dressing.

Hwe Dup Bap

We all have sushi-grade fish laying around, right? Nah, but if you just happen to be passing the fish store on your way home, then this Korean Rice Salad with Sashimi is a 10 minute meal.

Fast Soondubuchigae

Bring diluted store-bought beef broth to a simmer, then add chopped bacon and soft tofu. Season with splashes of soy sauce and about 1 tablespoon kochujang and 1 tablespoon kochukaru per soft tofu tube. Serve with Rice.

Pork and Tofu

Fry bacon and thinly sliced cabbage in kochujang, draining most of the oil as it cooks. Remove cooked bacon and cabbage, drain most of the oil, and saute slices of firm tofu in pan with drippings.

Dongchimi Gooksu

Cold Korean Noodles in a white kimchi broth.

Korean Pasta Salad

Boil rotini or penne pasta, cool under some running water, and toss with cubes of ham, cucumber, carrots, scallions, or whatever protein and veggies you have (tuna, celery, chicken, zucchini are all good). Coat pasta salad with last-minute dressing (3 parts store-bought Italian dressing, 1 part soy sauce, 1 part honey, and a couple splashes of sesame oil).

Fried Fish

Saengsun Jun with dipping sauce and microwave steamed vegetables, salad, or rice.

Wok and Roll

Stir-fry small pieces of chicken and onions in a sauce of kochujang and daenjang thinned with sesame oil and water. Serve with rice and steamed corn on the cob.

Breakfast For Dinner

Korean omelet (gaeran mari) with rice. Hopefully, you also have some banchan in your fridge.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Bring some diluted chicken broth up to a boil and then drop in some thinly sliced Napa cabbage, small chicken chunks, and Korean vermicelli. Season with soy sauce and add scallions at the very end. You can also add kochukaru if you want a spicy soup.

No Stove Meal

Microwave steamed egg, toaster oven broiled mackerel (rinse and lightly salt mackerel, broil for 3-4 minutes per side), and rice.

Drunken seafood

Stir fry squid rings (or baby octopus) and thin onion slices in a mixture of kochujang and soju. Serve with rice.

Veggie Heaven

Microwave steamed tofu and Hobak Jun (pan-fried zucchini). Dipping sauce on the side.

American Kimbap

Philadelphia Rolls (smoked salmon, cream cheese, and chives or cucumber) or Kimbap made with ham, cheese, and sugar snap peas. Instant miso soup on the side.

Seafood and Sausage

Steam mussels and sliced kielbasa in a mixture of garlic, Korean beer, and butter until the mussels open (about 5 minutes). Serve with steamed corn coated with butter and sprinkled with kochukaru.