In the Western hemisphere, breakfast traditions dictate pancakes, waffles, eggs, toast, sausage, and bacon, to name a few popular dishes. In Korea, though, breakfast doesn't call for any particular dishes—options typically include the same items that you would eat for lunch and dinner, too.
While there's a growing influence on breakfast foods from the West, a study published The FASEB Journal found that most respondents preferred a Korean traditional-style breakfast—that is, stews, rice, and side dishes known as banchan, to name a few—than American- or English-style meals, if they ate breakfast at all. In the same study, around 21 percent of those surveyed said that they skipped breakfast entirely.
Traditional Korean Dishes
Korean cuisine is full of meat, rice, and vegetables, so Korean-style breakfasts feature dishes that incorporate these, as well—although the same dishes are often served at lunch and dinner, too. Essentially, if it's sold in the morning, Koreans eat it in the morning. These dishes are usually accompanied by classic steamed white rice.
- Soups and stews: Koreans often enjoy soups and stews for breakfast. This might include haejangguk, considered to be a hangover cure, which consists of pork, cabbage, coagulated ox blood, and vegetables in beef broth, or galbitang, which is a thick soup made from short ribs.
- Meat-based dishes: Koreans are known for barbecue, especially the thinly sliced marinated beef known as bulgogi, which might also be served at breakfast. Other common meat dishes include samgyeopsal, which is unseasoned pork belly wrapped in lettuce leaves and served with kimchi.
- Banchan: In Korea, side dishes known as banchan are a common part of breakfast. This might include spicy cucumbers, lightly boiled spinach known as shigeunchi or black beans in soy sauce and sugar (kongjaban). However, kimchi — in all its endless varieties—is nearly always served with breakfast, as well as with all other meals. Kimchi consists of fermented vegetables, such as cabbage, cucumbers, or Korean radishes, that has been brined in garlic, green onions, chili peppers, and ginger. Other banchan dishes include namul, which are steamed, marinated, or stir-fried vegetables that have been seasoned with vinegar, garlic, chili peppers, soy sauce, and sesame oil, and jeon, which are like pancakes, but typically made from savory ingredients such as potatoes or scallions.
Street Food Breakfasts
Although Koreans eat similar foods all throughout the day, there are a few dishes that show up more commonly at breakfast. For example, a tost-u or gaeran tost-u is a breakfast sandwich that's sold by city street vendors. It contains eggs as well as cabbage and brown sugar. Street vendors also sell banana-flavored milk, banana uyu, Chapssal donuts made with sweet rice flour, and Korean egg bread, gyerangbbang. It's similar to a corn muffin that's topped with a cooked egg.
Growing Western Influence
More Koreans are buying into the idea of breakfast food, as the tradition dictates in America. Therefore, it's easier to find grocery stores and restaurants selling cereal, breakfast pastries, and standard egg dishes that would be familiar in the West.
Chung SJ, Lee Y, Lee S, Choi K. Breakfast skipping and breakfast type are associated with daily nutrient intakes and metabolic syndrome in Korean adults. Nutr Res Pract. 2015;9(3):288-95. doi:10.4162/nrp.2015.9.3.288