Appetizers that are literally mandatory
Did you know it's customary in Korea to have something to eat while drinking alcohol, whether you're alone or with a group? In fact, it's practically mandatory at most Korean drinking establishments. Many first-timers to a Korean pub are often bewildered when their server keeps handing them back the menu after ordering drinks and insisting that they also order a side dish. These tapas-like appetizers and dishes are called 'anju," (pronounced 'ahn-joo'), and don't worry; we'll share a basic overview, so you'll be an anju pro the next time you find yourself at a Korean tavern.
First off, anju goes well with all kinds of drinks, especially beer. In Korea, there are usually three typical alcoholic beverages: soju, makgeolli, and beer.
Soju is a liquor made from either rice, sweet potatoes, or another starch, and is distilled to be clear. It's a neutral spirit on the sweeter side, but the sweetness is subtle and has been described as a buttery or malty vodka. Makgeolli, on the other hand, is a milky, off-white, and lightly sparkling rice wine that has a slight viscosity and tastes slightly sweet, tangy, bitter, yet astringent. And beer, is well, beer...
In Korea, drinking without food is like having wine without the cheese. The two go hand in hand and complement one another. Also, anju helps to soak up all that alcohol because, without it, you might be in for a killer hangover - good luck with that! Although you can munch on just about anything while drinking, these are common types of anju that pair well with alcohol or with any type of drinks.
Dried seafood, such as fish, squid, and seaweed, is a common anju and pairs well with soju and ice-cold beer. Similar to beef jerky in texture, dried pollock fish is the ultimate snack to pair with a crisp, light beer or soju. The salty, chewy, dried fish is also light and not too filling, leaving room for more flavorsome bites.
These particular dried pollack strips by Hwajini are available in the Kmall24 shop in two seasoned flavor varieties: spicy and mild. We recommend dipping these strips in a mix of mayonnaise, soy sauce, and chopped jalapenos or green chili peppers.
Fresh or Dried Fruits, Nuts, and Rice Puffs
Like in any bar in the West, salty nuts are a popular and easy anju in Korea. According to locals, they help absorb the alcohol. Other varieties of dry snacks can make their way into the anju mix, like a bowl of popcorn and even rice fruit-flavored cereal puffs called Yukwa. Speaking of fruit, both fresh fruit and dried fruit taste great with soju. This works especially well with fruit-flavored soju with a blend of oranges, strawberries, lemons, and apples.
Yukwa is a traditional Korean puffed rice snack with a unique texture and sweet flavor. The photo on the right is the more familiar variety of Yukwa, while the left is a simpler spin-off or substitute for the classic snack. Also, for the calorie-conscious, this crispy pomegranate roll can work well as an anju, and is available for sale by one of our Kmall24 sellers.
Anju is a way to bring people together over drinks, and allows people to share, snack and chat while unwinding from a long day. Fried, salty, sweet, savory, and spicy, try them all out, mix and match to find your favorite.
If this article has got you craving after some Korean anju, here are some items worth mentioning that are available to ship right to your door from our Kmall24 sellers.