It’s estimated that less than 1,000 people in Kansas City speak Korean. With such a small group in a city of more than half a million people, you may think it’d be difficult to find a good Korean restaurant in Kansas City.
That, however, would be a false assumption. Despite being a relatively small percentage of the population, Korean cuisine is very present in Kansas City’s restaurant scene. There are all types of restaurants serving cuisine from the varying culinary traditions of Korea. You can find these Kansas City Korean restaurants in the Crossroads and Westport, in Overland Park and Independence.
This guide to Korean restaurants in Kansas City will help you find the right spot for a delicious Korean meal.
What is Korean Food?
You’re in for a surprise if you’ve never had Korean food before. This is a different dining experience. Not only are the flavors and preparation unique amongst some of the more common cuisines in Kansas City, the way Korean food is served is different, too.
When you go to a Korean restaurant in Kansas City, you’ll quickly find your table completely full of banchan. Banchan translates roughly as “side dishes” in American food-speak, but that doesn’t quite capture it. When you sit down, many Kansas City Korean restaurants will bring several small bowls to your table before you order anything. These could be full of veggies, meat or seafood. Banchan is like a side dish in size, but it is much more central to a Korean dining experience.
While munching on banchan, you can order your main portion of the meal. Your menu options will vary depending on which Kansas City Korean restaurant you are at. Generally, Korean food is served family-style. Rice or noodles are the foundation of most meals. Many dishes are pickled, salted or fermented in some way, and seafood is the primary meat. Vegetables and proteins are seasoned with sesame oil, chili pepper, soy sauce, garlic and other bold spices.
Korean cuisine is packed full of flavor, and there are many different ways to prepare it.
Korean BBQ in Kansas City
Korean food has developed its own version of barbecue. Everyone knows Kansas City has the best barbecue in the world. It’s only right, then, that this style of Korean barbecue is also plentiful in the Kansas City area.
Korean barbecue in Kansas City blends traditional Korean techniques with a more familiar style of grilling meats. The meal still involves banchan to be enjoyed alongside the BBQ. There are two primary elements that set Korean BBQ in Kansas City apart from its American cousin.
First, there’s bulgogi. This is the most common meat in Korean BBQ. It is thinly sliced sirloin marinated in spicy Korean sauces. Next, there’s kimchi, which is one of Korean food’s most popular dishes. Kimchi is spicy shredded cabbage. The bulgogi, kimchi and other ingredients are often loaded into a bao bun, which is pillowy, soft bread.
There are several places to enjoy Korean BBQ in Kansas City:
Finding Korean Food in Kansas City
Korean BBQ in Kansas City is great, but don’t let it distract you from other traditional Korean dishes you can find throughout KC. There are some great, family-run Korean restaurants in Kansas City. These eateries give you a taste of the diverse traditions in Korean cooking.
Korean Dishes to Try
You may find yourself at a loss looking at the menu of a Korean restaurant in Kansas City for the first time. Many restaurants still use traditional names on menus, which leaves customers scratching their heads and reaching for their phones to Google ingredients.
We want to give you a jumpstart. Here are a few traditional and modern Korean creations to try:
- Bulgogi: Thinly sliced meat, typically pork or beef, marinated in a soy-sauce glaze. Bulgogi can be made spicy or sweet, and served as a stir fry or in a bao bun.
- Bibimbap: A bowl of rice, veggies, and meat with a fried egg on top. Bibimbap is Korea’s specific version of ramen, essentially. The potential combinations of ingredients for a bowl of bibimbap are endless.
- Gimbap: Rice, vegetables and potentially meat wrapped in seaweed and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It looks like sushi, but it’s not. There is no raw fish in gimbap — just fresh goodness.
- Jjampong: Incredibly spicy noodles in a seafood broth, typically adorned with vegetables. Jjampong is not for the faint of heart or those with low heat tolerance. This dish is spicy.
- Kimchi: A traditional banchan made with salted and fermented vegetables, primarily cabbage and radish. Kimchi is often used on top of other foods, like bulgogi, but it can also be enjoyed on its own.
That should give you a good idea of classic dishes to try at a Korean restaurant. Now you’re ready for an authentic culinary experience at a great restaurant in KC.