Korean cooking is pretty easy if you stock up on some essential Korean ingredients and learn how to use them.
This section of the Beginner’s Guide is going to tell you which ones to buy and what they can be used for. If you have any questions about or additions to this list, leave them in my forum. My readers will answer you nicely.
It’s divided into 3 parts:
- Essential ingredients are versatile, can be used in many dishes, and you should keep them in your house at all times
- Good-to-have ingredients are pretty flexible and you can keep them stocked in your house, or just buy them when you run out of them
- Specialized ingredients are mainly good for one or two dishes, so if you don’t like those dishes, you might not even need some of these at all
A note about brands
Some people really want to know what brands of ingredients I use, so I’m including them. I’m giving brand names only to help you find what you need, not because I’ve used every brand and think these are the “best,” or because I’m paid to promote these brands in any way. The truth is that I’m kind of a stubborn cook, and I usually just buy the same products that I’ve been using for decades rather than try new ones. It’s possible that there are more delicious and better products out there. Tell me about them on the forum!
Where to buy these ingredients
Since I started my website in 2007, it’s become a lot easier to find Korean ingredients in stores and online. But, it’s still not really easy. I hope that it gets easier in the future.
For now you can check the list of Korean grocery stores to find a store near you. This list was compiled by readers like you, so if you have a store that you go to that’s not on the list, please add it. If there’s no store near you, some stores in your country may ship to where you live, so be sure to check the list closely. You can also look at these online-only stores.
It can be difficult to shop for Korean ingredients or brands if you don’t read Korean. Sometimes there’s no English translation on the package, or the translation is a little unusual, or the Romanization of the Korean words is not what you expect. You may need to bring a Korean friend with you, or ask a Korean in the store to help you out.
For now, most Korean companies design their packaging for other Koreans. This is one reason I include big photos in the ingredients section on my website and in my cookbooks: so you can bring them to the store and compare the photo with what’s on the shelf.
Good luck with your Korean cooking!