The Beginner's guide to Korean Cooking

Introduction to Korean ingredients

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!

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15 Comments:

  1. Priyakannan India My profile page joined 11/14
    Posted November 21st, 2014 at 10:15 am | # |

    Hello maangchi,
    i’m new to korean cooking. i want to make kimchi, but i don’t think i can get fish sauce in india easily so what can i do? Is there any ingredient that can replace the fish sauce?

    Your cooking is so good and i’m very happy to find your blog!!
    cheers from India!!

  2. Marcus Germany My profile page joined 11/14
    Posted November 18th, 2014 at 8:24 am | # |

    안녕하세요 Maangchi!
    You use always “CUP” as unit…. I wonder how many “ml” or “cl” one cup is!
    Please let me know because it is hard to follow your recipes without having such nice cups!
    Cheers from Germany,
    Marcus

  3. Minetski Philippines My profile page joined 8/14
    Posted August 27th, 2014 at 10:55 am | # |

    Annyeonghaseyo Maangchi ssi :) I’m your new avid fan. Just started watching your cooking videos this month August(can’t remembered what exact date, hehehe!). I’m curious about what’s the taste of Korean dishes that i see on Korean dramas. So this afternoon, I bought Hot Red Pepper Paste in a grocery store inside of a mall. It’s my first precious Korean ingredient that i found. But can’t find Hot Chili Pepper Flakes, they have only Chili Powder. Day after tomorrow, I’ll look for a Korean Grocery store so that i can start your delicious recipes to cook and I’ll post the photos here on your site. Planning to buy Korean Grill also. Thank you very much Maangchi :)

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted August 27th, 2014 at 3:37 pm | # |

      I found out that the packaging of some hot pepper flakes (gochugaru) have it translated as “hot pepper powder. Check out the inside, please. Usually you can see through the package.

      The only difference between hot pepper flakes and powder is coarseness. If they are coarse flakes, they are hot pepper flakes. If they are really like powder, that’s hot pepper powder. I use hot pepper flakes in almost all of my Korean cooking. I use hot pepper powder only when I make gochujang (hot pepper paste).

      Hot pepper flakes
      Hot pepper powder

      • Minetski Philippines My profile page joined 8/14
        Posted August 27th, 2014 at 10:38 pm | # |

        Thank you Maangchi for giving us the info about the difference between Pepper flakes and Pepper Powder. I don’t want to use other ingredient. I’m strict on cooking because i want to feel and the real taste as yours :)
        I am waiting on your next recipe tomorrow August 29. See you soon! LOL!
        Gamsahabnida Maangchi :)

  4. ChefetteRama Missouri, America My profile page joined 7/14
    Posted July 3rd, 2014 at 1:10 pm | # |

    Dear Maangchi.
    For my slumber party i want it korean themed. any tips or ideas. Im thinking of making jajanmyeon or baechu gook but i cant decide. Also could i use the same ingredients and spices for american beef than korean beef.

  5. mykitchenmore Golden, CO My profile page joined 5/13
    Posted May 20th, 2013 at 9:12 pm | # |

    Drove by a ‘specialty grocier’, to me anyways, and then spent an hour and ahalf in awe! So happy, love food, but know very little of Korean cooking.
    Would appreciate some help for a beginner and I have caucasian taste buds and want to explore!
    Have cooked many ethnic things over the years but have not gotten to the Asian ‘daily meals’. Only things offered in restaurants. Not many around me.
    Hope I don’t sound like a fool, because I REALLY want to go get those beautiful ingredients and cook away! Thx, Mary

    • Maangchi My profile page joined 7/08
      Posted May 21st, 2013 at 8:31 am | # |

      Hi Mary, I’m very happy to hear that this section helps you. It sounds like you love cooking and delicious and healthy food. Good luck with your Korean cooking! : )

  6. KyungMiHelloBaby Flint, MI My profile page joined 3/13
    Posted February 28th, 2013 at 9:40 pm | # |

    I have a Korean food shop near my school where I buy my ingredients. They come shipped all the way from South Korea.

    P.S. I loove this website! It’s so reliable and informative. I’m going to the Dakjuk. It looks delicious. ^_^

  7. snigdha singapore My profile page joined 1/13
    Posted January 25th, 2013 at 3:59 am | # |

    Dear maangchi,

    Can we roast white sesame seeds at home and store it and keep it in fridge? Or roasting has to be done immediately before preparing food?if yes,how long will roasted sesame seeds will last in fridge?

    thanks
    snigdha

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted January 27th, 2013 at 10:39 am | # |

      I posted how to roast sesame seeds here. http://www.maangchi.com/ingredients/sesame-seeds

      1.Wash 1 cup of sesame seeds in a colander with running water. Drain.
      2.Heat a pan or wok over medium to low heat and pour the washed sesame seeds into it.
      3.Stir with a wooden spoon until evenly golden and crispy. It will pop when it’s cooked. It may take about 10 minutes.

      You can keep it in the fridge up to about 2 months.
      I usually put about 1/2 cup of roasted sesame seeds in a jar or container and keep them in my spice drawer, and I keep the leftover sesame seeds in the freezer. When my sesame seeds container is empty, I fill it with the sesame seeds from the freezer.

  8. DubDiva United States My profile page joined 11/11
    Posted July 25th, 2012 at 10:21 pm | # |

    Hello Maangchi!

    Thank you so much for these handy little guides. Now I’ll know exactly what I need to buy.

    Your recipes are a real blessing for those of us who can’t eat wheat gluten. So many of your recipes are gluten free, yet they have so much wonderful flavor. :D


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