How To Order Food In Korean: Useful Korean Restaurant Phrases

Want to know how to order food in Korean when you visit Korea? Worried about eating food that’s too spicy (or not spicy enough)? Need to know if dishes are halal or vegan-friendly? Eager to impress Koreans with your Korean language and dining etiquette knowledge? Then these simple Korean phrases for ordering food and eating out will be perfect for you.

Food is a great way to understand a culture and a meal is more than just a way to refuel your body. Being able to discuss the meal, offer praise, ask simple requests, and being able to ask for another glass of soju will help you make friends and show you want to learn more about Korea and its people.

This guide covers everything about Korean food phrases; from entering a restaurant and getting a table, to understanding Korean menu words, asking about food, and finally settling the bill. You’ll also learn how to ask for takeout food in Korean, give compliments, and explain dietary restrictions.

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Why Learn How To Order Food In Korean?

Travelling to Korea has never been easier thanks to Korean translation apps like Papago, which can turn foreign phrases into Korean and vice versa. However, these apps can be time consuming to use and feel less personal than being able to communicate directly with the person you’re talking to.

That’s why I’ve made a guide about how to order food in Korean; so you can learn a few phrases to use when eating in or taking out food when visiting Korea. Learning these phrases, as well as some Korean travel phrases, will help you understand more, make a good impression, and travel in Korea more easily and authentically.

This is more than just a guide to ordering food in Korean, however. I’ve packed in extra tips and insights about Korean food culture, how to get takeout in Korean, how to avoid embarrassing dining mistakes, etiquette tips for eating out in Korea, and the best ways travellers to Korea can enjoy all the amazing foods Korea has to offer.

Korean Restaurant Phrases Quick Links

To help make it easier for you to find what you’re looking for, I’ve broken this article into the following sections. Click the quick links below to jump straight there or keep reading through all parts.

A Note About The Korean Used In This Guide

Korean is a complex language and there can be multiple ways to say the same thing. In English, you might say ‘give me a pizza‘ or ‘I think I’d like a pizza, please‘ or just ‘pizza, please‘. They all mean the same thing, but can be easier or more difficult to understand for non-native English speakers. The same principle applies with Korean, which has various ways of saying the same thing.

I’ve tried to use the simplest Korean phrases to order food so that travellers can learn them more easily, and also so that Koreans will be able to understand you more easily. Comprehension is the key. Therefore, these Korean phrases for ordering food are designed for travellers who don’t speak Korean and have been simplified in places. Particles have been dropped where meaning is still obvious, and the grammar used is the polite form, which is the best form for talking to strangers.

If you’re interested in learning Korean and want to make more articulate sentences, then I recommend signing up to a dedicated Korean study website like Korean Class 101 or 90 Day Korean, which offer free learning materials and premium courses with personalised feedback and support. They can help you master Korean phrases to order food, how to make friends, and lots more.

Planning to visit Korea? These travel essentials will help you plan your trip, get the best deals, and save you time and money before and during your Korean adventure.

Visas & K-ETA: Some travellers to Korea need a Tourist Visa, but most can travel with a Korean Electronic Travel Authorisation (K-ETA). Currently 22 Countries don’t need either one.

How To Stay Connected: Pre-order a Korean Sim Card or a WiFi Router to collect on-arrival at Incheon Airport (desks open 24-hours). Alternatively, download a Korean eSIM for you travels.

Where To Stay: For Seoul, I recommend Myeongdong (convenient), Hongdae (cool culture) or Gangnam (shopping). For Busan, Haeundae (Beach) or Seomyeon (Downtown).

Incheon Airport To Seoul: Take the Airport Express (AREX) to Seoul Station or a Limo Bus across Seoul. Book an Incheon Airport Private Transfer and relax to or from the airport.

Korean Tour Operators: Tour companies that have a big presence in Korea include Klook, Trazy, Viator, and Get Your Guide. These sites offer discounted entry tickets for top attractions

Seoul City Passes: Visit Seoul’s top attractions for free with a Discover Seoul Pass or Go City Seoul Pass. These passes are great for families and couples visiting Seoul – you can save lots.

How To Get Around: For public transport, grab a T-Money Card. Save money on Korea’s high speed trains with a Korea Rail Pass. To see more of Korea, there are many Rental Car Options.

Travel Money: Use money exchanges near Myeongdong and Hongdae subway stations for the best exchange rates. Order a Wise Card or WOWPASS to pay by card across Korea.

Flights To Korea: I use flight comparison sites such as Expedia and Skyscanner to find the best flights to Korea from any country. Air Asia is a good option for budget flights from Asia.

How To Learn Korean: The language course from 90 Day Korean or Korean Class 101 both have well-structured lessons and lots of useful resources to help you learn Korean.

How To Get A Table In A Korean Restaurant

Korean restaurant spread of Korean BBQ and side dishes

The first step to eating out in Korea is finding a table. You usually don’t have to wait to be seated at a restaurant in Korea. Instead, you should go into the restaurant, find a table, sit down, check the menu, and order when ready. However, popular restaurants may have reserved tables (예약된 테이블).

Fast food restaurants in Korea, including franchise gimbap restaurants and other Korean quick foods, have kiosks to order at before you get a table. You might need a table number before placing your order, in which case you’ll need to get a table before you can order food at the kiosk.

If the restaurant looks busy, or you’re not sure whether you can get a table, these Korean phrases will help you know what to say and understand common responses you’re likely to hear. You can order food in Korean and get a table with a few of these simple phrases.

Is there a table available?자리가 있습니까?
Ja-ri-ga is-soom-ni-kka?
Eat in / Dine in여기서 먹어요.
Yoh-gi-soh mog-oh-yo.
Take out / Take away포장해 주세요.
Po-jang-hae ju-seh-yo.
How many people?몇 명이에요?
Myot myong-ee-eh-yo?
There are __ people.__ 명이에요.
__ myong-ee-eh-yo.
1 person한명
2 people두명
3 people셋명
4 people네명
Please sit here.여기 앉아주세요
Yo-gi an-a-ju-se-yo

Getting A Table Phrases Explained

명 (myong) means ‘person / people‘. When you want to ask for a table you can say the number of people in Korean followed by ‘myong’. Alternatively, you can just indicate the number of people with your fingers and the server will understand. Pointing and gestures are a great way to get by if you don’t know Korean numbers. For fast food places, you usually get your own table.

How To Read Korean Menus

Menu in Korean with English translations

If you’re travelling in Seoul or other touristy areas, you’ll find many menus have English translations on them, such as the one pictured above from a bindaetteok restaurant at Gwangjang Market. If they don’t have English translations, then they’ll probably have pictures that you can point to instead of having to order food in Korean.

These days it’s common for restaurants in Korea to use menu tablets fixed to the tables to order food, or automatic kiosks. The tablets sometimes have English translations, but not always. The menu on a tablet usually has headings along the side (e.g. starters, desserts, etc) to display what’s available.

For those brave enough to venture away from the touristy areas, or those who end up trying to read a menu that doesn’t have English translations or pictures, then the list of Korean menu items will help you work out your starters from your sweets. You can also learn how to ask for a menu.

Even though you might struggle with ordering food in Korean at one of these places, they’re usually the places with the best Korean dishes. Definitely try to find the non-touristy looking restaurants for authentic Korean food that will have you saying 정말 맛있다! (jong-mal ma-sshit-da!) – really delicious!.

May I have a menu, please?메뉴 주세요?
Men-yu ju-seh-yo?
Certainly, here you are.네, 여기 있습니다.
Ne, yoh-gi is-seum-ni-da.
Do you have an English menu?영어 메뉴 있어요?
Yong-oh men-yu iss-oh-yo?
Main Dishes메인 요리
Mae-in yo-ri
Side Dishes반찬
Soft Drinks (soda)탄산음료

Korean Menu Phrases Explained

You’ll notice that a lot of these words sound similar to their English meaning, such as menu (men-yu), starter (seu-ta-tuh), and dessert (di-juh-teu). You’ll see many ‘loan words‘ from English (or other languages) where there may not have been a Korean word when the thing was introduced.

This is common in many languages and makes it a lot easier for travellers who can speak English. When ordering food, you’ll find many non-Korean dishes have a similar sound to their English name, such as pi-zza, pa-seu-ta, ai-su-keu-reem, seo-si-ji. etc. If you want to order non-Korean food and don’t know the word, try just saying it in English.

반찬 (ban-chan) are one of the best things about eating out in Korea. These are Korean side dishes that come with Korean meals, which can range from a bowl of kimchi to a dozen small dishes packed with eggs, fish, meat, seafood, vegetables, crabs, pickles, pancakes, and so many other delicious nibbles. When you eat out in Korea, try to sample as many as you can. You won’t normally see them listed on a Korean menu, however.

How To Explain Dietary Restrictions In Korean

Vegan restaurant in Hongdae, Seoul

Korea has a wide range of foods that cater to people from around the world. Whether you like seafood, steak, salad, or a combination of all of these, there’s a Korean dish for you. There’s also a wide range or foreign foods to enjoy, some of them mixed with Korean dishes to create modern fusion food.

However, not everyone can or wants to eat the same thing. Some people choose to follow certain diets due to lifestyle or religion, whilst others may have an allergic reaction or intolerance to some ingredients. This section will introduce Korean phrases relating to allergies and dietary restrictions.

Halal Food In Korea

Muslim travellers to Korea who need to know how to ask about halal food in Korea, or want to know if halal food is served, can use the Korean phrase 할랄인가요? (hal-lal-in-ga-yo?) – ‘is this halal?‘. There are halal certified restaurants in Seoul, and places with halal goods are often well marked, as the picture shows. You can find halal restaurants in popular tourist areas such as Myeongdong and Itaewon. However, outside these tourist areas, it may be harder to find halal food. For halal restaurant recommendations, check out these halal restaurants In Seoul.

Muslim Friendly Restaurant in Korea
Think Vegan Restaurant Sign in Seoul

Vegan Food In Korea

There is a growing trend for vegan food in parts of Seoul and in areas such as Hongdae, Itaewon, and Gangnam you’ll be able to find several vegan restaurants. Some Korean food is naturally vegan, including Korean temple food and other vegan Korean dishes. However, vegan travellers to Korea outside these popular international areas might struggle.

If you want to say you’re a vegan in Korean, use this phrase – 나는 비건 채식을 해요 (na-neun bi-gan chae-shig-eul hae-yo). This means ‘I’m a vegan vegetarian‘. The word often used to refer to vegan is ‘비건‘ (bi-gan). This is an English loan word and not the actual Korean word.

To ask if something is suitable for vegans, you can say 비건 채식주의자가 먹을 수 있어요? (bi-gan chae-shik-ju-wee-ja-ga mog-ool su iss-oh-yo?) – literally: can this be eaten by vegans?

Warning: Be careful when you translate ‘vegan’ using translation apps as some might translate it to ‘vegetarian‘ (채식주의자chae-shik-ju-wee-ja), which is not the same as vegan. The Korean term for vegan, according to Papago, is 완전 채식주의자 (wan-jon chae-shik-ju-wee-ja) – ‘total vegetarian’.

The concept of veganism might not be understood by some Korean restaurants, so it may be safer to ask to exclude certain items with the phrase ‘___는 빼 주세요‘ (___neun bbae ju-seh-yo), which means ‘no ___, please‘. You can ask to exclude meat (고기gogi) or dairy products (유제품yu-je-poom).

As well as halal and vegan foods, these Korean food phrases will help you talk about other dietary restrictions and check what is inside certain foods, including the level of spice.

Is this spicy?이거 매워요?
Ee-goh mae-wo-yo?
Non-spicy, please.맵게 하지 말아주세요
Maeb-geh ha-ji mal-ah-ju-seh-yo.
I can eat spicy foods.매운 음식 잘 먹습니다.
May-oon oom-sik jal mok-soom-ni-da.
Does this have nuts?견과류 있어요?
Gyon-gwa-ryu iss-oh-yo?
Does this have ____?___ 있어요?
___ iss-oh-yo?
I have a nut allergy.견과류 알레르기 있어요.
Gyon-gwa-ryu al-le-loo-gi iss-oh-yo.
I have a ____ allergy.___ 알레르기 있어요.
___ al-le-loo-gi iss-oh-yo.
Do you have vegetarian food?채식주의자 음식이 있어요?
Chae-shik-ju-wee-ja oom-shik-ee iss-oh-yo?
Is this suitable for vegetarians?채식주의자가 먹을 수 있어요?
Chae-shik-ju-wee-ja-ga mog-eul su iss-oh-yo?
Is this halal?할랄인가요?
I can’t eat pork.돼지고기 못 먹어요.
Dwe-ji-go-gi mot mog-oh-yo.
No meat, please.고기는 빼 주세요.
Go-gi-neun bbae ju-seh-yo.
No ____, please.___ 는 빼 주세요.
___ neun bbae ju-seh-yo.

Dietary Restriction Phrases Explained

매워요? (mae-wo-yo?) means ‘is this spicy?‘. Another key Korean phrase for travellers to Korea who can’t handle spicy food that well (like me). If you’re concerned, point to a dish and say ‘mae-wo-yo?‘ to find out if it’s spicy. In my experience, many Koreans will say something isn’t really spicy as it’s not super-hot. That doesn’t mean it’s not still spicy though, so be careful. Korean levels of spice may not be the same as other places. If the dish is red, it’ll probably be spicy.

고기 (go-gi) is the word for ‘meat‘ and Koreans add this word to the animal’s name to make the type of meat. For example, pig (dwe-ji) and pork (dwe-ji-gogi), cow (so) and beef (so-go-gi), or chicken (dak) and chicken meat (dak-go-gi). However, fried chicken is usually just called ‘chi-kin‘. Fish meat is mul-go-gi, which translates to ‘water-meat’. Bul-go-gi, a Korean meat dish, translates to ‘fire-meat’, indicating the way it was cooked. Although bulgogi is typically beef, other meat can be served as bulgogi. Be careful when you order it if you want to avoid certain meats.

How To Order Food In Korean

Ordering food in a Korean restaurant

Now that you’ve worked out what’s on the menu, it’s time to use these Korean food phrases to order your meal. This might seem the most daunting part of ordering food in Korean, but is actually quite simple. Remember, you can always point to the thing you want to eat if you get tongue-tied.

You can order food in Korea in several ways, depending on where you’re dining. Table service is common in Korea, where someone will come to your table to take your order. Servers often won’t come to take your order until you shout out ‘저기요!’ (joh-gi-yo) – ‘over here’ or press a call buzzer.

When you’ve called the server to take your order, or pressed a buzzer to get their attention, they’ll want to know what your ‘order‘, 주문 (ju-moon), is. In case a server comes to your table but you’re not ready to order, you can tell them 잠시만 (jam-shi-man), which means ‘just a moment‘ or ‘hold on’.

These Korean phrases to order food will help you say what you want and ask questions of the server, including checking the price, how spicy something is, and asking for recommendations.

I’d like to order, please.주문할게요.
I’ll have ___, please.___ 주세요.
___ ju-seh-yo.
What is this?이거 뭐예요?
Ee-goh mwo-yeh-yo?
How much is this?얼마예요?
What do you recommend?추천하시겠습니까?
BBQ for 2 people, please.바비큐 2인분 주세요.
Bah-bee-kyu dul-in-boon ju-seh-yo.
Please don’t add __.__는 넣지 마세요.
__ neun noh-ji ma-seh-yo.
That’s all.그게 다예요.
Geu-geh da-yeh-yo.
One more, please.하나 더요 주세요.
Ha-na doh-yo ju-seh-yo.

Ordering Food Phrases Explained

주세요 (ju-seh-yo) means ‘please give‘ but can also be used to mean ‘please‘ when you order food in Korean. This is a really useful Korean phrase to learn and you’ll notice it appears many times at the end of these Korean phrases for ordering food. Whatever you want to order in a restaurant, you can simply point at it on the menu or directly and say ‘ju-seh-yo’.

이거 뭐예요? (ee-goh mwo-yeh-yo?) means ‘what is this?’ and is probably my most loved and used Korean phrase for ordering food, shopping, or exploring Korea. If you ever want to know what something is called, just point at it and say this phrase.

마세요 (ma-seh-yo) means ‘please don’t‘ and is often used in warning signs or when asking not to include things. If you have special dietary requirements, then this is a great phrase to learn. If you want to ask someone to stop or not do something, you should use the phrase 하지마 (ha-ji-ma), which literally translates to ‘don’t do‘. However, try to avoid using this unless you really have to or you’re with friends as this expression is informal and might seem rude.

셀프 (sel-peu) – In Korean restaurants it’s common to see a sign that says ‘셀프’ (sel-peu), which means ‘self‘. This is a self-serve area where you can top up on side dishes, water, etc., for free. In Korean BBQ restaurants this is where you’d get extra lettuce, kimchi, garlic, etc.

How To Ask For Takeout Food In Korean

Egg Drop sandwiches for sale in Seoul

Getting takeout at a Korean restaurant or cafe is a popular option, especially for light meals such as gimbap, toast, and coffee that you can enjoy outside. There is no extra charge for takeout and you might get discounts when you do. Restaurants have packaging and cutlery ready for takeout orders.

To ask for takeout food or drinks in Korean is really simple, just say 포장해 주세요 (po-jang-hae ju-seh-yo.) after you place your order at the counter, which means ‘takeout, please’. After you place an order in a restaurant or cafe, the staff will ask whether you want to eat in or take out if it’s not obvious.

You can state that you want to ‘dine in’ by saying 여기서 (yoh-gi-soh), or you can ask for ‘takeout’ by saying 포장 (po-jang). If you want to take uneaten food home, you can use the same phrase – ‘po-jang‘ – to get it boxed up to take out. Remember to add 주세요 (ju-seh-yo) to the request to make it politer.

When you go to a Korean restaurant or cafe that has an automatic ordering machine, the first option you’ll see is whether or not you want to dine in (여기서) or get takeout (포장). You should be able to figure out which is which by the pictures that accompany them (a table vs. a takeout bag or house).

Using Korean Food Delivery Apps

Getting food delivery is easy in Korea with Korean delivery apps, such as Coupang Eats and Yogiyo, allowing you to place a food order to be delivered direct to your location for a small fee (~4,000 KRW). I use Coupang Eats as the system is mainly in English and, with a bit of help from Papago, it’s easy to order food delivery. However, you need a Korean phone number and a Korean bank account to use these delivery apps, so going to the restaurant and asking for takeout food is usually the only option for visitors to Korea.

How To Pay For A Meal In A Korean Restaurant

Korean won cash and coins

Paying for your meal in a Korean restaurant comes at the start of your meal if you order via a tablet or automatic ordering machine, or at the end of the meal if you ordered at a counter or with a server. You will receive a bill on a small clipboard that you should take to the cashier when you finish eating.

If you haven’t received a bill, or you want to ask for clarification about prices, the Korean phrases in this section will help you discuss settling up, splitting the bill, and getting a receipt. Before covering these phrases, there are a few Korean cultural issues related to dining that’ll help when eating out.

Paying the bill: In Korean culture, where age and hierarchy decide social standing and respect, footing the bill may go to the oldest person. If the eldest (Korean) guest offers to pay the bill, it is best to accept their offer and find some way to pay them back in kind later on, rather than fighting about it.

Splitting the bill: If you’re eating out with friends and want to split the bill, there’s an easy Korean phrase for that. You can say 따로 따로 (dda-ro dda-ro) to the cashier to indicate that you want to split the bill. The cashier will either split the bill by the number of customers or you can pay for what you ate.

Payment machine in Korea
Sign in a Korean cafe stating it’s a cashless store

Best Ways To Pay For Food In Korea

Visitors to Korea that don’t have a Korean bank account might find it difficult or expensive to pay for goods & services with an overseas credit or debit card. Furthermore, fewer places in Korea are accepting cash payments as Korean society move towards becoming cash-free. This includes public transportation, cafes, and restaurants. Almost all places in Korea should accept card payments.

As paying by card is becoming the default way to pay in Korea, I recommend getting a travel money card, such as that offered by Wise, which is a prepaid travel card that allows you to pay in Korean won when you’re travelling in Korea. Alternatively, pick up a WOWPASS when you arrive in Korea. This is a Korean debit card that you can top up in foreign currency, also with great exchange rates.

However you decide to pay when you eat out in Korea, these Korean phrases for paying for your food will make sure you don’t make a meal of the situation.

Can I have the bill, please?계산서 주세요?
Gyeh-san-soh ju-seh-yo?
Here is the bill.계산서 여기 있어요.
Gyeh-san-soh yoh-gi iss-oh-yo.
How much is it?이거 얼마예요?
Ee-goh ol-ma-yeh-yo?
What’s the total price?전체 얼마예요?
Jeon-che ol-ma-yeh-yo?
Can I pay by card?카드로 낼 수 있어요?
Ka-deu-roh nael soo iss-oh-yo?
Can I pay with cash?현금으로 낼 수 있어요?
Hyun-geum-eu-ro nael soo iss-oh-yo?
Can we pay separately?따로 낼께요?
Dda-ro nael-gge-yo?
I’ll pay for everything.제가 다 낼께요.
Jae-ga da nael-gge-yo.
I’d like a receipt, please.영수증 주세요.
Yong-soo-jeung ju-seh-yo.
I don’t need a receipt.영수증 필요 없어요.
Yong-soo-jeung pil-yo ob-soh-yo.

Food Payment Phrases Explained

얼마예요 (ol-ma-yeh-yo) means ‘how much‘ and is another one of those essential Korean words you can use for ordering food, shopping, and so much more. Want to haggle for a new bag in the market? Just ask ol-ma-yeh-yo? Want to know the cost of a train to Busan – ol-ma-yeh-yo? It’s short and an easy Korean word to remember.

카드 (ka-deu) and 현금 (hyun-geum) mean ‘card‘ and ‘cash‘ in Korean. Korea is a card-friendly country and you can pay by credit card in many places. However, some places might only accept hyun-geum (cash). These include food stalls in traditional markets and on street corners.

영수증 (yong-su-jeung) is a ‘receipt‘. You’ll hear this word every time you buy something in a shop or eat in a restaurant. If you want a receipt, then nod your head and they’ll give you one. If you don’t want a receipt, you can practice another easy Korean word – 괜찮아요 (gwen-chan-ah-yo), which means ‘it’s ok‘ or ‘no thanks’ in this situation.

How To Discuss Meals And Food In Korean

Food is a form of ritual and in all societies there are certain words and expressions that we use when we’re about to eat something or we’ve finished enjoying a stomach-filling meal. Korea is certainly no different and there are plenty of Korean phrases discussing food that you’ll hear in any restaurant.

Korea is a culture based around harmony and sharing, which you can see in the meals with communal dishes shared by all, such as Korean BBQ. Pouring drinks for each other is common, as is an endless procession of toasts at a Korean dinner party in the local restaurant after work.

If you want to wish the others at your table a pleasant and happy meal, tell them 맛있게 드세요 (ma-shi-geh deu-seh-yo), which means ‘enjoy your meal‘ or ‘bon appetit‘. After the meal, show how satisfied you are by saying 잘 먹었습니다 (jal moh-goh-sseum-ni-da), which means ‘I really enjoyed the meal’.

Feeling hungry in Korea? Then say 배고파요 (bae-go-pa-yo) to say ‘I’m hungry’. It’s easy to eat too much at Korean meals, especially meals like Korean BBQ. If you’ve had enough and want to stop eating, then say 배불러요! (bae-bul-loh-yo!) to show you’re full. It literally means ‘my stomach is full’.

Here are some more Korean phrases to help you discuss your meal and to help you ask for things while you’re eating out in Korea.

Enjoy your meal.맛있게 드세요.
Ma-shi-geh deu-seh-yo.
How is your meal?음식 어때요?
Eum-shik oh-ddae-yo?
This is delicious.맛있어요.
This is too spicy.너무 매워요.
Noh-moo mae-wo-yo.
Please pass the gochujang.고추장 주세요.
Mool-ee jom pil-yo-hae-yo.
I need some water.물이 좀 필요해요.
Hyun-geum-eu-ro nael soo iss-oh-yo?
Let’s order more.더 주문해요.
Doh ju-moon-hae-yo.
I would like more __, please.___ 더 주세요.
___ doh ju-seh-yo.
Compliments to the chef.잘 먹었습니다.
Jal moh-goh-sseum-ni-da.
I’m so full!배불러요!

Korean Phrases Discussing Food Explained

더 (doh) means ‘more‘ in Korean and if you’re ordering food or want to get more of something, this simple word is all you need. Of course, be sure to add ju-seh-yo to the end to be polite.

너무 (noh-moo) means something is ‘too -‘, as in ‘too spicy’ or ‘too hot’. Once you learn some more adjectives, this is a great way to indicate how you feel about something. 너무 춥다 (noh-moo choop-da) – it’s too cold! If you’re travelling to Korea in winter, you’ll certainly say that a lot.

음식 (eum-shik) – you can’t talk about Korean phrases for ordering food without this word, which means ‘food’ in Korean. You can add this word to a country to ask for food from that place. For example, food from China (중국) is 중국 음식 (jung-guk eum-shik) and food from Mexico (멕시코) is 멕시코 음식 (mek-shi-ko eum-shik).

Cultural Tips When Eating In A Korean Restaurant

Here are a few quick tips about eating out in Korea and how to avoid cultural faux pas, taken from my guide to Korean etiquette and culture. These tips cover the whole dining experience, from entering the restaurant to eating politely and tipping. Learning these simple cultural differences will go a long way.

1: Remember to take off your shoes. If there is a raised entrance when you go into a restaurant, take off your shoes before entering. You’ll see shoe lockers to store your shoes in or leave them on the floor with the others. This usually only happens with traditional Korean restaurants.

2: Wait for elders to sit before you do. If you’re eating with a Korean family or co-workers, be sure to respect the age-based hierarchy and wait for elders to sit first. This also applies to your boss if you’re at a work social event.

3: Tipping isn’t necessary. I’ve lived in Korea since 2015 and never had to (or been able to) leave a tip. Except for a few restaurants in Seoul that might add a service charge, you won’t be asked or expected to tip staff in Korean restaurants.

4: Don’t pour drinks for yourself. This applies to social situations, not when dining alone or with your family. It’s said to be bad luck to pour your own drinks at a party. Be remembered for your generosity and offer to pour for others.

5: Help others before you help yourself. As with pouring drinks, Korean dining experiences are a communal event and you should consider others before yourself. This usually involves handing out chopsticks and spoons to others before eating, or offering dishes to people to try.

6: Use two hands when pouring drinks. This is a common etiquette rule that applies in several situations, including shaking hands and giving gifts or money. Keep two hands on the bottle when you pour drinks, or keep one hand on your arm as you pour.

7: Don’t lick your fingers while you eat. Even with the messiest food, you’re expected to use chopsticks to eat your meal (or a spoon). Licking your fingers is seen as unhygienic at best, but can also be considered rude to some Korean people.

8: Don’t stick your chopsticks upwards in rice. This is very bad etiquette as this looks like incense sticks used at Buddhist funeral ceremonies and brings bad luck. Avoid at all costs.

Pronunciation Tips For Ordering Food In Korean

Korean is a relatively straightforward language to pronounce, which is great news for people trying to order food in Korean as you won’t get your tongue tied up in knots saying what you want. Korean is a syllabic language, which means that if you pronounce each syllable clearly, you should be understood.

Most Korean words and syllables are pronounced as they are in English, but the vowel sounds can be a bit tricky. Here’s how to pronounce some of the vowel sounds used in this guide, as well as making soft vowel sounds using the letter ‘h’ at the end and double consonant sounds:

  • When you see ‘eu‘ in a word, it’s pronounced like the ‘oo’ in ‘boot’ but without rounding your lips.
  • When you see ‘a‘ in a word, it’s pronounced like the ‘a’ in ‘arch’.
  • When you see ‘ae‘ in a word, it’s pronounced like the ‘ay’ in ‘pay’.
  • When you see ‘oo‘ in a word, it’s pronounced like the ‘oo’ in ‘zoo’.
  • I’ve added in the letter ‘h’ after many vowels to show that they are pronounced ‘softly’. For example, ‘eh’ instead of ‘e’ to show that it’s not a strong ‘ee’ sound.
  • When two consonants are together, such as ‘kk’ or ‘gg’, pronounce them strongly in one sound.

Be patient and do your best when trying to speak Korean. I really hope you’ll have great success when using these phrases while you’re eating out in Korea. If you have trouble understanding what someone is saying to you, you can ask them to speak more slowly with the following phrase:

Please speak more slowly.천천히 말 해주세요
Chon-chon-hee mal hae-ju-seh-yo

Want to learn how to pronounce Korean words? Check out this video teaching you how to learn Korean pronunciation from the Learn Korean Free YouTube channel.

Learn Korean Pronunciation in 12 Minutes

Useful Tips To Order Food In Korean

I’ve eaten out in Korea way too much, it’s hard not to. The food is cheap, delicious, and there is so much variety, a lot more than people realise before visiting Korea. I’ve put together a few tips to help you get even more out of your trip and the delicious Korean meals you’re going to enjoy.

1: Korean food is cheap. Don’t be surprised by how much you get. However, food can get expensive, especially if you want to eat foreign foods. You’re in Korea and so I’d really recommend trying the local foods before looking for something more familiar.

2: Meals are often for two. Some meals will be for two or more people and will be indicated on the menu with – 2인 (2 people in Korean). If you see this, then the price is for the whole meal, not per person. This is a big sharing meal and are often much better than individual meals – check them out!

3: Understanding Chinese characters. Sharing meals (like those found in tip 2) usually come in 3 different sizes, which are represented by traditional Chinese characters. These are as follows:

  • 小 (so) – small portion
  • 中 (jung) – medium portion
  • 大 (dae) – large portion

A small portion is enough for 2-3 people. Remember, the meal will usually come with side dishes, too.

4: Eat at traditional markets. Korea’s traditional markets and Korean street food stalls offer the most amazing Korean food and are often cheaper and fresher than in a restaurant. Be sure not to miss them when you visit Seoul and other cities.

5: Indulge in side dishes. Traditional Korean meals typically come with side dishes, called banchan (반찬). These are included with the meal and if you ask for more, you can often get free refills. Don’t be surprised if you order a simple meal and end up with 10 or even 20 side dishes!

6: Wrap it up. If your meal comes with a bowl of lettuce leaves (or cabbage), you’re probably meant to use it to wrap the other parts of the meal. Eating a Korean BBQ is a really fun experience and one of the times it’s ok to get your fingers dirty. Pick up some meat, garlic, kimchi, and whatever else you fancy, and wrap it inside the lettuce leaf and pop it into your mouth.

7: Stay Hydrated. Restaurants in Korea always give you free water (sometimes iced tea). This is a great way to get free liquids during the day. Make the most of it as Korea can be hot, especially in summertime. Also, Korean dishes tend to be quite salty, so staying hydrated is important.

Korean Cookbooks To Make Korean Dishes At Home

If you’re not in Korea yet, why not try making delicious Korean foods at home instead? Here are some Korean cookbooks to learn how to make a range of tasty Korean treats. Start with the basics, such as tteokbokki and mandu, or jump straight into filling meals like kimchi jjigae and jjamppong.

Maangchi’s Big Book Of Korean Cooking

The book contains the favourite dishes by famous Korean chef and YouTuber, Maangchi. She has perfected many Korean meals over the years, from Korean barbecue and fried chicken to bulgogi and bibimbap. Discover Maangchi’s professional approach to Korean cooking today.

The Korean Vegan: Joanne Lee Molinaro

Joanne Lee Molinaro has captivated millions of fans with her powerfully moving personal tales of love, family, and food. In her debut cookbook, she shares a collection of her favorite Korean dishes, some traditional and some reimagined, as well as poignant narrative snapshots that have shaped her family history.

Wookwan’s Korean Temple Food

As the first volume of temple cuisine published in English, Wookwan herself has written an elegant volume that introduces the reader to Korean temple food, including what it means to care for the ingredients at each step of preparation, following the three key principles of cooking temple food, interspersed with her own accounts and tips among the recipes.

Korean Stone Bowl Cooking Pot

An essential part of many Korean winter dishes is the stone bowl (dolsot) cooking pot. This can be used to make dishes such as dolsot bibimbap, kimchi jjigae, and many other hot soups and stews.

Cookbooks not your thing? Check out the Baek Jong Won YouTube channel. He’s one of Korea’s most famous chefs and you can find his restaurants all over the place. He can teach you to make tteokbokki and many other tasty Korean winter foods.

분식집st 떡 볶 이🎉

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about how to order food in Korean. These answers are based on my own experience and from research conducted to write this article. If you have any more questions about this topic, please feel free to post a comment at the end of this article.

How do you ask for takeout food in Korean?

To ask for takeout food in Korean, you can tell the server 포장해 주세요 (po-jang-hae ju-seh-yo), which means you would like it to go. The word 포장 (po-jang) means ‘packaging’ and shows that you would like it boxed up to take out. The same word can be used for takeout drinks.

How Do You Ask For Halal Food In Korea

할랄인가요? (hal-lal-in-ga-yo?) – means ‘is this halal?’. There are many shops in popular tourist destinations in Seoul that have halal foods and they usually display signs to show that the place is certified as an authentic halal place.

How Do You Ask For Vegan Food In Korea

To tell someone you are vegan, you can say 나는 비건 채식을 해요 (na-neun bi-gan chae-shig-eul hae-yo) – literally: I am a vegan. To ask if something is suitable for vegans, you can say 비건 채식주의자가 먹을 수 있어요? (be-gan chae-shig-ju-wee-ja-ga mog-eul su iss-oh-yo?) – literally: can this be eaten by vegans?

Does Korea Have Halal Food?

Korean food is not normally halal, but there are a growing number of halal restaurants in Korea. These are mostly in Seoul and Busan, as well as other large cities. Popular areas with halal food in Seoul include Myeongdong and Itaewon. You can find signs in English where halal food is served.

What Are The Best Phrases To Order Food In Korean?

The easiest way to ask for something in Korean is to say what you want and add 주세요 (ju-seh-yo) to it. This means ‘please give’ and you can make simple sentences such as ‘pizza ju-seh-yo‘ (‘please give me a pizza’ or ‘I’ll have a pizza, please’). Another useful phrase is 얼마예요? (ol-ma-yeh-yo?), which means ‘how much is it?’. Together, these Korean phrases for ordering food will allow you to ask for the cost of something and to be given it. These phrases are also useful for shopping.

How Do I Ask The Price Of Food In Korea?

얼마예요? (ol-ma-yeh-yo?) – this translates to ‘how much?’ and is a very simple Korean word to learn for shopping and eating out. You can use gestures to point at what you want to know the price of, which can be very handy when looking around traditional Korean markets and in shopping centres.

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About the author

Hi! My name is Joel, I'm the author of In My Korea and writer of this article. I've lived, worked and travelled in Korea since 2015 and want to share my insights, stories and tips to help you have the best experience during your trip to Korea.

I love learning more about Korean culture, hiking the many mountains, and visiting all the coolest places in Korea, both modern and traditional. If you want to know more about my story, check out the 'about me' section to learn why I love living in Korea.

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