Don't Sound Like a Tool: How to Pronounce Korean Dishes

Categories: 'Eat' Extra, Audio
Don't Sound Like a Tool is SFoodie's series of audio pronunciation guides to sort-of-common-but-not-obvious words we keep encountering on wine lists and menus. No more shame, no more pointing, no more godawful imitations of a language you don't speak.

Ordering off a Korean menu can pose quite a challenge. Not only are most of the dishes translated differently, every restaurant seems to use a different transliteration from Hangeul characters. Is it kalbi or galbi? Is that doenjang jjigae the same thing as dwenjang chigae, aka the fermented soybean-paste stew Americans think of as Korean miso soup? The fact that the Korean government introduced a new transliteration system in 2000 has not helped. But don't let a silly thing like spelling steer you away from this pork belly, one of the dishes on the menu at To Hyang, which I reviewed this week:


To Hyang's samgyeopsal, or sahm-gyop-sahl.

I asked Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee, author of the Frommer's Guide to South Korea and Quick and Easy Korean Cooking, to read off a list of common non-barbecue dishes found on many Korean menus. Below, I used the now-standard transliteration system. It's logical, just as long as you remember to read eo as "uh," oe as "weh," ae as "ay," and the doubled jj's, kk's, and tt's as slightly stronger versions of those consonents. [You may need to turn up the volume ― I had to call Cecilia in L.A. to record this, and the phone connection wasn't great.]

Bibimbap (rice bowl topped with vegetables and meats)
Doenjang Jjigae (fermented bean-paste stew)
Haemul pajeon (seafood pancake)
JJajangmyeon (noodles with black bean sauce)
Maeuntang (spicy seafood hot pot)
Manduguk (dumpling soup)
Mul Naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles with beef broth)
Saengseon gui (grilled whole fish)
Samgyeopsal (sliced pork belly)
Sujebi (dumpling soup)
Tteokbokki/Ddukbokki (rice-cake sticks in spicy sauce)
Yukgaejang (spicy beef soup)
Yukhoe (beef tartare)

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