Drinking in Korea (1) – What is Anju?
One of the most fun things I enjoyed in Korea is the drinking culture. Koreans love their alcohol (and so do I!). There’s a wide variety of ‘uniquely-Korean’ liquor to choose from, and they are too affordable to resist!
What you should try (if you’re a newbie to drinks in Korea):
- Soju ( 소주 ) – I call this the Korean vodka. Very potent. Comes in many fruity flavours like green grape and grapefruit. You either love it or hate it, but you won’t deny that it’s cheap fun to get that TGIF buzz after a long hard day’s work.
- Makgeolli ( 막걸리 ) – My favourite. I call this the Korean rice wine. Fermented, which gives it a higher alcoholic content than beer, but not as high as soju. Be careful with this one, as it hits you faster than you expect.
- Beer (맥주) – You must be thinking – why is beer on this list?! Ah, Korean beer is a little more sparkling and refreshing than the European or American ones. Try it and you’ll know the difference.
Now on to the main agenda. Anju 안주. What is it?
Based on Wikipedia, “Anju is a Korean term for food consumed with alcohol. It consists of a variety of foods, including both main dishes and side dishes. Consuming food with alcohol is a widespread practice in Korea, especially when the alcoholic beverage soju is involved.“
In summary – Anju is the side dish to your mains – your alcohol of choice. Believe it or not, different types of anju or foods go extremely well with different types of alcohol. Follow my recommended pairings below to find out!
“What should I order with which alcohol?”
- BBQ – You will never see a korean BBQ table without the iconic green soju bottles. Soju, with that clean taste, makes a perfect drink to wash away the smokiness of the BBQ.
- Pancakes (Pa-jeon/Kimchi-jeon/Haemul-Jeon/any Jeon) – why does Makgeolli go so well with pancakes??? I honestly do not know. Maybe it could be the starchiness of pancake that blends well with fermented wine? Is this the same theory of why wine goes well with cheese? We’ll never know. Nevertheless, ‘pancake and makgeolli’ has never went wrong.
- Dubu Kimchi (Kimchi with Tofu)
- Korean Fried Chicken – Do you know why Koreans call it ‘Chi-Maek’? Chi stands for ‘Chicken’ and Maek stands for ‘
- Maek-ju’ – get it?!
Next time you’re dining and drinking in a Korean restaurant, do try out any of these combinations above and let us know what you think!