Anju – What to Drink and What to Eat

Youn Seng Min

 Hey guys and girls!

I hope you’ve had another wonderful week. Me? I’m still trying to get over the fact that I may have to retake a course next semester due to a horrible exam score. At least I get to retake the course. All’s well that ends well right?

Today I’d like to introduce to you an aspect of Korean drinking culture that is rather unique. Unlike in America where drinking is an activity in itself and you often hop around to different bars to drink and socialize, Koreans like to drink, seated, with a group of friends over some food. Although we do often go to bars that specialize in anju, we normally start off by going to a restaurant that specializes in the food item that we’d like to consume as Anju. Perhaps it’s because of the nasty taste of Soju or just a part of Korean culture; regardless, we always consoume alcohol with foods. We call these foods ‘Anju’.

Historically, alcohol was served to the general public in inns or taverns where different types of soups were served along side makgeoli(a traditional Korean drink). Now adays, different foods are considered to best complement different types of alcohol. Here’s a list of some of the best pairings that you should try out the next time you go drinking!

1) Soju and SamGyeopSal

This is one of the most common, yet the best combinations out there. The perfect denoument to the heavy, oily and salty flavours of the porkbelly is the bitter yet sweet tang that lingers after a glass of soju. Soju is also not as heavy as beer or other grain-based liquor so don’t worry about this duo being overwhelming!

Sometimes we would drink a glass of soju and then eat a Ssam(meat and various vegetables and sauces wrapped with the red lettuce that is always served at bbq places) as a chaser. Personally, I prefer this as I absolutely hate that lingering taste of soju. Another great chaser to soju is the doenjang jjigae(Korean soybean paste soup) that is always served as a side dish at Korean barbeques. I always slurp up at least five spoonfuls of soup after each glass of soju to wash away the pungent aftertaste of the mean greens.

2) Chimaek (Chicken + Beer)

Thanks to the prevalence of k-dramas and movies, this duo has gained popularity all over the globe. The freshness and coolness of the beer obviates the oily chicken from being overwhelming. Though I must warn you, they are quite heavy when consumed together. If you don’t watch out and eat too much, you may end up feeling sick.

If by any chance Korean beer is too bland for you, try concocting some so-maek! Mix a little Soju with beer and you will get something that tastes a little like a stout beer!

3) Makgeolli and PaJeon(Green onion pancakes)

A very traditional duo that is dear to most Koreans, is the combination of Makgeolli(Korean rice wine) and PaJeon(Green onion pancakes). Makgeoli has it’s own iconic taste that is accompanied by a heavily carbonated texture which really hits you on its way down. I’m not if it’s the slight sourness or the sweetness, but Makgeolli perfectly complements the oily and heavy flavours of the PaJeson.

Unlike chemical-based liquor Makgeoli is grain-based and is extremely taxing on your stomach. I’ve heard many stories, that start with Makgeoli, unfold in the most disgusting fashion possible. Really take caution when you drink Makgeoli! The moment you feel slightly bloated is a great time to stop.

4) BokBunja(Korean black raspberry wine) and Dry Anju(Dried squid, jwipo and peanuts)

Bokbunja wine is a traditional Korean frit wine made from Korean black raspberries. Although some varieties main contain rice and herb, Bokbunja wine is generally made by fermenting berries with water. The wine is of dark red colour and is moderately sweet. Its properties are much like your western wine and pair well with different kinds of protein.

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