My non-fan friends are always baffled every time I complain feeling hungry after binge-watching K-dramas. They don’t understand how the characters make Korean food so savory and mouth-watering, you suddenly crave for 떡볶이 (tteokbokki), 김밥 (gimbap), or 계란말이 (Korean egg roll).
Food is a vital part of Korean culture. Having a meal together is a way for Koreans to socialize and build relationships with each other. In the previous segment, we also learn how Korea’s drinking culture strengthen camaraderie of a group. Seeing how food and drinking is important for this East Asian country, it was no surprise there is specific food that is served to accompany alcoholic beverages.
Let’s learn more about Korea’s Anju snacks. Kaja!
안주 (Anju) refers to food or snacks served together with alcoholic drinks. For Koreans, eating while drinking makes drinking more fun. They also believe that eating protects them from getting drunk too fast and suffering from a hangover. Anju is often served in shareable amount enough for a group.
Where to find anju?
If you’re in Seoul, the answer is everywhere. There are countless bars and pubs in South Korea that served popular anju and drink combinations.
Korean drama fans are also familiar with pop-up ten bars called 포장마차 (pojangmacha) that lined-up busy streets of Korean cities. Its cozy atmosphere attracts working-class Koreans and young professionals. Pojangmacha is also inexpensive compared to other places that served alcoholic drinks.
마르넌주 (Marun anju) are dried snacks usually served when drinking Western liquors like whiskey or vodka. Many Koreans assume salty foods help to absorb the alcohol. They also served other finger foods as anju like fish jerky, rice crackers, sweet dried squid, dried anchovies, shrimp crackers and nuts.
치맥 (Chimaek) is a popular anju for beer. Because of its popularity, there are a lot of food stores that specialize in the combination of chicken and maekju (beer). Chimaek also enjoyed a surge in popularity in western countries in recent years.
Other savory foods are also the most popular type of anju because its taste is flexible a range of alcoholic drinks. 튀김 (twigim) or deep-fried foods and 전 (jeon) or pancakes can accompany all alcoholic drinks from beer to Korean rice wine. Popular anju with lots of spice include 떡볶이 (tteokbokki), spicy stir-fried squid, 두부김치 (dubukimchi) or sauteed kimchi with tofu, and raw spicy crab.
Anju typically served with soju in pojangmacha places are 순대 (sundae) or Korean blood sausage), fish cake soup, mussel soup, and 부대찌개 (budaejjigae) or army stew.
Fun fact: Budaejjigae originated during the Korean War. It is a mix of any American and Korean food and canned goods that are available during wartime. Since then, budaejjigae has become one of the most beloved shared dishes in modern Korea. Check out this recipe!
Any food can be called as anju as long as people eat it with alcoholic drinks. Always remember that Koreans do this to enjoy the company of another person. So, go ahead and enjoy your anju of choice with soju or beer!