Annyeonghaseyo or Marhaba? 7 Korean Dishes That Are Incredibly Similar to Middle Eastern Ones

By Heba Tallah Mohamed

Throughout history, food has always been a distinguishing characteristic of every culture around the world. However, there are some cultures we can look at that share similar dishes in their ingredients and preparations. The Middle East and Korea are quite different in their histories and traditions, but their cuisines managed to create dishes that are uncannily alike.

Koshary and Bibimbap

Koshary is a famous Egyptian dish that is made of rice, macaroni, and lentils mixed together, topped with a spiced tomato sauce and garlic vinegar. Bibimbap is a Korean dish that is extremely easy to make. It is a mix of rice, namul, kimchi, gochujang, topped with soy sauce and doenjang “red pepper paste”.

Mkhalel and Kimchi

Mkhalel is a common side dish that Egyptians eat in their daily diet. It is made of salted and fermented vegetables such as cucumber and carrots and is seasoned with red pepper, salt, and apple vinegar. Kimchi is so important to the Korean culture to the extent that almost every Korean owns a refrigerator only for kimchi. Kimchi is also a side dish of salted and fermented vegetables, such as napa cabbage and Korean radish, made with a varying selection of seasonings, garlic, vinegar, and ginger.

Stuffed vine leaves and Kimbap

While many can mistake kimbap for sushi, it is made in a totally different way. Kimbap is a stuffed “gim” which are dried sheets of nori seaweed with rice and vegetables dipped in soy sauce. On the other hand, the Middle East has a much loved similar dish of vine leaves stuffed with spicey rice, known as wara‘ ‘enab in Arabic.

Kaware’ soup and Seolleongtang

Both kaware‘ and seolleongtang are famous soups in their own culture. Kaware’ soup is made of cow’s feet boiled in water and seasoned with salt and pepper. Seolleongtang is made of ox bones, brisket and other cuts seasoned with garlic and red pepper.

Mumbar and Soondae

The Lebanese delicacy, mumbar, is steamed intestine linings stuffed with minced meat, rice, tomato paste, and butter. South Korea has soondae cow or pig intestines which are stuffed with seonji (blood), minced meats, rice, and vegetables.

Rice Milk and Sikhye

Rice is such an important ingredient for both cultures that it’s used in desserts too. In Egypt, there’s rice pudding that is made with milk and sugar and is topped with cinnamon or nuts. In South Korea, there is sikhye, a traditional sweet rice beverage, usually served as a dessert. In addition to its liquid ingredients, Sikhye contains grains of cooked rice and pine nuts.

Kahk and Dasik

Kahk is made to celebrate Eid al Fitr, the Muslim holiday that comes after the end of Ramadan. These cookie-like pastries are mainly made of flour and sesame seeds covered with powdered sugar and can be stuffed with agamaeya or nuts or even served plain. Dasik is made to celebrate Lunar New Year in South Korea. It is mainly made of sesame seeds, grains, and pollen. Both are tea friendly!

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