11 Korean Dishes to Bring to Thanksgiving Dinner
by Debbie Wolfe, CKC Writer
You’ve been invited to Thanksgiving dinner this year. Congrats! Question is, what do you bring? You could stick with the classic American Thanksgiving favorites like sweet potatoes, green bean casserole or even the standard pumpkin pie. Yet, why not shake things up a bit this year? Add a Korean kick to Thanksgiving dinner! Surprise your host or hostess with a delicious side dish that they will not forget.
With so many Korean entrees, appetizers and desserts to choose from, where should you start? The good news is that there are many options in Korean cuisine that will satisfy a range of tastes and/or diet restrictions. I have a blended Korean and American family, so my Thanksgiving table is always a combination of the two cultures. Here are some dishes that appear from time to time on my Thanksgiving table:
Move over mashed potatoes, it’s time for potatoes Korean style! Gamja bokkeum is a non-spicy potato stir-fry seasoned with salt, pepper, onion and oil. This dish is a simple, yet flavorful accompaniment to anything from a bowl of rice to roasted poultry. It’s even delicious on its own.
Gamja bokkeum recipe
Do you prefer a dish that’s both sweet and savory? Then Korean braised potatoes are perfect,and a wonderful complement to other Thanksgiving classics. This dish holds up well when prepared ahead of time and refrigerated.
Gamja jorim recipe
No celebration is complete in my house without a platter of japchae. This noodle dish is chock full of veggies and can include meat for the non-vegetarians. Japchae is perfect for those new to Korean cuisine. I’ve never met a person who did not like japchae.
Kimchi is served at every meal in Korea. If your host loves spicy food, then kimchi is the perfect side dish to bring. Napa or Baechu kimchi is perfect for Thanksgiving. It’s particularly good with roasted turkey!
Another fun dish for those new to Korean food is dumplings. There are many variations for dumplings in Korean cuisine. Typical filling ingredients include beef, pork or kimchi. You can make them vegetarian if needed. Mandu is often served on major Korean holidays such as New Year’s. You can steam, boil or fry the dumplings and serve them as an appetizer or in soups. They can also be made ahead of time and refrigerated.
Savory pancakes are a popular appetizer or side dish in Korea. Buchujeon, or garlic chive pancake, is a definite favorite. Garlic chives take center stage in this dish, but you can add other vegetables to the batter as well. This dish is best served warm. Make them the day of the dinner and wrap them in plastic or in a reheatable container so that they can be warmed up when you arrive.
Other variations of savory pancakes include kimchi and pumpkin pancakes. The pumpkin pancakes can be a fun alternative to the sweet pumpkin dishes often featured on the Thanksgiving table.
Kimchi pancake recipe
Pumpkin pancake recipe
Beef and vegetable skewers are another Korean holiday favorite. They are colorful and flavorful, which makes them perfect for a celebration. You can easily adapt this for vegetarians by skipping the beef and adding more vegetables. This dish can be made the day before.
Wanja-jeon, or Korean meatballs, are not ball-shaped, but round like a coin. Nonetheless, these tender beef patties will be a hit with your friends and family. Wanja-jeon are a holiday and a lunchbox staple in Korea. The meatballs can be served warm or at room temperature, and with a dipping sauce.
Red beans are used in several Korean desserts. Although it seems like a strange ingredient for a confection, the creamy texture of the beans makes them perfect for dessert filling. Danpatjuk is a porridge made with red beans and sweet rice flour with sweet rice balls. It’s a traditional dessert eaten on the winter solstice in Korea. If you are looking for something exotic to compete with pumpkin pie, bring a bowl of danpatjuk for the dinner celebration.
You could serve this candied sweet potato dish as a side or dessert. The extra, natural sweetness of the Korean sweet potato will make you forget about the pies! Goguma mattang is the Korean version of candied yams (without the marshmallows). This would make a fun alternative to the traditional Thanksgiving yam/sweet potato dish.
Goguma mattang recipe
How about bringing a healthy dessert? Yasik is a dessert made with sweet rice, nuts and jujubes (Korean dates). Think of it as a rice-based granola bar sweetened with brown sugar or honey. It’s sweet enough to satisfy a dessert craving, yet light enough to balance out your heavy holiday meal.