Soju is a distilled rice spirit specifically and only from Korea.
It’s often somewhat sweet with a very light flavor that many people enjoy with a variety of foods.
In fact, there are many traditional dishes and street food fare designed specifically for people to consume with soju.
This guide will take you through what to eat with soju.
As a general rule, however, you can eat almost anything with it, traditional Korean cuisine or modern urban street food.
It pairs with everything from rice bowls, noodle dishes and wraps to things like fried chicken or Korean BBQ.
But spicy and salty is the best for it.
Let’s dive deeper.
Overview of Foods to Eat with Soju
- Korean BBQ
- Fermented Products
- Ramen Noodles
- Korean Fried Chicken
About Soju & Anju in South Korea
Soju is the star alcohol in Korea. It is a traditional distilled rice spirit with a taste similar to vodka. It’s light without much body or nose.
However, what sets it apart from vodka is the fact that it’s much sweeter in taste and it’s not quite liquor.
In fact, it could classify as a wine and honestly should have its own category in the liquor lineup.
Soju as Anju
Koreans have a type of food and drink they refer to as “anju.” This indicates food intended for consumption alongside an alcoholic beverage.
There are some ideal for wine, others with beer and some are best with soju.
The flavors of the food and drink complement each other in a very deliberate way.
This results in enjoying both the food and the drink without having an overwhelming explosion of one or the other.
For instance, you can drink soju on its own; indeed, many people do.
But, it can be incredibly sweet after awhile.
However, if you drink it with savory and/or spicy foods, then you can drink several bottles of soju and not realize it.
Drinking & Eating with Soju
The good thing about soju is that it does not have a strong alcohol content.
So, consuming more than three bottles is the same as having one or two shots of whiskey. But, you’re having this over the course of time along with food.
The effects of the alcohol are much different and don’t take hold in quite the same way as straight whiskey.
6 Sides To Eat With Soju
1. Korean BBQ
Almost anything and everything you find at a Korean BBQ will go well with soju.
However, it’s particularly good with samgyeopsal, grilled pork belly, or with gochujang saewu gui, grilled shrimp.
Of course, chicken, fish and other seafood are also quite delicious.
But, Koreans tend to enjoy a good bottle of soju with grilled items that come from other animal parts.
Such as is the case with gopchang (cattle intestines), makchang (cattle abdomen) or jokbal (pig’s feet).
The combinations of spices used in the grilling truly complement the flavor of soju.
2. Fermented Products
One of the best things to nibble on alongside a glass of soju are the many fermented products famous to Korean cuisine.
Things like kimchi or pickled radish are most common. These are often salty, spicy and/or sweet.
When eaten with soju, it complements the flavor in a delightful way without adding fat, calories and cholesterol.
This is particularly true when spicy and super salty.
The sweetness of the soju prevents lips from puckering and tongues from burning off.
3. Ramen Noodles
Called “ramyun” in Korea, ramen noodles are the ultimate go-to for eating with soju.
They can span the savory to the sweet with a play on various flavors that incorporates some kind of protein, vegetables and an egg.
A bit of soju on the side can hit the spot in combination with a good bowl of ramen.
Because of how varied and different each bowl of ramen can be, it allows for a wider range of different soju.
For instance, soju can come in a variety of other flavors such as peach, watermelon, pineapple and mandarin.
Some ramen dishes will be excellent with these as the added sugars emphasize the spiciness of certain preparations.
Lettuce and cabbage wraps are a very popular food among Koreans. They are quick to make, easy to obtain and light on the bank account.
Bossam is one such wrap that features steamed pork, red chile paste and some kimchi.
The saltiness of the pork is a wonderful accompaniment to a bottle of standard soju.
Soondae, pronounced soon-die, is traditional Korean blood sausage.
While there are many versions of it in the modern world, the preparation and spices of it lend itself to enjoyment with soju.
You can also drink some beer with it, but soju is better for the ones that are spicier.
Soondae most often comes in the form of a soup or a stir-fry.
The meat intermingles with other ingredients like broth, rice, vegetables, glass noodles and other such things.
The soju provides a lighter contrast to the intensity of the food.
6. Korean Fried Chicken
A very popular dish that’s been part of Korean cuisine for centuries is fried chicken. It’s modern incarnation does take influence from Japan and the US.
However, the way Koreans make it is unlike anywhere else. They come plain, spicy, sweet and/or savory.
While beer is often the recommended pairing for fried chicken, the savory and spicy ones are best with soju.
When in doubt, it is possible to have both with the chicken as “somaek.” This is when a shot of soju drops into a pint of beer.
The whole mix of flavors is truly amazing to the taste buds.
While the foods mentioned above are some of the best of what to eat with soju, it is by no stretch complete.
As stated earlier, you can eat almost anything from a Korean restaurant with a bottle of soju. There is very little that it won’t complement.
However, it’s best enjoyed with salty, spicy and savory foods.