How to plan a Traditional Korean Party menu for your next holiday dinner – whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas. My menu planning tips will help you cook a perfect feast for your family this Holiday – big or small and in a more simplified way.
Traditional Korean Party Menu Ideas
A Traditional Korean Party Menu ideas for holiday dinners is something I recently got asked to write about in my facebook group. In the past, I have shared Korean side dishes that can work with your Turkey thanksgiving dinner but I think this year people are looking for something even more different.
Just so you know, Korean Party menu aka Janchi (잔치) menu typically includes so many dishes that it takes days to prepare and cook. And it will usually fill up the whole table and this is when Koreans usually say ..
상다리가 부러지게 차렸네요!~ 😂🤣
Wow, there’s so much food I think the table legs might break!
Well, that’s quite many years ago when 3 family generations usually lived in one household. Which also meant there was more than one person in the kitchen and also moms didn’t have jobs or had to manage kids’ activities or help them with homework and such – like moms have to do today. I know these days, especially in the year of 2022, moms have to play many more roles… Bless all of the moms out there!! 💕🙏🏻
What is a typical Traditional Korean Party Menu?
Although there is no one standard menu per se for Korean Dinner parties- a typical Korean Party Menu always include rice and soup, one or more protein, vegetables, noodles and Kimchi. So it will be one or more dishes from each category below.
- Jjim 찜 (Stewed or braised meat like Galbijjim) and Jorim
- Gui 구이 (Grilled meat or fish)
- Muchim and Namul (Salads)
- Jeon 전 (Fritters or Pancakes)
- Banchan (side dishes)
- Noodles like Japchae
- Kimchi 김치
But this is quite outdated.. and also I find this menu ends up with way too much food. Especially, I find that Soup, Jeons, Namuls and many other banchans are not really worth the effort when you have a large menu. Individually, I love all of them but when mixed with other side dishes, it just kind of disappears into the background and I don’t feel it adds much to your meal other than fill up the table.
Now, the menu ideas I share below is based on the assumption that you are having a buffet-style party.
For a more intimate sit-down party, I would say you can reduce the number of side dishes and add a jjigae or soup to your menu. If you are making bulgogi, kalbi then a Doenjang Jjigae works great. With Galbi Jjim, because it already has quite a bit of sauce, no need to add extra jjigea or soup.
My Korean Party Menu Ideas for your next Holiday Dinner!
Based on my 30+ years of cooking and entertaining experiences, here is a group of recipes that work well together. Here are some of my thoughts behind menu planing —
- heavier meaty and fatty dishes VS something refreshing, sour, lightly sweet with a zing like salads or kimchi
- include a side dish that’s mild tasting like potato salad, acorn jelly, jeons which fills the background like the background color in a painting.
- something spicy and salty like Doenjang Jjigae is great if you have rich grilled meats
- soup is really not necessary nor does it make much of an impact when you have a full party menu including meat dishes. Soup is best when you have just a few banchan and the soup is kind of the main item on the menu.
If you are preparing a festive dinner with several meat dishes then I recommend that you save your energy and hassle (it’s hard to serve soups to many) and time by not cooking soups but of course, it’s up to you.
Well, let’s get started. I’m going to list recipes in categories and you can choose one or more from each based on your preference to create your own special Korean Party Menu for your next Holiday dinner. Happy Cooking!!
Cooke plain white short grain rice or Heukmi Bap (Black Rice) for color and flavor. To make your meal more festive and fun, you can make these rice balls instead of just plain rice.
2. JJIM and/or GUI
Make ahead 1-2 days – make Galbi Jjim 1-2 days before and just reheat. It will actually taste better the 2nd day. It’s also easy to let the Galbi jjim cool then you can remove the fat that hardens on top. Marinade bulgogi, kalbi and refrigerate then cook when time to serve.
I love to cook Galbi Jjim because it’s something you can easily prepare in advance and just reheat when ready to serve. Also it tastes better the 2nd day + you can remove extra fat easily once it’s cooled.
OR CHOOSE ONE from below
You can make one of the following marinades and cook on the stove and keep warm in the oven until serving time.
For a VEGAN option, you can make this dish as a main Korean vegan dish.
Make ahead – prep veggies, make salad dressings separately and toss right before serving. You can make cucumber salad up to several hours ahead and chill in refrigerator.
If you want to have a more minimal menu, you can just choose one of the meat dishes above and then make some fresh salads or muchim as a side and serve just these 3 – rice + meat + vegetables.
Make Ahead – Kkakdugi, Baechi Kimchi, Cucumber Kimchi should all be made at least a week or two before for best flavor.
Kimchi, of course, is a must for a Korean meal. You can just serve store bought Kimchi or make some easy kimchi recipes a week or so before. Here are some simple Kimchi recipes that you can make.
Or if you want to go all the way, you can try my most favorite Baechu Kimchi recipe that I make all the time. I use the blender to chop everything so you have to do minimal chopping or prepping.
HAVE NO TIME to make the full kimchi? You can always make this fresh Geotjeori kimchi which you can make as late as the day of the party. Substitute other napa cabbage or even bokchoy.
Make Ahead – make Japchae up to several hours before serving and keep at room temp. Noodle salads are great because you can cut and prep the ingredients and the dressing the day before (NOT the noodles). Cook noodles few hours before then toss and mix before serving.
Japchae especially is perfect when served at room temperature so you can make it few hours before and just leave on the counter until it’s ready to serve (unless it’s summertime because Japchae spoils very easily in warm temps).
Noodle Salads are fabulous because they add a different texture to your table and also these are refreshing, light and has a zing that lightens your palate.
So, just make Japchae OR choose one noodle salad from below.
YOU CAN STOP HERE..
BUT if you want to make your Traditional Korean Dinner party even more fabulous, make the Pork Belly Tofu Kimchi (Dubu Kimchi) recipe from below. That’s always a crowd-pleaser! 😍😍 Be sure to use sour kimchi for the dish and remember pork belly is optional. You can just sautee sour kimchi without pork and serve with fresh raw tofu. Soo good!
Jeon (Korean pancakes) – CHOOSE ONE
As I said before, personally as much as I love Jeon, it easily gets lost if you are going to serve it buffet style with other dishes that have a stronger flavor. If you are doing a sit down and are serving a course meal, you can serve freshly cooked jeon right from the frying pan and that will be delicious.
Here’s my list of 10 Korean pancakes – Bindaetteok (GLUTEN FREE), Fish Jeon, Pajeon are some of my favorites. Substitute 1 for 1 GF flour to make these Gluten Free. You can make these in advance and reheat before serving.
Make Ahead – all the banchans here can be made 1-2 days but don’t store Myeolchi bokkeum in the fridge – it makes it fishy. Here are my top favorites to make that’s sure to make people happy.
This is a very classic side dish but if you can make this, your guests will be soo impressed! Follow my recipe and you can make this ahead of time and just serve at room temp.
A Totally Different Korean Party Menu Idea
Before we get to dessert, I want to share a totally separate Korean Party Menu idea. Instead of making all these dishes separately, you can just prepare a spread for making Bibimbap. So, you cook all the topping separately and serve them buffet style and allow your guests to assemble their own Bibimbap in any way they want.
With this, you really don’t need to prepare much else. If you want, make some Jeon or Pancakes and some banchans to go with everyone’s Bibimbap. The will love it!! Oh and if you have a vegan, just pan-fry tofu with some bulgogi marinade and that should work fine. I’m linking a stone pot bibimbap recipe below but you don’t need a stone pot at all.
Traditionally, Koreans end the meal with some sweet drinks and some fresh fruits.
Make ahead – Sikhye, Sujeonggwa, Yakgwa can all be made a few days before. Yaksik can be made the day before. Bukkumi is best when it’s freshly made.
If you want something a little more, make any of these for an extra special sweet ending to your Traditional Korean Feast!
Here’s an Instant Pot Yaksik recipe should you need one.
For the most special treat, you can spend some time to make my most favorite Korean sweet – Yakgwa. You do need to deep fry this but it’s soo worth the effort. You can make this in days in advance. Keeps fresh for days at room temp and for weeks and months in the freezer.
And there you have it!! Hope you have the most wonderful Holidays this season.
Please let me know if you have any questions or need help with planning your own special Korean feast menu!