Snacks to bring for Korean dinner?
October 8, 2019 2:43 PM   Subscribe

My neighbor has invited us to join his household for a Korean meal on Friday and has requested we bring “social snacks”; I suggested kimchi and was enthusiastically approved. What else should I bring?

Not being ethnically Korean or especially knowledgeable about Korean cuisine (except to note that I really really like it), I am sort of stuck on what else to bring. The snacks by no means have to be Korean. I imagine I will get some soy crackers or something when I get the kimchi. My go to for this type of thing is usually booze and cheese but I am aware that cheese may not be the best idea for an Asian appetizer. Hummus and pita, maybe? Guacamole and corn chips? Olives?
posted by mwhybark to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am specifically trying to avoid bringing a bunch of Korean banchan, as delicious as it is.
posted by mwhybark at 2:45 PM on October 8

Any place near you that you could get hodugwaja maybe? Korean walnut cakes. They are delicious.
posted by spicytunaroll at 2:49 PM on October 8 [4 favorites]

I cannot vouch for this recipe, but it has been on my to-make list forever! Bring veggies and various chips for dipping.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 2:50 PM on October 8 [3 favorites]

How about tteok-bokki or kimbap?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:03 PM on October 8 [3 favorites]

What about spicy chickpeas- actually they are wasabi but still fun. Or those mixed crackers that are kind of sticky and have seaweed on some of them? Or pokki sticks (forgot name but similar) for afterwards? (the chocolate dipped ones?) Definitely bring booze- why not? Soju? (But maybe only a small bottle!). Red-bean cakes? Or mochi (again more Japanese but so delicous) etc.
posted by bquarters at 3:03 PM on October 8 [1 favorite]

another neighbor has the booze angle sewed up!

I haven’t gotten to know these neighbors well enough yet to bring Japanese food; I am wary of crossing circuits there. With the exception of kimchi, I am attempting to avoid bringing a specifically Korean appetizer, largely out of concern to be polite with respect to cultural appropriation. They are a midlife couple; she and her adult son are Korean and he is an aerospace engineer from the American midwest. They’re very nice.
posted by mwhybark at 3:17 PM on October 8 [1 favorite]

That said, the non-banchan Korean suggestions are well appreciated and I will perform due diligence. Finding a supplier for a given somewhat obscure foodway would indeed be a neighborly gift.
posted by mwhybark at 3:21 PM on October 8

Cut-up fruit is usually my go-to for this. Universal enough that it doesn't read as appropriative and appreciated by all!
posted by stellaluna at 3:21 PM on October 8 [24 favorites]

Deviled eggs.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:27 PM on October 8 [3 favorites]

I can vouch for the recipe that easy, lucky, free links above. It's good as hell, although I usually drain lightly after the chopping, because you want a little juice to flavor the mix, but not too much. I also go easy on the soy sauce because the kimchi has a lot of sodium.

Bacon-wrapped figs also strike me as being a pretty good appetizer for a kimchi-related meal. Or maybe bacon-wrapped shrimp?

This is dead easy, and a party trick that I like to pull out at this time of year.
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:29 PM on October 8

I’d expand on the kimchi theme by going hard on pickled things. Beets, green beans, sauerkraut, onions, carrots, red peppers - try to find as many varieties as you can! Maybe some bread and cheese to eat them with.
posted by amaire at 3:53 PM on October 8 [3 favorites]

I'm Korean-American and lived in South Korea for nine years. Fruit is in fact a typical dessert; cut apples, cut Asian pears if you can get them, or decent tangerines will probably be welcome.
posted by yhlee at 4:06 PM on October 8 [7 favorites]

2nding deviled eggs.
posted by Dr. Twist at 4:10 PM on October 8 [1 favorite]

Along the same lines as hummus but less likely to be dull is muhamarra--walnut and red pepper spread , or there's Ajvar from the balkans or any number of Greek spreads like skordalia...(I suppose you're still likely presenting the food of a culture not your own but I can't really see how bringing snacks to someone's house is appropriative in any meaningful sense.)
posted by less of course at 4:26 PM on October 8 [1 favorite]

Maybe something that features fresh local produce? Here's a squash tart for inspiration.
posted by bunderful at 5:23 PM on October 8

Seconding Kimbap, particularly with beef.
posted by Young Kullervo at 5:52 PM on October 8

Pickled things sounds awesome, there are a number of interesting international groceries within a mile and I often just randomly buy a jar of pickled mystery food. Have yet to go wrong.

Deviled eggs, excellent suggestion.

I had a flash, too: smoked salmon. It does not get any more PNW than that.

My wife is super supportive of the hummus idea, I also like the idea of other western mediterranean food. She’s Cuban so we talked about something like plantain fritters which would fit with Korean pretty well but honestly they are pretty messy to make. At least if I’m piloting the pan.
posted by mwhybark at 6:32 PM on October 8 [2 favorites]

oh, and the fruit!
posted by mwhybark at 6:32 PM on October 8

Hello, Korean person here.

I often just randomly buy a jar of pickled mystery food.

Hi! I wanted to point out that it’s not “mystery food”, it’s just normal food that you’re not used to, and framing it as a mystery makes it “other” and is pretty offputting because it frames, by extension, the person who eats it as weird or unusual. Please do not say this, thanks!

It’s nice that you’re being considerate. I think the fruit or fried plantains is a great idea.

Also fyi - kimbap and tteok-bokki are super tasty, and also usually pretty informal - maybe akin to egg salad sandwiches and mac and cheese in the US, respectively. I’m not saying you shouldn’t bring them, just wanted to let you know in case this is a fancy-ish thing.
posted by many more sunsets at 7:41 PM on October 8 [13 favorites]

If you have access to an H-mart or some other Asian market, coffee peanuts!! They're peanuts, coated in a coffee-flavored sweet sugar. It's delicious.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 8:09 PM on October 8

mystery food

Fair enough. the specific food I refer to is often not labeled in a script I know - in general I seem to prefer Cryllic and Arabic or Turkish labeled pickled products.

I suppose this is part of why I asked in the first place, and thank you for your guidance.
posted by mwhybark at 9:17 PM on October 8 [1 favorite]

This might sound weird, but maybe cheese popcorn? Or some cheese cubes if you wanted to be a little fancier. Cheese goes well with Korean food, and is a common ingredient, but you could bring it without seeming appropriative.
posted by sometamegazelle at 9:40 PM on October 8

I have made these Korean Style Braised Soy Sauce Eggs before, and they are super easy to make. This recipe is ovo-lacto vegetarian to boot.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:46 PM on October 8

If they are anything like my parents, particularly my mom, I would push for dessert rather than a snack. My mom is notorious for putting on A Spread for guests and we don’t really do snacking before. It’s just a bit of chat and then straight to the meal which is the main social interaction event.

Dessert isn’t something she’s comfortable with so she’d totally appreciate anyone bringing something. Exotic fruit, particularly already chopped up, would be great. Or maybe a sort of light cake (something like those Chinese sponge cakes with creams and jellied fruit). Or even a particular favourite of YOURS. My mom loves learning about other cultures but she gets little opportunity to do so.

Totally being the kimchi. She’ll have some of course. But she’s probably delighted you’d even know what it is, know where to get it, and offer to bring some. (Although I would not consider that a social snack, it will be served with the meal).

Upon preview!
I see theY specifically suggested snacks. I think you should bring something YOU like and don’t worry too much about Korean or Asian snacks. My mom’s main concern is for the guests to be happy and satisfied. If you already like Korean food, go for a snack you think will set things up for it as a meal. Whatever it is! When you bring it, explain why you chose it. It will go down well I promise.

And if it’s something you made yourself like a hummus? That would blow my mom’s mind and she’d talk about it for like a year.
posted by like_neon at 12:29 AM on October 9 [5 favorites]

It will be difficult for you to make Korean food as well as they can. The salmon is a great idea because it's a local luxury that will fit well with their cuisine. Add some typical condiments and bread.
posted by theora55 at 6:54 AM on October 9 [4 favorites]

In my experience it's common to bring fruit to a Korean dinner gathering. Mandarins, apples, Asian pears, grapes, etc. Fruits like apples and pears were cut up after dinner to share.
posted by sweetpotato at 11:39 AM on October 9 [1 favorite]

But I would add that anything that you normally enjoy and want to share with them would likely be welcomed and appreciated.
posted by sweetpotato at 11:42 AM on October 9 [1 favorite]

to sum up, we are possibly in overkill mode. we’ll bring smoked salmon and crackers, the kimchi, a veggie tray with both a ranch style dip and store-bought hummus, and asian pears and honeycrisp apples. I figure nothing there will go to waste even if we don’t eat it all upfront.
posted by mwhybark at 12:05 AM on October 11

Too late to the punch, but I'm a huge fan of these pickled mushrooms. Dried shiitake marinated in sugar + soy + rice vinegar, with a bit of ginger.

Another dumb trick you can do for anything is make a quick bibimbap sauce out of gochujang and sesame oil (maybe with some soy sauce or rice vinegar or sugar). Then stir that in to your hummus, or ranch dip, or whatever and it will have a bit of Americanized Korean flare.
posted by Nelson at 9:37 AM on October 11

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