Ordering in a Korean restaurant as a foreigner is understandably overwhelming but there are a few steps that’ll help you ease into the process. Whether you’re ordering at a more traditional Korean restaurant, a barbecue joint or a western style restaurant, these tips below will make ordering a breeze.
Going into a Restaurant
When you go into a Korean restaurant, one of two things could happen. They will gesture you towards the seating area and you can just sit down where you want to sit. Most family owned, traditional Korean restaurants, you can just walk in and sit anywhere. In larger restaurants you’ll most likely be seated.
The second scenario is being greeted by workers who will ask you how many people are in your group which sounds like 몇 분이세요? (Myeot-bun-ee-seyo?). You can answer using your fingers or using the Korean number system.
one person = 한명(han-myung)
two people = 두명 (du-myung)
three people = 세명 (seh-myung)
four people = 네명 (neh-myung)
five people = 다섯명 (da-seot-myung)
six people = 여섯명 (yeo-seot-myung)
seven people = 일곱명 (il-gob-myung)
eight people = 여덟명(yeo-deob-myung)
nine people = 아홉명 (ah-hob-myung)
ten people = 열명 (yeol-myung)
Many restaurant workers can understand English numbers also.
Korean restaurants often have “self-service” where you get up and get your own water, kimchi, etc. Take a look around the restaurant and you’ll see a self service area or the waiter will let you know.
If your utensils aren’t on the desk, they will often times be in a shelf on the side of the table. Or they might be in a wooden box on the table. Other times, they might also be a self service and you’ll have to get up to get your chopsticks, spoons and napkins.
These will come in handy when you want to ask for certain foods or ask the waiter for anything.
Seaweed – 김 (kim)
Rice – 밥 (bab)
Meat – 고기(go-gi)
Noodle – 수구 (su-gu)
Water – 물 (mul)
What is this? – 이거 뭐예요? (ee-geo mwo-ye-yo)?
Excuse me! – 저기요! (jeo-gi-yo!)
Delicious/Tasty – 맛있어요 (mas-shi-seo-yo)
Yes – 네 (neh)
No – 아니요 (a-ni-yo)
If there is a menu, you can point at what you want and say 이거 주세요 (ee-geo-ju-seyo) which means “Please give me this?” Just say what you want with the phrase “주세요 (ju-seyo)” which means “Please give me ____.” For example 밥 주세요 (bab ju-seyo) is “Please give me rice.”
To order an amount of something, use the Korean numbering system.
Please give me one ____. = ____ 한개 주세요. (____ han-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me two ____. = ____ 두개 주세요. (____ du-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me three ____. = ____ 세개주세요. (____ seh-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me four ____. = ____ 네개 주세요. (____ neh-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me five ____. = ____ 다섯개 주세요. (____ da-seot-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me six ____. = ____ 여섯개주세요. (____ yeo-seot-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me seven ____. = ____ 일곱개 주세요. (____ il-gob-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me eight ____. = ____ 여덟개 주세요. (____ yeo-deob-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me nine ____. = ____ 아홉개주세요. (____ ah-hob-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me ten ____. = ____ 열개주세요. (____ yeol-gae ju-seyo)
For example, “Please give me five bibimbap orders” is 비빔밥 다섯개 주세요 (bi-bim-bap da-seot-gae ju-seyo).
포장 (po-jang) means take-out.
Do you do take-out? – 포장 돼요? (po-jang dwae-yo?)
Can I get this to-go? – 포장해 주세요! (po-jang-hae-ju-seyo!)
Tips / Taxes
There are no leaving tips in Korea. The taxes are already added so the price you see on the menu will be the price you pay at the end of your meal.
Asking for the Check
“Check please” – 계산서주세요 (gye-san-seo-ju-seyo)
Leaving the Restaurant
As you leave the restaurant, you can say thank you or 감사합니다 (kam-sa-ham-ni-da).
Now that your know the basics of ordering food in a restaurant, go out and enjoy some Korean delicacies. Now you you all that you need to know for your first week of Seoul. Hope this series was helpful!