After 7 years of living in Korea, I’d still have to describe my Korean language ability as poor at best. Learning languages has never come easily to me, but I can no longer bear the shame of telling people that I couldn’t understand them despite having lived here for so long. So I have started to learn with an online program from 90 Day Korean, I’ve got a long way to go but I have certainly been making some progress.

Beef bulgogi traditional korean barbecued meat dish

Unsurprisingly the words and phrases that I picked up most quickly were were foods and restaurant phrases. I had that stuff down pat in a matter of weeks, no language barrier was ever going to hinder my plans to eat as much as possible, but it’s always useful to know a little more. So 90 Day Korean have very kindly provided me with some very useful phrases to share with you guys too.

At the korean table in a restaurant

Give me (please) – 주세요 (Joo-say-yo)
Short and easy to remember, you can add this word onto the end of any food word that you’d like. For example ‘와퍼 세트 주세요’ (Whopper set juseyo) means please give me a ‘whopper meal’. Lot’s of words are similar to their English counterparts like coffee, sandwich and banana so adding a “give me please,” makes a simple and easy sentence.


Do you want? – 드릴까요? (deuh-ril-kka-yo?)
Very similar to 드릴게요, listen for the rising intonation which shows that a
question is being asked. For example 스위트 칠리 소스 드릴까요? (sweet-chili-
sauce deuh-ril-kka-yo?) means ‘Do you want some sweet chili sauce?’


This – 이거 (ee-geo)
Use this words in combination with 주세요 to say ‘Give me this please’ (이거주세요) when pointing to things on the menu, or at fellow diners dishes.


What is the most delicious? 뭐가 제일 맛있어요?(mwo-ga che-il mash-iss-eo-yo?)
뭐 = what 제일 = most 맛있어요 = delicious
A useful phrase if you have no idea what’s on the menu or you aren’t sure what to order.


Is this very spicy? – 이거 많이 매워요?(i-geo man-ee mae-wo-yo?)
많이 = much, many 매워요 = spicy
Korean food can be deceptively spicy, so you may wish to check before ordering if you can’t take the heat. Koreans often assume that foreigners cannot handle spicy food so they may ask questions like 안맵죠? (an-maep-jyo?) meaning ‘It’s not too spicy is it?’ You can
reply by saying ‘안매워요’ (an-mae-wo-yo) meaning ‘not spicy’.


When ordering most things you should use the ‘hana, dul, set’ counting system.
For example:
맥주 한 잔 (maek-ju han jan) – one glass of beer
소주 두 병 (soju doo byeong) – two bottles of soju
김밥 세 개 (kimbab seh gae) – three kimbabs (개 means thing and can be used when ordering most foods)

pork belly barbecue, one of Korean popular food

However, talking about portions is an exception to this rule. The word for portion is 인분 (in-boon) but you should use the ‘il-ee-sam’ counting system when ordering portions.For example:
이 인분 (ee in-boon) – 2 portions
삼 인분 (sam in-boon) – 3 portions
사 인분 (sa in-boon) – 4 portions
Please give me samgyeopsal for 3 people – 삼겸살 3인분 주세요(samgyeopsal sam-in-boon ju-sae-yo)


Where’s the bathroom? – 화장실이 어디예요?(hwa-jang-shil-ee odee-ye-yo?)
화장실 – toilet 어디 – where. A vital phrase, especially as the bathroom is sometimes not in the restaurant. Even if you know where the bathroom is likely to be, ask this question because if you need a key for the door, then this question will signal the staff to give you the key.

Drinking water is poured from a bottle into a glass

Please give me some water – 물 좀 주세요 (mool jom ju-sae-yo)
물 – water. I think we all get pretty thirsty when eating spicy and salty Korean food. I actually think this is the first sentence I ever learned.


Please make this order “to go” – 포장해 주세요(po-jang hae ju-sae-yo)포장 – wrap / package
I like eating out as much as the next girl, but sometimes I love nothing more than lounging on my sofa stuffing my face. You can also use this phrase for any leftovers you want to take home.


Do you have any food without meat? – 고기 안 들어간 거 있어요?(go-gi an teul-eo-kan keo iss-eo-yo?) 고기 – meat. Life isn’t easy for veggies and vegans in Korea, this phrase should hopefully get your point across. Although be aware in lots of soups and stews you may still find fish products or that they are based on meaty stocks.


So while this isn’t a complete guide it should certainly be enough to get you through a few meals, or impress your Korean friends.If you would like to learn more about 90 Day Korean please check out their website.



1 comment on “Restaurant Lingo – How to order food in Korean”

  1. “Life isn’t easy for veggies and vegans in Korea, this phrase should hopefully get your point across. ” – you are soo right… Koreans love meat. So almost all dishes are with meat… but still you can find some vege korean dishes.

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