7 Differences Between Japanese And Korean Food | Japanese Vs Korean Food

7 Differences Between Japanese And Korean Food | Japanese Vs Korean Food

06 June 2024Jon Ng

Here are the differences between Japanese and Korean food.

Welcome, my dear foodie friend!!

It’s food o’clock, and of course, you know what our today’s topic is.

Yes, after you searched to learn the difference between Japanese and Korean food, you and I collided.

As a Japanese person, I always feel proud to talk about my culture and food. Also, I have been to Korea many times and experienced their dishes.

Since both countries have loads of similarities in cuisine, people often get puzzled about which one is from where.

Comparison of Japanese And Korean Cuisine At A Glance

The following table contains the overview of today’s discussion.

Terms of Comparison Japanese Food Korean Food
It shows the traditional and cultural sides of Japan.
Korean cuisine changed through years of social and political impact.
Japanese food is less spicy.
Korean food is comparatively spicy.
Popular fermented dish
Miso, Natto, Umeboshi
Recognized for
Korean BBQ
Side dishes
Japan serves fewer side dishes than Koreans.
Korean main courses come with loads of side dishes.
Preparation time
Most dishes take less time to prepare.
It takes more time to prepare the ingredients of Korean food.
Sushi, Tempura, Tonkatsu, etc.
Bibimbap, Jajangmyeon, Tteokbokki, etc.

But it’s not going to happen to you cause today I will share my knowledge with you about all the differences between these two countries' cuisine.

Korean Food Vs. Japanese Food: A Comparative Discussion

The key difference between Japanese and Korean food lies in the use of spices. Korean dishes have a lot of seasoning, while Japanese people like to keep things more natural with minimum added flavors.

You will find that most dishes in Korea are hot and spicy, but it’s not the same in Japan.

Korean food and Japanese food

However, with this much information, you won’t be able to differentiate between them.

That’s why I am providing a table that shows the variance side by side.

Japanese sushi and korean jajangmyeon

Well, it’s just a sneak peek. From here, I am gonna provide a well-detailed discussion.

Differences Between Japanese and Korean Food

Our Japanese cuisine encompasses the country’s traditional and cultural foods that have evolved through years of changes.

Differences Between Japanese and Korean Food
A traditional Japanese meal

It includes various foods that are native to Japan, such as sushi, ramen, gyudon (a type of donburi bowl), hibachi-style cooked dishes, and many more.

Japanese traditional dish Gyudon

Many traditional and cultural foods are inherited from our ancestors. But, you will also find some recent dishes that were introduced by other countries, especially America.

In fact, Korea is quite the same. They also have several American-influenced canned foods in their recently developed dishes.

Canned food

Although both countries use almost the same food ingredients to prepare dishes, their cooking methods, styles, and tools differ.

One of the major things in which Japanese food stands out is the process of fermentation. It is a method of using yeast, microorganisms, and edible bacteria to break down food.

This process requires multiple steps through which the foods are preserved and made delicious. Even Japan is one of the prime sellers of fermented products globally.

Japanese fermented food items

You will find almost all Japanese diets contain something fermented.

Many authentic products were introduced by following this procedure, such as Miso paste, Vinegar, Soybean, Natto, Tempeh, and so on.

Another significant thing is that most of the foods in Japan are either grilled or kept raw.

Japanese grilled meat

For instance, meat, eggs, vegetables, and especially seafood are often consumed raw to get the most nutrition. And that’s why Japanese foods are healthy as they have less presence of oil.

Alright, I think knowing the name of food items makes it easier to recognize the origin instantly. So, let’s get introduced to some of the renowned Japanese foods now.

All About Korean Cuisine

Korean foods are prepared following their culture and culinary arts. Their dishes evolved a lot through centuries of political and social change.

Korean cuisine is mainly based on rice, meats, vegetables, and seafood. Like Japan, Korea is mostly surrounded by the ocean, which is why seafood plays a major role in their food items.

Korean cuisine with rice and vegetables

Dairy is mostly absent from the traditional Korean diet.

However, there is one food item that Korea specializes in is kimchi. They serve kimchi with almost every meal.

Korean special kimchi

Even though I am not much into vegetables, I can never resist myself when it comes to kimchi.

Yes, these are delicious enough to make me fall for them!

If you have kids who don’t like to eat vegetables, you may let them try kimchi. There is a high probability that they will never say no to veggies again.

Trying kimchi

And for your kind information, kimchi is one of the Korean foods that is highly popular in Japan.

Commonly used ingredients to make this delicacy include soy sauce, sesame oil, doenjang (fermented bean paste), salt, ginger, garlic, gochugaru (chili flakes), gochujang (fermented red chili paste), and napa cabbage.

Making kimchi

Besides this, Korean BBQ is widely popular worldwide.


While Japan is recognized for sushi and sashimi, Korean barbeque is also a global phenomenon.

Korean barbeque

Well, there are more examples of signature Korean dishes that you will learn from my next segment.

Most Popular Japanese and Korean Food

The easiest way to identify which country owns which dish is by learning their names.

I guess you already know about sushi and ramen, but there are more dishes that are signature items of Japan.

Here is a list of various famous native foods of Japan.

  • Okonomiyaki
  • Sushi
  • Sashimi
  • Miso Soup
  • Udon
  • Takoyaki
  • Tempura
  • Ramen
  • Tonkatsu
  • Oden
  • Natto
  • Shabu Shabu
  • Onigiri
  • Sukiyaki
  • Gyudon
  • Soba
  • Yakitori
  • Wagashi
  • Donburi
  • Tamagoyaki
Famous Japanese foods

These dishes are not just popular at home. If you go to any Japanese restaurant, you will notice that most of these items are on the menu.

On top of that, once you taste Japanese delicacies, it’s hard to forget the yummy flavors.

Eating Japanese delicacy sushi

So, even if you can’t remember the dish by name, I can guarantee that you will be able to recognize Japanese food right away after getting the taste on the tip of your tongue.

Okay, it’s time to get introduced to Korean food.

Most Popular Korean Food

Some food items that are found everywhere in South Korea’s streets and classy restaurants are:

  • Kimchi
  • Bibimbap
  • Tteokbokki (red rice cakes)
  • Bulgogi
  • Jjigae (Korean stew)
  • Jajangmyeon
  • Samgyeopsal
  • Korean fried chicken
  • Bibim naengmyeon (spicy cold noodle)
  • Samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup)
  • Galbitang (short rib soup)
Popular Korean food

By far, you have learned about both countries' food. But, if you have never tried any of their dishes, how will you know which item is from which country?

Well, don’t worry.

At this time, I will point out some of the vital facts by which you can easily distinguish between Korean and Japanese food.

Factors That Differentiate Japanese Food From Korean Food

Food culture widely depends on the cooking style and taste preferences of that region’s people.

Even though Korea and Japan are neighboring countries, their cuisines have some dissimilarities.

First, let’s talk about the taste difference.

Difference in Taste Between Japanese and Korean Dishes

The major variance between both countries’ food is in taste.

Korean food has a strong blend of spices and sauces. The main two sauces include soy sauce and oyster sauce which are part of almost every Korean dish.

Spicy korean food

Also, they use chili paste in many dishes, and that’s why Korean food is spicy. But, of course, these added spices provide a savory flavor to their dishes that everyone loves.

On the other hand, Japanese foods are prepared with a minimum amount of spices. It’s because we Japanese prefer a light taste and fragrance.

And that’s the reason most foods are kept raw or cooked with less spice to keep the natural taste of the main ingredients.

Spiceless Japanese raw food

Also, Japanese people don’t use many peppers in food, whereas Koreans often eat dishes that are quite peppery.

Difference in Cooking Methods Between Korean Vs Japanese

Cooking Korean food is quite difficult. They use a lot of seasonings like spicy sauce, pickled vegetables, and many more that are essential for cooking the perfect dish.

You don’t have to use special ingredients, but what makes it hard is that you need a long time to prepare those items.

Cooking korean food

Moreover, in Korea, meat and other raw foods are marinated heavily with spices and sauces to season the dish before cooking.

In contrast, cooking Japanese food doesn’t require much hard work. Most of the cuisines are simple and straightforward.

In most cases, you only have to cut the ingredients and then put them into the frying pan or pot. Raw food is often cooked as it is with a little seasoning. And the flavor is added after the food is completely cooked.

Cooking Japanese food

In short, Korean food takes more time to prepare than Japanese food. And Japanese dishes are relatively easier to cook than Korean.

Therefore, in case you are eager to learn any of their food preparation processes, you may choose Japanese ones first. And when you are a bit mastered, then try Korean cuisine.

For example, you can check some easy-to-cook Japanese snacks for your beginning lesson.

Is Korean or Japanese Food Heathy?

Culinary dishes from East Asian countries are always considered as healthiest food worldwide.

Especially when we talk about Korean and Japanese food recipes, they mostly use beneficial and nutritious ingredients and seasoning in their dishes.

Nutritious ingredients meat and vegetable

Both the people of Japan and Korea think of food as an essential part of life that stretches out the total lifespan.

Still, Japanese dishes are mostly considered to be healthier than Korean ones. It’s because, in Japan, cooking involves less sugar, and they eat relatively less meat than Koreans.

Japanese healthy set meal

Although Japanese cuisine involves a wide range of vegetables and less meat, it’s quite hard to find a completely vegan meal here.

Korean foods are a bit higher in calories than Japanese foods.

But again, the difference is too thin that you can consider both countries' food absolutely healthy.

Difference between Japanese sushi and Korean sushi

When it comes to comparing the differences between Korean and Japanese cuisine, sushi is a great place to start. 

While sushi is not completely unique to either country, each nation has its own distinct style and approach when making its version. 

Japanese sushi is seen as the original and was introduced to the world by the Japanese chef, Hanaya Yohei

On the other hand, Korean sushi is a newer variation and is known as a marriage of traditional sushi with a Korean flavor.

In terms of ingredients, Japanese sushi usually consists of vinegared rice, fish, vegetables, and occasionally seaweed. 

This combination is highly emphasized on a few flavors balance and texture between each ingredient. Popular ingredients include tuna, salmon, yellowtail, eel, shrimp, octopus, and tamago for the egg-based sushi. 

The type of fish is typically raw, but cooked variations like smoke salmon and tempura prawn may be served as well.

Korean sushi, however, brings more variety than Japanese sushi. It typically includes kimchi, fruits, sweet potatoes, and avocado with some sort of meat or seafood, like beef or octopus. 

They often include unique flavorings like gochujang (Korean chili paste) and sesame oil, giving the sushi a more spicy and savory flavor. 

Furthermore, the rice is usually flavored with sugar and/or vinegar, adding a mild sweetness to the overall taste.

In terms of presentation, Japanese sushi is served on individual plates and is made in such a way that each piece can be picked up with chopsticks with one hand. 

The ingredients are folded into small bite-sized pieces, with the fish resting on the vinegared rice. 

On the other hand, Korean sushi is served on a large plate and can be simply prepared into thick rolls, making it easier to slice and distribute. 

This style of sushi is best shared amongst friends, and the fusion of flavors will make it more enjoyable.

Lastly, the traditional etiquette of eating sushi is slightly different between the two countries. In Japan, it is expected that each piece be dipped lightly into soy sauce with the fish side facing down. 

The sushi is then placed in the mouth whole, allowing a person to experience all of its flavors at once. 

Alternatively, in Korea, it is traditional to mix wasabi and soy sauce together and enjoy it with the sushi in the same manner.

When it comes to choosing between Japanese and Korean sushi, it’s truly a matter of personal preference. 

The primary difference between the two is the variety of ingredients and flavors within each cuisine, both of which will satisfy any sushi craving.

What is the difference between Japanese sushi and Korean kimbap?

Both sushi and kimbap are part of the culinary expertise of Japan and Korea respectively, but the following points will explain how they differ.

Firstly, when it comes to origin, sushi is a traditional Japanese dish that has been around for centuries, while kimbap was adapted from a similar Japanese dish, but has its roots in Korea, and is a more modern invention.

When it comes to the type of ingredients used in sushi and kimbap, there are also some major differences. 

Sushi ingredients usually consist of sticky white rice, vegetables, fruits, and other delicacies such as raw fish and seafood. On the other hand, kimbap typically contains seasoned vegetables, kimchi, meats and other proteins, and omelet.

The method of preparation is also quite different. Sushi is created by pressing the ingredients into a ball with the sushi rice, and is often served with soy sauce, wasabi, and ginger.

Kimbap, on the other hand, is prepared by rolling the ingredient-filled sheet in a seaweed wrapper, then slicing and serving.

The presentation style of sushi and kimbap also differs. Sushi is usually presented as an art form, with the sushi rice often molded into intricate designs. Alternatively, kimbap is usually presented as long rolls that are then cut and served.

Difference in Sauce And Side Dishes In Korean and Japanese Cuisines

Soy sauce (Shoyu in Japanese) plays a major role in a wide range of cooking in Japan. It is used to build food’s flavor and aroma.

Also, it adds a layer of saltiness and sweetness to the dish to improve the yumminess.

Sweet and salty soy sauce

On the other hand, Korean cuisine includes less complex customs but at the same time has its own exceptional styles.

For instance, the Korean national dish Kimchi includes the process of fermentation that produces helpful chemicals, a wide range of probiotics, vitamin C, and beta-carotene.

This is one example of Korea’s fresh and new style of cuisine.

While talking about side dishes, each Korean dish has a side dish known as Banchan. It is a collective name for side dishes that are served together with rice.


Mostly you will see that Korean dish comes with soup, kimchi, and a serving of veggies as sides.

Another example is Saengchae, a Korean plate of mixed greens that blends chicken and uncooked vegetable flavor. It is served as a side with plenty of popular Korean main courses like meat and noodles.


In contrast, the Japanese serve comparatively fewer side dishes than the Koreans.

Difference in Rituals Between Korean and Japanese Dishes

Korean people enjoy their food fully without being too formal about rituals and rules. Even they eat food with cutlery and sauces of their own preference.

While in Japan, the ritual has to be strictly followed, like:

  • Dishes have to be cooked in a way as prescribed by tradition
  • Greeting chefs and staff before eating
  • Eating with special tools such as chopsticks in the right manner
  • And putting the cutlery back to the specific place after eating.
Chopsticks placed in specific place

In Short, Japanese people pay attention to the art, history, and traditional ways of eating more than the food.

Alright, I have mentioned all the variances between these two cuisines and culture.

Now, aren’t you curious to know about their similarities?

Well, if so, then check my next segment.

Korean And Japanese Food Similarities

Even though both of these cuisines have their own cultural references and themes, they have multiple similarities, such as certain seasonings and wrap and roll styles of dishes.

Wrap and roll style food

When you go to a traditional restaurant in both countries, you will notice that the food is prepared quite similarly.

Usually, they both serve rice, soup, and other small dishes, along with the main course.

Traditional meal with rice, soup and other small dishes

Moreover, several ingredients that are used in their cuisine are similar such as soy sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce or shrimp paste, and Dashi (Japanese soup stock).

Even soy sauce was introduced to Korea by Japan. Several Japanese dishes and seasonings came to Korea during the Japanese colonial era (beginning in 1910).

The first manufactured soy sauce that Koreans used was Ajinomoto soy sauce. It was produced at a Japanese-owned company established in Seoul in 1910.

Another similarity is that they both incorporate chili powder in cooking. Some traditional dishes like Yakimeshi (Japanese fried rice) and Bibimbap (Korean mixed rice) are quite alike.

Korean mixed rice

Okay, it’s time to part away from our ways as I have nothing left to tell you regarding today’s matter.


In brief, the main difference between Japanese and Korean food is spice and, in some cases, cooking style.

They have distinguished tastes and flavors. But again, as they are neighboring countries, most of the food is influenced by each other.

I will suggest you plan a vacation to both countries and experience their food variance on your own.

Lastly, have a yummy and flavorful day.

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