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Korean Drinking Snacks: Anju with Drinks

Korean Drinking Snacks: Anju with Drinks

Korean Drinking Snacks: Anju with Drinks

Cheers to the Korean Bar Experience

I’ll never forget the first time I stepped into a Korean bar. The neon lights, the pulsing music, and the lively chatter all had me feeling like I had been transported to the heart of Seoul. But what really struck me was the abundance of delectable snacks that adorned every table – the true stars of the show, known as anju.

Anju, as I would soon learn, are the essential companions to drinking in Korea. These savory, spicy, and sometimes even sweet bites are not just bar snacks, but an integral part of the drinking culture. [1] They’re meant to be savored alongside soju, beer, and other alcoholic beverages, enhancing the flavors and helping to pace the libations.

As I dove into this world of Korean drinking culture, I was amazed by the sheer variety of anju on offer. From crispy fried chicken to tangy fermented squid, these snacks seemed to cover every flavor profile imaginable. And the best part? They’re not just delicious, but they also serve a practical purpose – absorbing all that alcohol and preventing the dreaded morning-after regrets. [1]

Anju: More Than Just Bar Snacks

But anju is more than just your typical “beer and nuts” scenario. It’s a culinary tradition that’s deeply rooted in Korean history and social customs. In Korea, drinking alcohol and eating go hand in hand. [1] It’s almost unheard of to have one without the other.

In fact, at many Korean bars, clubs, and karaoke establishments, it’s actually a requirement to order anju alongside your drinks. [1] The idea is that the food helps to slow down alcohol absorption and prevent drunkenness. And let’s be real, who wants to be the person who’s completely hammered while their friends are still enjoying their drinks?

Anju also serves as a social lubricant, encouraging conversation and bonding over shared plates. [1] It’s not uncommon to see groups of friends or colleagues passing around plates of spicy squid or crunchy dried anchovies, using them as conversation starters and excuses to keep the drinks flowing.

The Diverse World of Anju

But what exactly constitutes anju? Well, the options are seemingly endless. [1] Savory dishes like kimchi pancakes, spicy stir-fried squid, and crispy fried chicken are all considered classic anju. But the category also extends to sweet and salty snacks, like roasted nuts, dried fruit, and shrimp crackers.

One of the things that makes anju so unique is its flexibility. [1] Unlike traditional Western bar snacks that tend to be quite one-dimensional, anju can span the entire flavor spectrum. You’ll find spicy, salty, and umami-rich options, as well as sweeter items that pair perfectly with fruity cocktails or makgeolli, the traditional Korean rice wine.

And the beauty of anju is that it’s not just limited to pre-portioned finger foods. [1] Dishes that you might typically think of as main courses, like grilled pork belly or spicy chicken stew, can also be considered anju when served alongside drinks. The key is that the food is meant to be shared, nibbled on, and enjoyed in tandem with the beverages.

Anju for Every Occasion

Whether you’re hosting a Korean-themed gathering at home or hitting up a lively bar in Boston’s Koreatown, anju is the perfect complement to any drinking occasion. [1] For a simple at-home setup, you can stick to easy-to-prepare options like mixed nuts, dried seaweed, or even a platter of fresh fruit.

But if you really want to dive into the world of anju, a trip to an international grocer or a foray into Korean cooking can open up a whole new realm of possibilities. [1] Think spicy fish cakes, savory pancakes, and marinated raw crab – dishes that might seem a little out of the ordinary for Western palates, but that are absolute staples in Korean drinking culture.

And let’s not forget the importance of pairing your anju with the right drinks. [1] Salty, savory snacks tend to pair best with soju or beer, while sweeter options like fruit and confections can elevate the experience of sipping on a fruity makgeolli or even a glass of Korean fruit wine.

Embracing the Anju Lifestyle

As I’ve delved deeper into the world of Korean drinking culture, I’ve come to appreciate anju for so much more than just its delicious flavors. These snacks are a window into the rich tapestry of Korean history, social customs, and culinary traditions. [1]

Whether you’re enjoying a casual night out with friends or hosting a more formal Korean-inspired gathering, anju is the perfect way to elevate the experience. [1] So the next time you find yourself in a Korean bar or restaurant, don’t hesitate to order up a spread of these versatile and flavor-packed snacks. Trust me, your taste buds (and your hangover) will thank you.


[1] Knowledge from various sources, including,,,,,, and