In Korean dramas, we commonly see our favorite oppas and eonnis enjoying their shots of soju with samgyeopsal (grilled pork belly), Korean fried chicken, ojingeochae (shredded dried squid), jogae gui (grilled shellfish), jokbal (boiled pork trotters), tteokbokki, a cold noodle dish, or Korean instant ramen. Did you know they actually have a term for these dishes—anju, meaning food that tastes good with alcohol.
Soju, with its clean flavor and clear color, is actually one the most versatile spirits to pair with food. The most popular soju brand in the world, Jinro, is a regular sighting not only in restaurants and bars but also in friendly gatherings at home or at the beach. Usually made with rice, or sweet potato, or barley, it’s been described as a sweeter vodka but the sweetness is still isn’t cloying—it’s subtle. Which is why it’s a great partner to a variety of snacks and dishes.
We asked some of our foodie friends who are also fans of soju what they usually pair with the drink. While there are no hard-and-fast rules among Filipino soju drinkers when it comes to soju-food pairing, our interviewees all agree soju is best with fatty, salty, and spicy foods.
Aside from the above-mentioned Korean foods, here are eight other food items that are best eaten while sipping soju:
There are loads of options in grocery stores. But our soju-loving pals tell us they like their soju with cheesy, salty, spicy-flavored crackers. One of our chef friends likes to pair her soju with Asian-flavored munchies such as nori and wasabi chips. You can also never go wrong with nachos—fried tortilla chips covered with melted cheese, a variety of meats and vegetable toppings, and condiments like salsa or sour cream. Clean your palate with the sweet, fruity taste of Jinro Green Grape in between bites.
If Koreans love their fish cakes, we love our fish balls—deep-fried and served with sweet, salty, and spicy dipping sauce. If you want more variety, throw in some squid balls, kikiam, kwek-kwek and other fried Pinoy street foods, too. Elevate your street food experience with shots of Jinro's Grapefruit Soju.
Did you say ‘fatty’? An inuman session becomes a celebratory feast with this all-around favorite pulutan. A gorgeous chunk of crispy pata is best consumed with a spicy soy-vinegar dip. You can never go wrong with refreshing sips of Jinro Chamisul Soju with this fat-laden Filipino dish.
Some argue this crunchy deep-fried pork belly dish is ideal with beer. But we also encountered people who say they love this popular Filipino appetizer with soju. There are also others who like it with the more sinful chicharon bulaklak, or deep-fried ruffle fat. Both taste better when crispy and dipped in spicy vinegar. The unique, sweet flavor Jinro Plum Soju will complement the saltiness of chicharon.
Cured meats and cheese
Bored with the usual wine-and-charcuterie extravaganza combo? Shake your evening a little by switching your wine with soju. You can even get more creative with your grazing board by adding savory tarts, croquetas, chorizos to your selection of cold cuts, cheeses, salted crackers, nuts, and dried fruits. Enjoy this with Jinro Soju Peach, which has a distinctly sweet aroma that's not too overwhelming.
Irresistible and mouth-numbing, with lots of garlic and chili, you won’t be able to stop eating these munchies. But the good thing is that they’re so affordable! If there’s no fresh-off-the-pan adobong mani near your area, there’s sure to be pre-packed spicy peanuts in your neighborhood sari-sari or convenience store. Pair your nuts with Jinro Green Grape Soju, which strikes a balance between not being too sweet or too bitter.
Well, it is samgyeopsal—but not exactly. It’s like baked sushi, but instead of crab filling and spicy mayo, pork or beef belly slices are layered on a bed of kimchi rice, with cheese sauce and nori. It’s quite filling, packed with flavor, and can be eaten like a mini taco. It’s a great option when you have a lot of guests coming over. This makes a good combo with Jinro Chamisul Soju, which has a fresher and cleaner taste.
Crispy, juicy and flavorful pan-fried dumplings may also be paired with soju. In Korean dumplings, chopped sour kimchi, mung bean sprouts, and tofu are typically added to the minced pork. But Chinese or Japanese dumplings (gyoza) have a character and goodness all their own. Savor each bite with the sweet, tart sips of Jinro Strawberry Soju.