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Holiday Gift Guide: Top Ten Korean Food Gifts

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This is the holiday gift list for the Korean food lover in your life, and has something for those that grew up with Korean food and for others who just plain love it. If you are traveling to Korea or visiting a Korean household and looking for a gift, then numbers 1, 2, and 7 will fit for almost every occasion.

1. Fruit, Glorious Fruit

Asian Pears
Naomi Imatome

As mundane as it may seem, good fruit is always an acceptable and appreciated gift among Koreans, and Asian pears are a common present for almost any occasion.

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Other fruit is also always considered lovely and proper, and sending a variety fruit basket is a good idea if you're at all unsure about what they may like. Koreans also love snacking on things like nuts, so don't be afraid of the basket that include dried sausages, nuts, dried fruit, and jams.

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2. The Gift of Tea

Korean Barley Tea
Naomi Imatome

Tea is another popular Korean food gift, as are most things that enhance the health or well-being of the recipient. A beautifully wrapped gourmet tea selection is a good choice, or you can opt for a more traditional Korean tea made of ginseng, yuja (a citrus fruit), or persimmon.

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3. An Indoor Grill

Indoor Grill
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For the lover of Korean barbecue like galbi and bulgogi, you can't go wrong with an indoor grill. I own no less than five different indoor grills for different occasions, and I regularly use at least three of them during the colder months.

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4. Food Gifts for Kids

Kid Chopsticks
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I'm not joking when I say that my oldest son would probably say his chopsticks are one of the best gifts he's ever received. Kids imitate their parents, and he would try and fail to eat with us with regular chopsticks or two that we tied together. He can now eat really well with these chopsticks, and he is vigilant about washing them and knowing where they are at meals. These are a good stocking stuffer for any kid who likes Korean food.

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Lunchboxes are a good gift too, as many Korean lunchboxes and Japanese bento boxes are ridiculously cute. They usually have compartments or different tiers perfect for Asian meals and non-sandwich lunches, and to separate warm and cold foods.

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5. SPAM!

Spam Shirt Gift
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If you're scratching your head right now, then you probably didn't grow up in a Korean household. I actually didn't grow up eating the canned meat either, but I am in a minority among Koreans. Many Koreans are quite passionate in their love for the pink stuff, and would be happy to receive a spam gift basket or a bit of spam paraphernalia as a gift.

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6. Food Drama

Dae Jang Geum
Ya Entertainment
If you want to buy a gift for someone who loves Korean food but doesn't have the same interest in cooking it, then consider buying a Korean food movie. Korean dramas are surprisingly addictive, even with the sometimes low production values, because there's just so much... drama. I loved Dae Jang Geum (“Jewel in the Palace”) for the historical aspect of both Korean cuisine and Korean herbal medicine, but the full miniseries is long and therefore a bit pricy. Other great Korean food movies to consider are The Grand Chef and the newly released Gourmet.
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7. Alcohol

Soju
Naomi Imatome

Alcohol is almost always a good gift for Koreans, but be sure that you know the recipient actually drinks alcohol before you buy it. My cousin's fiance bought my mother alcohol every Christmas for many years before she realized my mother doesn't touch the stuff, because that's how appreciative my mother seemed about the gifts. She was appreciative about the thought, but not the contents. If you know he/she drinks alcohol, then you should go for the soju or the Johnny Walker, as wine has not yet become really popular among many Koreans.

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8. Hot Sauce

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I know Koreans who travel with hot sauce in their purse or jacket pocket. I'm not kidding and no, I'm not one of those people. Tabasco seems to be the product of choice for these folks, but sriracha has become more popular recently. A close friend of mine (non-Korean), who lived in Los Angeles' Koreatown for many years, now has the habit of dousing everything from spinach pie to pasta with sriracha, so it seems this behavior might rub off. If you know one of these traveling hot pants, then a fun holiday gift is a hot sauce gift pack.

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9. Segmented Serving Dish

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Korean meals are full of so many different flavor elements from the array of side dishes, soup, and main dishes. But all those little dishes add up to more dirty dishes to wash, so I opt to use segmented serving dishes for casual meals. Choose one that's stylish so that you have beautiful and practical all in the same dish.

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10. Korean Cookbook

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A Korean cookbook is a great holiday gift for someone who is loves to cook (and eat) Korean food. Whether they are a beginner or a pro looking for more recipes to master, choose one from the Top Five Korean Cookbooks written in English.

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