Nightlife in South Korea revolves around soju. The drink is often shared between friends over barbecued meat or enjoyed at home with a simple dinner after a long day. In the Philippines, you’ll find a variety of soju flavors lining the liquor aisle at local grocery stores.
Filipinos’ love for Korean culture extends far beyond K-dramas, K-pop, and KBBQ – soju is up there, too. The plain version, made of rice or sweet potatoes, has a mild and naturally sweet flavor. It’s similar to vodka but goes down much smoother and offers less burn. However, each bottle's 20-25% alcohol content makes it stronger than beer.
Besides the usual Korean fare, some classic Pinoy pulutan also pair well with this alcoholic beverage. Think deep-fried snacks, grilled meats, and anything spicy. Here are a few options – plus suggestions on the best Filipino dishes to have with a bottle. Geonbae!
What Soju Flavors are Available?
Most brands have an “original” or “fresh” soju with a clean, crisp taste. This one is best enjoyed ice-cold and neat in chilled shot glasses.
Grapefruit soju is slightly bitter, tangy, and not as syrupy-sweet as other flavored varieties. You can have this straight out of the bottle like beer.
Green grape soju regularly ranks among the top flavors for drinkers. It tastes similar to grape gummies and has the same pleasant sweetness.
Peach is on the sweeter end of the soju spectrum and captures the juicy, summery essence of the fruit very well. Some brands simply call it “pink.” It’s the choice for younger drinkers, who mix it with yogurt drinks for a creamy cocktail.
Like the green grape, apple soju tastes like candy. It’s sweet and slightly sour like the grapefruit version. Adults who drink this will recall the juice boxes from their childhood baon.
Filipino Dishes to Pair With Soju
Pares with original soju
For many Filipinos, beef pares is the best meal after a night of drinking, but it can also be a rich, satisfying companion to delicate soju. Pares is similar to galbi-jjim, a sweet-savory Korean dish made with stewed short ribs and enjoyed during celebrations.
Fried pulutan with grapefruit soju
Is there a more consistent pairing than fried food and cold drinks? Next time you order a round of lechon kawali, chicharon, and crispy chicken skin, pop open a bottle of grapefruit soju. It's zesty, slightly sweet, and ultra-refreshing, offsetting the umay factor from fried food.
Street food with green grape soju
Enjoy kwek-kwek, fish balls, cheese sticks, and other street food with a bottle of green grape soju. The pairing will take you back to your grade-school days when the go-to dismissal snack was fruit juice and anything from manong’s tusok-tusok cart.
Anything spicy with a Yakult and soju mix
Combining Yakult and soju became so trendy that some brands even released their own yogurt-flavored variants. If you love spicy pulutan like sisig or tokwa’t baboy, then this is the cocktail for you. It’s milky and sweet, which offsets the heat from the chilies. You can also add Sprite or other lemon-lime sodas to make a bright, fizzy drink.
Inihaw with somaek(soju and beer)
Since soju and Korean barbecue have a bond like no other, it only makes sense to have it with inihaw. If Koreans have marinated samgyupsal (grilled pork belly), Filipinos have inihaw na liempo marinated in umami-packed Knorr Liquid Seasoning. Try it with somaek, which combines a 3:7 ratio of soju and maekju (beer) to give you the best of both worlds.
Got more ideas for other Filipino dishes to pair with soju? Have at it! Treat this as inspiration for what to serve at your next drinking party. With all the different soju flavors available, you have hundreds of combinations to try. Just be bold, eat well, and drink responsibly!