Korean food (한식; han shik) is one of the tastiest and more appetizing in the world. It has a wide variety of options: soups, grilled meats, noodle dishes, rice dishes, different types of hot sauces…
Perhaps you’ve already tried Kimchi (김치; gimchi), which is gaining popularity among Westerners due to its reported health benefits. In this post, we’ll talk about some of the most recommended and exquisite dishes of Korean cuisine.
This time we are going to ask Kim Jin-Ah, who is from South Korea, and on of our teachers, to tell us about Korean food.
Korean food and the omnipresent Kimchi
Jin-Ah, when we say Korean food, the first thing thst comes to mind is Kimchi. What is it?
Kimchi consists of vegetables seasoned with various spices such as chili. Many know it as sauerkraut. Seasoned vegetables can range from Chinese cabbage, turnip, or cucumber.
Once seasoned, they are left to ferment for a while before eating. How long it should the fermentation last is to personal taste. To me, for example, the more fermented it is, the tastier it is.
If you travel to Korea you will try it for sure, because it is a must everywhere. However, if you go to a Korean food restaurant, don’t order kimchi alone, some may think something is wrong with you. This is because, more than a dish, it is a side, or garnish (반찬; banchan)
Do you use kimchi to prepare other meals?
Yes, for example the 김치 찌개 (kimchi chigae). It is a Korean stew made of kimchi and other vegetables such as chives and onions. The preparation also includes tofu—dubu (두부) in Korean. In general, beef, pork or tuna is added.
It is ideal for a very cold day because, in addition to kimchi, the soup is prepared with chili sauce and chili powder. So it’s quite a spicy dish, though the degree of spiciness varies from place to place. That is why it is always accompanied with a bowl of white or brown rice to counteract the hot flavors. Highly recommended if you like spicy meals.
No doubt Korean food is for chili lovers. What other meals do Koreans like?
An every home classic is the 비빔밥 (bibim bab), super simple to prepare. The name means “mixed rice”, because it has rice at the bottom, and on top the vegetables and meat of your choice. Usually a fried or raw egg and hot sauce (고추장; gochujang) are also added to the mix. Bean sprout is another very popular choice for this dish. It used to be prepared as a mix of leftovers.
More Korean meals
Do you have a favorite?
Of course! The 순두부 찌개 (sundubu chigae). It is one of the great favorites of Koreans. It is also my family’s favorite. It is a spicy stew, where the main ingredient is a milder form of tofu, called 순두부 (sundubu). It may have onions and seafood, and it’s quite spicy. So you can not miss the rice to accompany it.
Sounds delicious! But surely not every Korean meal is spicy, right?
Exactly. A non-spicy, and probably the cheapest, Korean food option is kimbap (김밥). Rice rolls wrapped in kim (김) seaweed. You can find them stuffed only with vegetables, or with different meats, even shrimp. It’s like a typical fast food. Super recommended also to take it to a picnic, or send it as lunch to school.
Wow! They look like sushi! Does Korean food include dishes from Japan or China?
Yes. Another one of Japanese origin is the 돈까스 (Donkatsu). It is breaded and fried pork fillet that is complemented with a sweet and sour sauce. It has rice as a garnish, and a carrot or cabbage salad with a sauce on top that is “spectacular”. It is very popular, especially among children.
A Korean dish that comes from China is 짜장면 (Jjajangmyun). It is a very popular dish, even mentioned in many songs, not to mention in k-dramas, where you almost always go to see an episode with the main characters enjoying this dish. It is also known as “black noodles” because of the particular color of the black bean sauce.
The sauce has also onions and meat. It has a unique flavor, not bittersweet, but not completely salty either. The only way to find out is to try it yourself, right?
That’s right! The same goes with the other meals you told us about. Thank you Jin-Ah!
We thank Jin-Ah, whose “Western” name is Natie, for explaining so many interesting things about Korean food. If want to know why Korean culture and language are becoming so popular, read this article.
And if you are interested in learning Korean, at our Asian languages academy, Hanyu Chinese School, we will be happy to help you. Contact us here or find us in social media, ask about our Korean course and request your free lesson!