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Experience Royal Cuisine

What would you say is the most Korean, exquisite style of food in Korea? If one was to pose this question to a Korean person, the most likely answer would be; royal cuisine. The food from the Joseon Dynasty (A.D.1392~1910), Korea's final dynasty, has become today what people refer to as the finest traditional style of Korean cuisine. The reason for this lies in the attention to detail that the Joseon Dynasty put forth in regards to its cuisine. The royal court would have only the most superb foods brought in from every part of the country (for national auspicious events or days of celebration, representatives from different areas throughout the country would send special congratulatory gifts to the king.) and only the top chefs would be permitted to prepare food! The nobility and commoners of the Joseon Dynasty enjoyed most of the same foods, while there is no distinction at all between the cuisine of the nobility and members of the royal family. The reason for this is that Koreans were not allowed to marry someone with the same family name and so the royal family members were marrying with members of the nobility (known as the Yangban), which caused the royal and the noble cultures to become mixed. The place to find this kind of traditional food is at the Korea House. All the way from Beijing, China, Zhuang Zhong ( 31 year old Chinese women/ international student) came to the renowned Korea House to learn about the art of royal Korean cuisine.

* The following is a description of the various full-course cuisines offered at the Korea House.
- Course A is composed of 15 varieties of Korean food. The first portion of this meal begins with dishes consisting of mareun anju (dried side-dishes typically eaten with alcohol), Gujeolpan (nine-sectioned dish), ginseng and honey, and mitbanchan ( basic Korean side-dishes). Next, one can enjoy such dishes as juk (porridge), chilled vegetables, jeonyueo (pan-fried fish dish), jangeogui(grilled eel with seasoning), Sinseollo( casserole dish), kkori-jjim (cow tail stew),daeha-gui (broiled prawn with seasoning), jeonbok-gui(grilled abalone with seasoning), galbi-gui (grilled beef with seasoning), rice and soup, lastly followed by dessert.

1. Mareun anju (dried side-dishes typically eaten with alcohol, 마른 안주): To stimulate your taste buds, while you wait for your main dishes, walnuts and dried fruits are served to tempt your palate. This dish is often served with alcohol.

2. Gujeolpan (nine-sectioned dish, 구절판): This royal dish consists of 8 varieties of food all chopped finely, seasoned, and cooked. They are placed separately in the nine-sectioned platter with a wheat pancake located in the center.
How to eat: Take a wheat pancake and place a small amount of the 8 varieties of food on the pancake. Then simply role up and enjoy this scrumptious dish with a bit of sauce.

3. Ginseng and honey: Two strips of ginseng (cultivated for 6 years) are served with a bowl of honey on the side.
How to eat: The strips of ginseng are dipped in the bowl of honey.

4. Mitbanchan (basic Korean side-dishes, 밑반찬): 6~10 of the most common Korean side-dishes used in daily life are served up.
How to eat: These dishes are not considered the main dish. They are used to accompany the main dish of rice. It is a good idea to eat these side-dishes slowly and try to enjoy them throughout your entire meal.

5. Juk (porridge, 죽): This soothing food can be prepared by boiling grains of rice, with approximately 6 to 7 times the amount water, over a long period of time. There is said to be around forty kinds of juk in Korea. Koreans often enjoy a sweet pumpkin juk at home.

6. Naengchae (chilled vegetables, 냉채): The freshest vegetables of the season are chilled, then sliced finely and mixed with such foods as seafood, meat, or fruit. Finally they are seasoned in a sauce that is sure to please your taste buds.

7. Jeonyueo (pan-fried fish dish, 전유어) : Jeonyueo is generally referred to simply as jeon. Meat, seafood, or a variety of vegetables are selected and sliced thinly. The selected items are dipped in flour and egg batter , and pan-fried. This is commonly called buchin jun, but at the Korea House it is referred to as Jeonja.
How to eat: This dish can be enjoyed on its own or dipped in soy sauce.

8. Jangeogui (grilled eel with seasoning, 장어구이): The bone is first removed from the eel. Then pepper, sugar, garlic and ginger are among the ingredients of the sauce that are brushed onto the meat. Grilled over a charcoal fire, this meal is sure to delight you and is said to be good for stamina.

9. Sinseollo (casserole dish, 신선로) : Beef and radish, as well as sea cucumber, abalone, mushrooms, red peppers, walnuts, and ginkgo nuts are all boiled together creating a delightful casserole dish. This casserole is prepared in a chafing dish that has a hollow center with a charcoal fire that continually boils the food while you eat.

10. Kkori-jjim (cow tail stew, 꼬리찜): Such foods as cow's tail, carrots, chestnuts, jujubes, mushrooms and peppers are boiled for at least 3 hours to create a rich gravy-like indulgence. The longer this dish is boiled, the more smooth and rich it becomes.
How to eat: Each person is served their own dish of stew and can simply separate the meat from the bone on their own. The other treats in this stew can be picked up with the use of chopsticks.

11. Daeha-gui (broiled prawn with seasoning, 대하구이): Prawns are cleaned and then broiled. They are then garnished with colorful foods which make for a beautiful presentation.
How to eat: Press firmly on the head, then carefully take off the skin(from the head to the tail) and enjoy this delicious meal.

12. Jeonbok-gui (grilled abalone with seasoning, 전복구이) : Placed in salt water, and removed of sand and other impurities, the cleaned abalone is then grilled. While grilling, salt and black pepper are among the seasonings used to flavor this dish. Jeonbok-gui is low in fat and plentiful in both iron and calcium.
How to eat: The best way to eat this dish is to peel away the skin of the abalone and enjoy the delicious meat in one bite.

13. Galbi-gui (grilled beef with seasoning, 갈비구이): The rib meat of beef or pork is seasoned with minced green onions, garlic, ginger, sugar, sesame oil and black pepper. The marinated meat is then grilled over a charcoal fire. This dish is usually served with the bone, but at the Korea House they remove the bone for your convenience.

14. Rice (밥) and Soup (국): Rice and soup are always part of a Korean meal. To create a delicious soup; vegetables, meat, and or fish may be used. Typically soy sauce, soybean paste, red pepper paste and salt are used for seasoning.
How to eat: When the rice and soup are served, you can enjoy them with the other side-dishes and food left on the table.

15. Dessert: Sikhye (식혜) and fruit are served. Sikhye is a sweet rice drink native to Korea.

Things to keep in mind

1. It is a good idea to set aside ample time to enjoy this special dining experience. Due to the fact that many dishes are served, around 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours is recommended for a pleasurable dining experience.
2. To stimulate your taste buds, mareun anju (nuts and dried fruit) is served and usually accompanied by alcohol. Such alcohol as beer, wine, whisky and traditional Korean drinks are all good compliments. It should be noted that alcohol must be ordered separately.
3. Vegetarians can call ahead and have vegetables substituted for meat.
4. Forks are available for those who have trouble with chopsticks.
5. Please be sure to make reservations ahead of time when dining at the Korea House. (+82-2-2266-9101~3/Korean,English, Japanese)

Zhuang Zhong's interview with a royal Korean cuisine chef

Korea House's head chef, Yu Myeonggon and Seoul National University's student, Zhuang Zhong (enrolled in Korean language masters program) sat down for an interview over Korea House's A course dinner menu.

Chef) Is the taste suitable for you?
Zhuang Zhong) Yes, the Pumpkin Juk is especially tasty. While it is a bit sweet, it also has a nice light flavor about it.
Chef) You have been in Korea for about 4 years and I am sure that you have tasted many kinds of Korean food, but what do you think are differences between everyday Korean food and royal cuisine?
Zhuang Zhong) Ah~ Not spicy. The usual food eaten at home seems to be on the spicy side whereas royal cuisine is more mild and light.
Chef) Health was of the utmost importance with regards to the royal family's diet. Anything too spicy isn't good for one's health.
How would you say royal Chinese food and royal Korean food are different?
Zhuang Zhong) (said with a smile) The names of Chinese royal foods are very extravagant. Traditional proverbs are frequently used for the names of dishes. These names are long and often have no relation to the food itself, thus people usually can't tell what kind of food it is merely by looking at the name. On the other hand, when one looks at the names of royal Korean cuisines, there is no confusion regarding what kind of food it is.
Chef) Hahaha, is that so? Do you know of any difference, not in the names of the food necessarily, but more in food itself?
Zhuang Zhong) Hmm~ As you know most of Chinese food is stir-fried in oil, whereas Korean foods seem to use less oil by boiling or steaming dishes. This gives the food a light quality.
Chef) Please come back and visit us again! It would be our pleasure to serve you.
Zhuang Zhong) Thank you very much. Next time I would love to bring my parents here. I think that my parents would enjoy the tranquil and meditative atmosphere here at Korea House. I had a delicious meal today. Once again, thank you so much.
Chef) I enjoyed our time together!

Zhuang Zhong, the chef at Korea House and the reporter's top 3 recommendations

Zhuang Zhong recommends the Pumpkin Juk (porridge).

The chef recommends the Gujeolpan (nine-sectioned dish).

The reporter recommends the Daeha-gui (broiled prawn with seasoning).

>> For detailed information on Korea House, 한국의 집

Date 01/21/2008

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