With the success of the Korean drama Daejanggeum, or Jewel in the
Palace, in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan, the popularity or Korean foods are rising in Asia. The
rising popularity is also attributable to the Korean Wave (Hallyu) sweeping Asia. For more understanding of
Korean food, VisitKorea.or.kr will present you with a series of eight articles on the introduction of Korean
food with the help of the Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine. These monthly articles will lead you to the
wonderful world of Korean food.
■ The articles will be presented in the following
1) Overview of Korean food
Seasonings and Style of Korean Food
3) Special Food for Seasonal Occasions
4) Royal Cuisine- royal meal and royal table setting for celebratory occasions
5) Royal Cuisine – Who made royal cuisines?
6) Kimchi, the fundamental
7) Local dishes
8) Foods for special celebrations
Korea has much in common with China and Japan in terms of dining style due to
frequent cultural and historical exchanges. But over time, Korea has developed its own unique cuisines.
Korea was once a primarily agricultural nation, and boiled rice has become Koreans’
stable food. Stable food and side dishes are clearly distinguished in Korean table settings. A traditional
Korean meal consists of a bowl of rice and side dishes. Koreans use a wide arrange of ingredients such as
meat, fish, vegetables and seafood with unique seasonings. As there are many ways to cook these ingredients,
Koreans have developed diverse kinds of cuisines.
Boiled Rice, Staple of the Korean Diet
Bap, or boiled rice, is the staple of Korean cuisine. Barley, millet, beans, and red
beans are sometimes mixed with rice for special taste and nutritional value. Vegetables, seafood, and kimchi
are also added to rice when cooking for a better taste. One of the most famous rice dishes is bibimbap,
boiled rice mixed with seasoned vegetables and meat.
Juk, or porridge, is grains boiled over time with a lot of water. Many
varieties of juk exist, such as juk made of pine nuts, abalones, sesame, walnuts, and mung beans. Mieum is a
thin porridge and Eungi is a thin starch porridge.
Naengmyeon (buckwheat noodles in a cold broth),
manduguk (dumpling soup), tteokguk (rice cake soup) are cuisines enjoyed in everyday life and on special
occasions. These dished are also often enjoyed for lunch.
Guk (soup), Tang (thick soup), Jjigae (stew)
A Korean table is never completed without soups such as guk, tang and jjigae which
always accompany bowls of rice. They are made of a variety of ingredients such as beef, seafood, and
vegetables, with seasonings such as salt, soy bean sauce, bean paste, and seafood fermented in salt. Soups
that most frequently appear on Koreans’ tables include seaweed soup, bean paste soup, seolleongtang (beef
and bone soup), yukgaejang (spicy beef soup). Jjigae, gamjeong, and jochi are similar to guk, but they are
thicker in texture and stronger in taste. They are seasoned with bean paste, red pepper paste, and shrimp
fermented in salt. Gamjeong refers to jjigae seasoned with red pepper paste. Jochi is the term for jjigae
served during a royal meal. Casserole is a soup with seasoned meat and vegetables. It is boiled and cooked
on the spot and shared by many people.
Namul (vegetable or wild-greens dishes)
Namul, vegetable or wild-greens dishes, is one of the most basic side dishes in the
Korean diet. While namul refers to both raw and cooked vegetables and wild-greens, it usually means cooked
ones these days. Almost all kinds of seasonal vegetables and wild-greens are used for namul dishes. Koreans
often skewer and dry the ingredients to use them when they’re out of season. There are different ways to
cook namul according to the type of its ingredients. Vegetables with green leafs are parboiled and seasoned
with combinations of salt, soy sauce, sesame seeds, sesame oil and garlic. Wild greens such as Chinese
bellflowers are boiled and stir-fried with seasonings. Fresh seasonal vegetables are not boiled, but tossed
in a sweet and sour seasoning.
Gui (grilled dishes), Sanjeok (beef and vegetable
brochettes), Jijim (pan-fried dishes)
Gui, or grilled dishes, first appeared in the Korean diet when Koreans began to use
fire for cooking. Neobiani is a type of grilled dish served in royal cuisine. It is thinly sliced beef
marinated in a bulgogi sauce (soy sauce, sugar, garlic, green onions, and sesame oil), and then grilled at
the table over charcoal.
Sanjeok is a grilled brochette made of seasoned meat, vegetables and mushrooms.
There are many kinds of sanjeok according to their ingredients, such as sanjeok made of beef and vegetables,
mushrooms, green onions and fish. Sanjeok brings beauty to the table as it is made by putting ingredients of
many colors onto skewers.
Jeon is a pan-fried dish. It is also called as Jeonyueo or Jeonyuhwa. These dishes
include thinly sliced meats, fish, and vegetables that are coated in flour, dipped in egg and pan-fried.
Some common pan-fried dishes include pan-fried summer squash, pan-fried fish, and pan-fried meat. Jijim is a
small pancake made of flour batter pan-fried with various ingredients. Some popular pancakes include mung
bean pancake, green onion pancake, and layers of thin wheat pancake.
Pickled and Dried Foods for Long
Jangajji is vegetables pickled in soy sauce, red pepper paste or soybean paste. They are
stored for a long time and used as a side dish in winter times when vegetables are hard to get. Jeotgal and
sikhae are also a type of stored foods. They include seafood fermented in salt.
Another type of stored food includes twigak (deep-fried seaweed or leaves and stems of
various vegetables), bugak(deep-fried vegetables coated with starch), and po (beef or fish jerky). Yukpo,
one of the most popular types of jerky, is thin slices of beef marinated in soy sauce, then dried in the
shade. It is often served as a dried snack with alcohol or prepared for a wedding ceremony.
Kimchi is Korea’s most representative fermented food and the most basic side dish in the
Korean diet. As it is an indispensable part of any Korean meal, some people say they cannot have a meal
without Kimchi. There are many different kinds of Kimchi depending on region and its ingredients. Kimchi
comes in various colors and tastes according to its ingredients, and types of jeotgal, or fermented seafood,
used to make it. There is also a water kimchi with its refreshing and tangy juice.
Hoe (raw fish or meat), Ssam (vegetable leaf
wraps), Muk (jelly) – Cuisines Unique to Korea
Hoe is raw meat, fish, or vegetables served with dipping sauces such as red chili
pepper paste with vinegar and sugar, soy sauce with vinegar and sugar, mustard, and salt with sesame oil.
Sukhoe is similar to hoe, but it uses parboiled ingredients. Some of the popular ingredients for sukhoe
include parboiled parsley, small green onions, and fatsia shoots.
Ssam, vegetable leaf wraps, is an unique eating style of the Korean diet which is
loved by many Koreans. Ssam is spoonfuls of rice wrapped in wide leafs such as lettuce, Chinese cabbage,
sesame leafs, fresh seaweed and dried laver with soybean paste.
Also unique to Korean food is jokpyeon, pressed ox feet, and muk, firm jelly made of acorn, mung bean, or
Tteok (traditional rice cake), and Hangwa
(traditional sweets and cookies) for Festive and Seasonal Occasions and Ancestral Memorial
Koreans always prepare for tteok and hangwa for festive occasions and a variety of
special occasions. They are usually enjoyed as desserts these days. There are wide varieties of tteok based
on how to make it. Sirutteok is rice power mixed with other ingredients and steamed in a siru, an
earthenware steamer. Jeolpyeon and injeolmi is made by steaming glutinous rice and pounding it to make a
firm and sticky dough. Bukkumi and hwajeon is kneaded glutinous rice dough shaped into small circles and
pan-fried. Jeungpyeon is a steamed rice cake made with white rice flour and rice wine. It is also called as
Sultteok, or rice wine cake. Yaksik, also called as yakban and yakbap, is steamed sticky rice made with
chestnuts, jujubes (Korean dates), honey, pine nuts and cinnamon.
Hangwa is traditional Korean sweets and cookies. It is rice or wheat flour dough
mixed with honey, yeot (sticky rice sugar), and sugar and then deep-fried. It is also made by simmering
fruits and plants’ roots in honey syrup until they are glazed. It is also called as jogwa, which means
cookies made of natural produce by adding artificial flavor. There is a wide variety of hangwa, such as
yakgwa (deep-fried honey cookies), sanja (deep-fried sweet rice cookies), ganjeong (deep-fried sweet rice
puffs), yyeotgangjeong (malt toffees), dasik (traditional pressed sweets), and jeonggwa (candied fruits and