Korean cuisine

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
Hanjeongsik, a full-course Korean meal with a varied array of banchan (side dishes)[1]

Korean cuisine (Korean: Hanguk yori, 한국요리, 韓國料理; or Hanshik, 한식, 韓食) as a national cuisine known today has evolved through centuries of social and political change. Its roots can be traced back to myths and legends of antiquity. Originating from ancient agricultural and nomadic traditions in southern Manchuria and northern Korean peninsula, Korean cuisine has evolved through a complex interaction of the natural environment and different cultural trends.[L 1][L 2]

Ingredients and dishes vary by province. There are many significant regional dishes that have become both national and regional. Many dishes that were once regional, however, have proliferated in different variations across the country in the present day. The Korean royal court cuisine once brought all of the unique regional specialties together for the royal family. Meals consumed both by the royal family and ordinary Korean citizens have been regulated by a culture of etiquette that is unique to Korea.

Korean cuisine is largely based on rice, noodles , tofu, vegetables, and meats. Traditional Korean meals are noted for the number of side dishes (banchan) that accompany steam-cooked short-grain rice.[2] Kimchi, a fermented, spicy vegetable dish is usually served at every meal. Korean cuisine usually involves rich seasoning with sesame oil, doenjang (fermented soybean paste), soy sauce, salt, garlic, ginger, and gochujang (red chili paste).



Prehistoric cultures

In Jeulmun pottery period that dates approximately 8000-1500 B.C., hunter-gatherer societies engaged in fishing and hunting, and also incipient agriculture in the later stages.[L 1] Since the beginning of the Mumun pottery period 1500 B.C., agricultural traditions began to develop with new migrant groups from the Liao River basin of Manchuria. During the Mumun period people grew millets, barley, wheat, legumes, rice and continued to hunt and fish. Archaeological remains point to development of fermented beans during this period, and cultural contact with nomadic cultures to the north facilitated domestication of animals.

Three Kingdoms period - Goryeo dynasty

Dating from the first century BCE until the seventh century CE, the Three Kingdoms period was one of rapid cultural evolution. The kingdom of Goguryeo was located in the northern part of the peninsula along with much of what is today Manchuria. The second kingdom, Baekje, was in the southwestern portion of the peninsula, while the third, Silla, was located at the southeastern portion of the peninsula. Each region had its own distinct set of cultural practices and foods. For example, Baekje was known for eating cold foods and fermented foods like kimchi. The spread of Buddhism and Confucianism from China during the fourth century CE began to change the distinct cultures of Korea.[3]

Following the Three Kingdoms period is the Unified Silla period, during which Silla unified most of the southern region of Korea, while the Northern region was unified by refugees from Goguryeo, renaming the region Balhae. These cultures adhered to the beliefs of Buddhism with a moderate level of peaceful coexistence. During the tenth century, however, both cultures began to erode and were eventually unified under the Goryeo dynasty, which drew much of its culture from an admiration of the Song Dynasty of China. It was this dynasty that introduced the peninsula to the Western world and it is from the word "Goryeo" that the country's modern name of "Korea" was derived.[4]

During the Goryeo period, in the thirteenth century, the Mongols invaded Korea. Although there was a vast loss of life in Korea, many of the traditional foods found today in Korea have their origins in the Mongol invasion, such as mandu, grilled meat dishes, noodle dishes, and the use of seasonings such as black pepper.[5]

Joseon period

Confucianism continued to be the guiding influence during this time period. A hierarchy of human relationships was created during this time period. Lineage and birthright were the governing forces of the time. The bulk of the citizenry of this time period were freeborn commoners, who were the cultivators of food for the citizens. Butchers, called baekjeong in Korean, held the lowest cultural status level in this society as the work was deemed degrading.[6]

Agricultural innovations were vast during this time period, such as the invention of the rain gauge during the fifteenth century. During 1429 the government began publishing books on agriculture and farming techniques, which included Nongsa jikseol (hangul: 농사직설; hanja: 農事直說; literally "Straight Talk on Farming"), an agriculture book compiled under King Sejong.[7][8][9]

A series of invasions from in the earlier half of the Joseon period caused a dynamic shift in the culture during the second half of the period. It was during the second half of the period that groups of sirhak (실학, practical learning) scholars began to emphasize the importance of looking outside the country for innovation and technology to help improve the agricultural systems. it was also during this time that the government reduced the taxation of the peasantry, who were in turn able to grow commercial development by way of increasing the periodic markets, usually held every five days. One thousand of these markets existed in the 19th century and were the centers for economic trade and entertainment in communities.[10]

The government continued to promote the agricultural industry. The government promoted complex irrigation systems, which allowed peasant farmers to produce larger crop volumes and in turn they were able to not only produce crops for sustenance, but also for cash crops. It was during the latter half of the Joseon period when crops from the New World through trade with China, Japan, Europe, and the Philippines began to appear; these crops included corn, sweet potatoes, chili peppers, tomatoes, peanuts, and squash. Potatoes and sweet potatoes were particularly favored as they grew in soils and on terrains that were previously unused.[11]

The end of the Joseon period was marked by consistent encouragement for the country to trade with the Western world, China, and Japan. The 1860s marked a number of unfair trade agreements between the Western world and different Asian countries including China and Japan. Following suit, the Joseon Dynasty was forced to open its trade ports with the west by the Japanese government, and they entered into a number of unfair treaties with the United States, Britain, France, and other Western countries.[12]

The opening of Korea to the Western world brought a number of cultural food exchanges. Western missionaries introduced numerous foods to Korea. Additionally, the Joseon elites were introduced to these new foods by way of foreigners that attended the royal court as advisers or physicians. This period also saw the introduction of various seasonings imported from Japan and alcoholic drinks from China.[13]

20th century - current period

A number of internal rebellions lead to the fall of the Joseon dynasty, which was followed by a thirty-six year (1910-1945) colonization of the Korean peninsula by the imperial government of Japan. Many of the agricultural systems were adapted by the Japanese to support Japan at a loss of personal land to the Koreans. Examples include the combining of small farms were into large-scale farms for larger yields to export to Japan. Rice production increased during this period, but again most was shipped out of the country, the Koreans in turn increased the production of other grains like millet for their own consumption.[14]

Meals during the Japanese occupation were monotonous. Koreans usually ate two meals a day during cold seasons, and three during warm seasons. Meals were more important for fulfillment rather than quality. Those in the lower economic levels were likely to only enjoy a single bowl of white rice each year, while the remainder of the year was filled with meals of cheaper grains like millet and barley.[15] Western food began emerging into the Korean diet, such as white bread and commercially produced staples such as instant noodles began to appear as well. The Japanese colonial period ended after the defeat of Japan during World War II.[16]

The country continued to exist in turmoil through the Cold War, which separated the country into North Korea and South Korea, as well as the Korean War (1950-1953). Both of these periods continued the limited food provisions for Koreans,[14] and the stew called budae jjigae, which makes use of inexpensive meats such as hot dogs and Spam, originated during this period. It would not be until the 1960s under President Park Chung Hee that industrialization would come to Korea, when the country would regain its economic and cultural power held in the global economy today. Agriculture was increased through use of commercial fertilizers and modern farming equipment. It would not be until the 1970s that food shortages would lessen. Instant and processed foods increased as did the over all quality of foods. Livestock and dairy production was increased during the 1970s through the increase of commercial dairies and mechanized farms.[17]

The consumption of pork and beef increased vastly in Korea in the 1970s. The per-capita consumption of meat was 3.6 kilograms in 1961, which increased to 11 kilograms per person in 1979. The result of this increased meat consumption brought about the increase of bulgogi restaurants which gave the middle class of South Korea the ability to enjoy meat regularly. The consumption of meat rose to 40 kilograms in 1997, while fish consumption was 49.5 kilograms in 1998. Rice consumption had continually decreased through the years with 128.1 kg consumed per person in 1985 to 106.5 kg in 1995 and 83.2 kg in 2003. The decrease in rice consumption has been accompanied by an increase in consumption of bread and noodles.[18]


Grains and legumes

Grains in general have been one of the most important staples to the Korean diet. Early myths of the foundations of various kingdoms in Korea center on grains. One foundation myth relates to Chumong who received barley seeds from two doves sent by his mother after establishing the kingdom of Goguryeo.[19] Yet another myth speaks of the three founding deities of Jeju Island whom were to be wed to the three princesses of Tamna; the deities brought seeds of five grains which were the first seeds planted which in turn became the first instance of farming.[20]

During the pre-modern era, grains such as barley and millet were the main staples and were supplemented by wheat, sorghum, and buckwheat.[21] Rice is not an indigenous crop to Korea, and it is likely that millet was the preferred grain before rice was cultivated. Rice became the grain of choice during the Three Kingdoms period, particularly in the kingdoms of Silla and Baekje in the southern regions of the peninsula. Rice was such an important commodity in Silla that it was used to pay taxes. The Sino-Korean word for "tax" is a compound character that utilizes the character for the rice plant. The preference for rice escalated into the Joseon period when new methods of cultivation and new varieties emerged that would help increase production.[21]

As rice was prohibitively expensive when it first came to Korea, it is likely that the grain was mixed with other grains, nuts, or berries in order to "stretch" the rice; this is still done in dishes such as boribap (rice with barley) and kongbap (rice with beans).[L 3] White rice, which is rice with the hull removed, has been the preferred method of eating rice since its introduction into the cuisine. The most traditional method of cooking the rice has been to cook it in an iron pot called a sot (솥) or musoe sot (무쇠솥). This method of rice cookery dates back at least to the Goryeo period, and sot have even been found in tombs from the Silla period. The sot is still used today, much in the same manner as it was in the past centuries.[22]

Rice is used to make a number of items, outside of the traditional bowl of plain white rice. Rice is commonly ground into a flour and used to make rice cakes called tteok, of which there are over two hundred varieties. Rice is also cooked down into a congee (called juk in Korean), or gruel (called mieum in Korean) and mixed with other grains, meat, or seafood. Koreans also produce a number of rice wines, both in filtered and unfiltered versions.[22]

Soybeans are also commonly used in Korean cuisine; they are made into tofu (dubu), while soybean sprouts are sauteed as a vegetable (kongnamul) and whole soybeans are marinated and served as a side dish. They are also made into soy milk, which is used as the base for the noodle dish called kongguksu. A by-product of soy milk production is okara (kongbiji), which is used to thicken stews and porridges. Soybeans may also be one of the beans in kongbap (rice boiled together with several types of beans and other grains).

Meat and fish

In antiquity, most meat in Korea was likely obtained through hunting and fishing. Ancient records indicate that rearing of livestock began on a small scale during the Three Kingdoms period. Meat was consumed roasted or in soups or stews during this period. Those who lived closer to the oceans were able to complement their diet with more fish while those who lived in the interior had a diet containing more meat.[23]


Beef is the most prized of all meats, with the cattle itself holding an important cultural role in the Korean home. The cattle were regarded as servants and seen as an equal to human servants. Cattle were also given their own holiday during the first 'cow' day of the lunar New Year. The importance of the cattle does not suggest that Koreans ate an abundance of beef, however, as pork and seafood were more likely consumed on a more regular basis as the cattle were valued as beasts of burden. The Buddhist ruling class of the Goryeo period forbade the consumption of beef. The Mongols dispensed with the ban of beef during the 13th century and they promoted the production of beef cattle. This increased production continued into the Joseon period when the government encouraged both increased quantities and quality of beef.[24]

It has only been in the latter part of the 20th century that beef has become regular table fare. Beef is prepared in numerous ways today including roasting or grilling (gui), boiling in soups. Beef can also be dried as with seafood (yukpo, 육포).[25]


Chicken has played an important role as a protein in Korea's history, evidenced by a number of myths. One myth tells of the birth of Kim Alji, founder of the Kim family of Gyeongju being announced by the cry of a white chicken. As the birth of a clan's founder is always announced by an animal with preternatural qualities, this myth speaks to the importance of chicken. Chicken is often served roasted or steamed with vegetables or in soups. All parts of the chicken are used in Korean cuisine, including the gizzards, liver, and feet. Young chicken are braised in a medicinal soups eaten during the summer months to combat heat called samgyetang. The feet of the chicken, called dakbal (닭발), are often roasted and covered with hot and spicy gochujang-based sauce and served as an anju, or side dish, to accompany alcoholic beverages, especially soju.[26][27]


A dish made with dog meat in South Korea

The consumption of dog meat in Korea dates back to antiquity. The primary dog breed raised for meat, the nureongi (누렁이), differs from those breeds raised for pets which Koreans may keep in their homes.[28] For those who consume dog meat, they usually do so during the summer months in either roasted form or prepared in soups. The most popular of these soups is gaejang-guk (also called bosintang), a spicy stew meant to balance the body's heat during the summer months; followers of the custom claim this is done to ensure good health by balancing one's gi, or vital energy of the body. A 19th century version of gaejang-guk explains that the dish is prepared by boiling dog meat with scallions and chili powder. Variations of the dish contain chicken and bamboo shoots. While the dishes are still popular in Korea with a segment of the population, dog is not as widely consumed as beef, chicken, and pork.[29]

Fish and seafood

Saengseon jjim, steamed seasoned fish

Fish and shellfish have always been a major part of Korean cuisine because of the oceans bordering the peninsula. Evidence from the 12th century illustrates that commoners consumed a diet mostly of fish and shellfish such as shrimp, clams, oysters, abalone, and loach, while sheep and hogs were reserved for the upper class.[30]

Both fresh and saltwater fish are popular and are served raw, grilled, broiled, dried, and served in soups and stews. Common grilled fish include mackerel, hairtail, croaker, and Pacific herring. Smaller fish, shrimps, squid, mollusks and countless other seafood can be salted as Jeotgal. Fish can also be grilled either whole or in fillets as banchan. Fish is often dried naturally in order to prolong storing periods and enable shipping over long distances. Fish commonly dried include yellow corvina, anchovies (myeolchi) and croaker.[30] Dried anchovies along with kelp form the basis of common soup stocks.[31]

Shellfish is widely eaten in all different types of preparation. They can be used to prepare broth, eaten raw with chogochujang, or used as a popular ingredient in countless dishes.[R 1] Raw oysters and other seafood can be used in making kimchi to improve and vary the flavor.[R 2] Salted baby shrimps are used as a seasoning agent known as saeujeot for the preparation of some types of kimchi. Large shrimp are often grilled as daeha gui (대하구이)[32] or dried, mixed with vegetables and served with rice. Mollusks eaten in Korean cuisine include octopus, cuttlefish, and squid.[33]


Pork has also been another important land based protein for Korea. Records indicate that pigs have been a part of the Korean diet back to antiquity, similar to cattle rearing. The island of Cheju Island has a particularly colorful tradition of raising pigs in special pens built around raised privies which held human excrement for pig feed. These pigs were considered a delicacy and were known as Ddong dwaeji (똥돼지).[34]

A number of foods have been avoided while eating pork including Chinese bellflower (doraji, 도라지) and lotus root (yeonn ppuri, 연뿌리) as the combinations have been thought to cause diarrhea. Blood taken from the pig's tail is thought to have medicinal properties. All parts of the pig are used in Korean cuisine in a variety of cooking methods including steaming, stewing, boiling, and smoking.[26]


Korean cuisine uses a wide variety of vegetables, which are often served uncooked, either in salads or pickles, as well as cooked in various stews, stir-fried dishes, and other hot dishes.[R 3] Commonly used vegetables include daikon (mu), Napa cabbage (baechu), cucumber (oi), potato (gamja), sweet potato (goguma), spinach (sigeumchi), scallions (pa), garlic (maneul), chili peppers (gochu), sea vegetables, zucchini (hobak), mushrooms (beoseot), and lotus root. Several types of wild greens, known collectively as chwinamul (such as Aster scaber), are a popular dish, and other wild vegetables such as bracken fern shoots (gosari) or Korean bellflower root (doraji) are also harvested and eaten in season.[R 4] Medicinal herbs such as ginseng (insam), wolfberry (gugija), Codonopsis pilosula (dangsam), and Angelica sinensis (danggwi) are often used as ingredients in cooking, as in samgyetang.

Dining etiquette

Dining etiquette in Korea can be traced back to the Confucian philosophies on the Joseon period. Guidebooks such as Sasojeol (Elementary Etiquette for Scholar Families) written in 1775 by Yi Tǒongmu, comment on the dining etiquette for the period. Suggestions include items such as "when you see a fat cow, goat, pig, or chicken, do not immediately speak of slaughtering, cooking or eating it",[35] "when you are having a meal with others, do not speak of smelly or dirty things, such as boils or diarrhea... if someone is still eating do not go to the bathroom even if you have the urge",[35] "when eating a meal, neither eat so slowly as to appear to be eating against your will nor to fast as if to be taking someone else's food. Do not throw chopsticks on the table. Spoons should not touch plates, making a clashing sound",[35] amongst many other recommendations which emphasized proper table etiquette.

Chopsticks should always be lifted from the table by the eldest family member first

The eldest male at the table was always served first, commonly served to them in the men's quarters by the women of the house. Women usually dined in a separate portion of the house after the men were served. The eldest men or women always ate before the younger family members. The meal was usually quiet, as conversation was discouraged during meals. In modern times these rules have become lax, as families usually dine together now and use the time to converse. Of the remaining elements of this decorum, one remaining decorum is that the younger members of the table should not pick up their chopsticks or start eating before the elders of the table.[36]

In Korea, unlike in China and Japan, the rice bowl is not lifted from the table when eating from it. This is due to the fact that each diner is given a metal spoon along with the chopsticks known collectively as sujeo (수저). The use of the spoon for eating rice and soups is expected. There are rules which reflect the decorum of sharing communal side-dishes; rules include not picking through the dishes for certain items while leaving others that the diner does not desire, the spoon being used should be clear of other food particles, and finally that one should not reach across the table for the side-dishes as they should request them to be passed. Diners should also cover their mouths with a hand when using a toothpick after the meal.[36]

The table setup is important as well, and individuals place setting moving from the diner's left should be as follows: rice bowl, spoon, and chopsticks. Hot foods are set to the right side of the table, with the cold foods to the left. Soup must remain on the right side of the diner along with stews. Vegetables remain on the left along with the rice, and kimchi is set to the back while sauces remain in the front.[36]

Royal court cuisine

Collectively known as kungjiung ǔmsik during the pre-modern era, the foods of the royal palace were reflective of the opulent nature of the past rulers of the Korean peninsula. The opulent nature of the royalty is evidenced in examples as far back as the Silla kingdom, where a man-made lake (Anapji Lake, located in Gyeongju) was created with multiple pavilions and halls for the sole purpose of opulent banquets and a spring fed channel, Poseokjeong, was created for the singular purpose of setting wine cups afloat while they wrote poems.[37]

Reflecting the regionalism of the kingdoms and bordering countries of the peninsula, the cuisine borrowed portions from each of these areas to exist as a showcase. The royalty would have the finest regional specialties and delicacies sent to them at the palace. Although there are records of banquets pre-dating the Joseon period, the majority of these records mostly reflect the vast variety of foods, but do not mention the specific foods presented.[38] The meals cooked for the royal family did not reflect the seasons as the commoner's meals would have. Instead their meals varied day-to-day with significant variations. Each of the eight provinces was represented each month in the royal palace by ingredients presented by their governors, which gave the cooks a wide assortment of ingredients to utilize for royal meals.[39]

Food held a very important place in Joseon period. Official positions were created within the Six Ministries (Yukjo, 육조) that were charged with all matters related to procurement and consumption of food and drink for the royal court. The Board of Personnel (Ijo, 이조) contained positions specific for attaining rice for the royal family. The Board of Rights (Yejo) were responsible for foods prepared for ancestor rites, attaining wines and other beverages, and medicinal foods. There were also hundreds of slaves and women who worked in the palace that had tasks such as making tofu, liquor, tea, and tteok (rice cakes). The women were the cooks to the royal palace and were of commoner or low-born families. These women would be split into specific skill sets or "bureau" such as the Bureau of special foods (Saenggwa-bang, 생과방) or the Bureau of cooking foods (Soju-bang, 소주방). These female cooks may have been assisted by male cooks from outside the palace during larger banquets when necessary.[40]

Five meals were generally served in the royal palace each day during the Joseon period, and records suggest this pattern had existed from antiquity. Three of these meals would be full meals, while the afternoon and after dinner meals would be lighter. The first meal, mieumsang (미음상), was served at sunrise and was served only on days when the king and queen were not taking herbal medicines. The meal consisted of rice porridge (juk, 죽) made with ingredients such as abalone (jeonbokjuk), white rice (huinjuk), mushrooms (beoseotjuk), pine nuts (jatjuk), and sesame (kkaejuk). The side dishes could consist of kimchi, nabak kimchi, oysters, soy sauce, and other items. The porridge was thought to give vitality to the king and queen throughout the day.[41]

The sura (수라) were the main meals of the day. Breakfast was served at ten in the morning and the evening meals were served between six and seven at night. The set of three tables (surasang, 수라상), were usually set with two types of rice, two types of soup, two types of stew (jjigae), one dish of jjim (meat stew), one dish of jeongol (a casserole of meat and vegetables), three types of kimchi, three types of jang (장) and twelve side dishes, or called 12 cheop (12첩). The meals were set in the suragan (수라간), a room specifically used for taking meals, with the king seated to the east and the queen to the west. Each had their own set of tables and were attended by three palace servant women known as sura sanggung (수라상궁). These women would remove bowl covers and offer the foods to the king and queen after ensuring that the dishes were not poisoned.[42]

Vegetarian cookery

An array of bap (rice) and banchan at a vegetarian restaurant in Anguk-dong, Seoul, South Korea

Vegetarian cookery in Korea may be linked to the Buddhist traditions that influenced Korean culture from the Goryeo dynasty onwards.[citation needed] There are hundreds of vegetarian restaurants in Korea although historically they have been local restaurants that are unknown to tourists.[citation needed] Most have buffets, with cold food, and vegetarian kimchi and tofu being the main features. Bibimbap is a common vegan dish. Menus change with seasons. De-alcoholized wine, and fine teas are also served. The Korean tea ceremony is suitable for all vegetarians and vegans, and began with Buddhist influences. All food is eaten with a combination of rather slippery stainless steel oval chopsticks and a long-handled shallow spoon called together sujeo.[citation needed]

Korean vegetarian restaurants also exist outside Korea, such as Manhattan's Hangawi and Franchia,[R 5][R 6] and Chicago's Amitabul.[R 7]

Korean beverages

Non-alcoholic beverages

Daechu cha (jujube tea)

All Korean traditional non-alcoholic beverages are referred to as eumcheongnyu (음청류 ). According to historical documents regarding Korean cuisine, 193 items of eumcheongnyu are recorded.[43] Eumcheongnyu can be divided into the following categories: cha (차, tea), tang (탕, boiled water), jang (장, fermented grain juice with sour taste), suksu (숙수), galsu (갈수, thirst water), hwachae (화채, fruit punch), sikhye (식혜, sweet rice drink), sujeonggwa (수정과, persimmon punch), milsu or kkulmul (밀수, 꿀물, honeyed water), jeup (즙, juice) and milk by their ingredient materials and preparation methods. Among the varieties of eumcheongnyu, cha, hwachae, sikhye, and sujeonggwa are still widely favored and consumed; however, tang, jang, suksu, and galsu had almost disappeared by the end of the 20th century.[44][45]

Alcoholic beverages

A bowl of makgeolli, a type of takju

While soju (소주) is the best known liquor, there are well over 100 different alcoholic beverages such as beers, rice and fruit wines, and liquors produced in South Korea. The top-selling domestic beers (the Korean term for beer being maekju) are lagers, similar to others found in Europe and Asia. The South Korean beer market is dominated by the three major brands: Cass, Hite, and OB. Taedonggang (대동강) is a North Korean beer which is based in Pyongyang since 2002.[46]Microbrewery beers and bars are growing in popularity after 2002.[47]

Soju is a clear spirit which was originally made from grain especially rice, and is now also made from sweet potatoes or barley. Soju made from grain is considered superior (as is also the case with grain vs. potato vodka). Soju is around 22% ABV and is a favorite beverage of hard-up college students, hard-drinking businessmen, and blue-collar workers.

Yakju is a refined pure liquor fermented from rice, with the best known being cheongju. Takju is a thick unrefined liquor made with grains, with the best known being makkoli (막걸리), a white, milky rice wine traditionally drunk by farmers.[48]

In addition to the rice wine, various fruit wines and herbal wines exist in Korean cuisine. Acacia, maesil plum, Chinese quince, cherry, pine fruits, and pomegranate are most popular. Majuang wine (a blended wine of Korean grapes with French or American wines) and ginseng-based wines are also available.

Prepared dishes

Korean foods are largely categorized into groups of "main staple foods" (주식), "subsidiary dishes" (부식), and "dessert" (후식). The main dishes are made from grains such as bap (a bowl of rice), juk (porridge), and guksu (noodles).

Many Korean banchan rely on fermentation for flavor and preservation, resulting in a tangy, salty, and spicy taste. Certain regions are especially associated with some dishes (for example, the city of Jeonju with bibimbap) either as a place of origin or for a famous regional variety. Restaurants will often use these famous names on their signs or menus (i.e. "Suwon galbi").

Romanization of Korean words may vary widely, with g/k (eg galbi/kalbi), j/ch, d/t and b/p often used interchangeably.

Soups and stews

Tteokguk, soup made with tteok, rice cake

Soups are a common part of any Korean meal. Unlike other cultures, in Korean culture, soup is served as part of the main course rather than at the beginning or the end of the meal as an accompaniment to rice along with other banchan. Soups known as guk (국) are often made with meats, shellfish and vegetables. Soups can be made in to more formal soups known as tang often served as the main dish of the meal. Jjigae are a thicker, heavier seasoned soup or stew.[49]

Korean soups can be split into four categories. The first category, clear soups or called malgeunguk (맑은국), are flavored with ganjang. Small amounts of long boiled meat may be added to the soup, or seafood both fresh and dried may be added, or vegetables may be the main component for the clear soup. The second category, known as tojangguk (토장국) are seasoned with doenjang. Common ingredients for tojang guk include seafood such as clams, dried anchovies, and shrimp. For a spicier soup, gochujang is added.[50]

The third category of soups is gomguk (곰국), and they are made from boiling beef bones or cartilage. Originating as a peasant dish, all parts of the cow are used including tail bones, leg-bones and rib-bones with or without meat attached, are boiled in water to extract fat, marrow, and potassium to create a milky-white soup. Some versions of this soup may also use the cow's head and intestines. The only seasoning generally used in the soup is salt. The final category of soup is naengguk (냉국), which are cold soups generally eaten during the summer months to cool down the diner. A light hand is usually used in the seasoning of these soups usually utilizing ganjang and sesame oil.[51]

Stews are referred to as jjigae and are often a shared side-dish. Jjigae is often both cooked and served in the glazed earthenware pot (ttukbaegi, 뚝배기) in which it is cooked. The most common version of this stew is doenjang jjigae which is a stew of soybean paste, with many variations, common ingredients include vegetables, saltwater or freshwater fish, and tofu. The stew often changes with the seasons and which ingredients are available. Other common varieties of jjigae contain kimchi (kimchi jjigae) or tofu (sundubu jjigae).[52]


Kimchi (김치): vegetables (usually Napa cabbage, daikon, or cucumber) commonly fermented in a brine of ginger, garlic, scallions, and chilli pepper. There are endless varieties, and it is served as a side dish or cooked into soups and rice dishes. Koreans traditionally make enough kimchi to last for the entire winter season, although with refrigerators and commercial jarred kimchi this practice has become less common.

Main dishes


Mul naengmyeon with mandu
  • Bibim guksu (비빔국수) - spicy cold wheat flour noodles; extremely popular during the summer season.
  • Naengmyeon (냉면, (North Korea: 랭면, Raengmyŏn), "cold noodles") - this summer dish consists of several varieties of thin, hand-made buckwheat noodles, and is served in a large bowl with a tangy iced broth, raw julienned vegetables and fruit, and often a boiled egg and cold cooked beef. This is also called Mul ("water") Naengmyeon, to distinguish from Bibim Naengmyeon, which has no broth and is mixed with a spicy, tangy sauce made with gochujang.
  • Jajangmyeon (짜장면) - a staple Koreanized Chinese noodle dish that is extremely popular in Korea as fast, take-out food. It is made with a black bean sauce that is usually fried with ground pork or seafood and a variety of vegetables including zucchini and potatoes. It is popularly ordered and delivered, like Chinese take-out food in other parts of the world.
  • Kalguksu (칼국수) - boiled flat noodles, usually in a broth made of anchovies and sliced zucchini.
  • Ramyeon (라면) - a variations of instant ramen usually spicy and cooked with an egg.

Subsidiary dishes

Banchan (side dishes)

Banchan (반찬) is a term collectively to refer to side dishes in Korean cuisine. Soups and stews are not considered as banchan.

Bulgogi, a grilled Korean dish

Gui (grilled dishes) are grilled dishes, which most commonly have meat or fish as their primary ingredient, but may in some cases also comprise grilled vegetables or other vegetarian ingredients. At traditional restaurants, meats are cooked at the center of the table over a charcoal grill, surrounded by various banchan and individual rice bowls. The cooked meat is then cut into small pieces and wrapped with fresh lettuce leaves, with rice, thinly sliced garlic, ssamjang (a mixture of gochujang and dwenjang), and other seasonings. The suffix gui is often omitted in the names of meat-based gui such as galbi, whose name is originally galbi gui.

Jjim (찜) and seon (선) (steamed dishes) are generic terms referring to steamed or boiled dishes in Korean cuisine. However, the former is made with meat or seafood-based ingredients marinated in gochujang or ganjang while seon is made with vegetable stuffed with fillings.

Hoe (IPA[hø] 회) (raw dishes): although the term originally referred to any kind of raw dish, it is generally used to refer to saengseonhoe (생선회, raw fish dishes). It is dipped in gochujang, mustard sauce, or soy sauce with wasabi, and served with lettuce or perilla leaves (깻잎).

Jeon (or buchimgae) are savory pancakes made from various ingredients. Chopped kimchi or seafood is mixed into a wheat flour-based batter, and then fried in an oiled pan. This dish tastes best when it is dipped in a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and red pepper powder.


Namul may be used to refer to either saengchae (생채, literally "fresh vegetables") and sukchae (숙채, literally "heated vegetables"), although the term generally indicates the latter. Saengchae is mostly seasoned with vinegar, chili pepper powder, and salt to give a tangy and refreshing taste. On the other hand, sukchae (숙채) literally means "heated vegetables" and is parboiled and seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, chopped garlic, or sometimes chili pepper powder.

Kong Jang Sweet and sticky soyabeans

Street food

Closeup of kimbap

In South Korea, food may be purchased from street carts during the day, where customers may eat standing beside the cart or have their food wrapped up to take home. At night, many streets are filled with small tents that sell inexpensive foods, drinks, and alcoholic beverages. Seasonal foods include hotteok, and bungeoppang, which are enjoyed in the fall and winter.

Anju (side dishes accompanying alcoholic beverages)

  • Anju (안주) is a general term for a Korean side dish consumed with alcohol (often with soju). It is commonly served at bars, noraebang (karaoke) establishments, and restaurants that serve alcohol. These side dishes can also be ordered as appetizers or even a main dish. Some examples of anju include steamed squid with gochujang, assorted fruit, dubu kimchi (tofu with kimchi), peanuts, odeng/ohmuk, sora (소라 (a kind of shellfish popular in street food tents), and nakji (small octopus). Soondae is also a kind of anju, as is samgyeopsal, or dwejigalbi. Most Korean foods may be served as anju, depending on availability and the diner's taste. However, anju are considered different from the banchan served with a regular Korean meal.
    • Jokbal (족발): pig's feet served with saeujeot (salted fermented shrimp sauce)


Various hahngwa


  1. ^ The Chosun Ilbo
  2. ^ Fritscher, Lisa "Korean Food Basics".
  3. ^ Pettid, 13.
  4. ^ Pettid, 13-14.
  5. ^ Pettid, 15.
  6. ^ Pettid, 16.
  7. ^ King Sejong's Humanism, from National Assembly of the Republic of Korea
  8. ^ Pettid, 17.
  9. ^ The Academy of Korean Studies
  10. ^ Pettid, 18.
  11. ^ Pettid, 18-19.
  12. ^ Pettid, 19.
  13. ^ Pettid, 163.
  14. ^ a b Pettid, 19-20.
  15. ^ Pettid, 29,163.
  16. ^ Pettid, 20.
  17. ^ Pettid, 164-165.
  18. ^ Pettid, 166.
  19. ^ Yi Kyubo, 1-9.
  20. ^ Koryǒsa, 57, 53b-54b.
  21. ^ a b Pettid, 33.
  22. ^ a b Pettid, 34.
  23. ^ Pettid, 58.
  24. ^ Pettid, 59-60.
  25. ^ Pettid, 60.
  26. ^ a b Pettid, 62.
  27. ^ Yu Jisang (유지상)
  28. ^ Pettid, 25
  29. ^ Pettid, 84-85.
  30. ^ a b Pettid, 63.
  31. ^ Marks, 8.
  32. ^ Korea Tourism Organization
  33. ^ Pettid, 65-66.
  34. ^ Pettid, 61.
  35. ^ a b c Yi Tǒngmu 62.
  36. ^ a b c Pettid, 159.
  37. ^ Pettid, 129
  38. ^ Pettid, 130.
  39. ^ Pettid, 132.
  40. ^ Pettid, 130-132.
  41. ^ Pettid, 133.
  42. ^ Pettid, 134-135.
  43. ^ Baek Un-hwa, The industrialization of Korean traditional beverages
  44. ^ Introduction of Eumcheongryu, Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corporation
  45. ^ Sohn Gyeong-hee, Historical overview of Korean traditional eumcheongryu
  46. ^ Reuters, "North Korean beer: great taste, low proliferation risk", Mar 9, 2008
  47. ^ The Korea Economic Daily, 2006-12-01
  48. ^ Food in Korea, "Jontongjoo - Kinds of Traditonal Liquors"
  49. ^ Pettid, 56.
  50. ^ Pettid, 56-57.
  51. ^ Pettid, 57.
  52. ^ Pettid, 57-58.


  1. ^ Martin Robinson; Andrew Bender (April 2004). Korea. Rob Whyte. Lonely Planet Publications. pp. 147. ISBN 1740594495. http://books.google.com/books?id=UrohIhkT_sUC&pg=PA147&vq=shellfish+broth&dq=shellfish+korean+broth&source=gbs_search_s&cad=0. 
  2. ^ Yiu H. Hui; Sue Ghazala (2003-09-01). Handbook of Vegetable Preservation and Processing. Dee M. Graham, K. D. Murrell, Wai-Kit Nip. CRC Press. pp. 191. ISBN 0824743016. http://books.google.com/books?id=dVpQVJ46C5gC&pg=PA191&dq=oysters#PPA191,M1. 
  3. ^ Okwha Chung; Judy Monroe (September 2002). Cooking the Korean Way. Lerner Publishing Group. pp. 13-14. ISBN 0822541157. http://books.google.com/books?id=weePqwbUAQEC&pg=PA13&dq=%22korean+cuisine%22+vegetables. 
  4. ^ David Clive Price; Masano Kawana (2002-11-15). Food of Korea. Periplus Editions. pp. 24-25. ISBN 9625930264. http://books.google.com/books?id=1c44-6UVtXsC&pg=PA24&dq=%22korean+cuisine%22+bracken&lr=. 
  5. ^ Beth Gould (February 2003). "Restaurant Review: Hangawi". Satay Magazine. http://www.satyamag.com/rest/hangawi.html. 
  6. ^ Florence Fabricant (2003-04-30). "Off the Menu, Franchia". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/30/dining/off-the-menu.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Subjects/R/Restaurants&scp=2&sq=Off%20the%20Menu%20Franchia&st=cse. 
  7. ^ "Amitabul". Metromix Chicago. http://chicago.metromix.com/restaurants/korean/amitabul-norwood-park/143781/content. 
  8. ^ Roy, Christian (2005). Traditional Festivals: A Multicultural Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 285. ISBN 9781576070895. http://books.google.com/books?id=IKqOUfqt4cIC&pg=PA285&dq=songpyeon+%22pine+needles%22. 
  9. ^ "Kinds of Hangwa". Food in Korea. Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corporation. http://www.foodinkorea.org/eng_food/korfood/korfood8_3.jsp. 

Korean language references


  • Baek Un-hwa (백운화). Inje Food Science Forum (인제식품과학 FORUM), "Part 3 Status quo and prospect about the industrialization of Korean traditional beverages (제 3 주제 전통 음청류의 산업화 현황과 전망)" taken from [1] on 2008-06-15. pp. 75~95.
  • Coultrip-Davis, Deborah, Young Sook Ramsay, and Deborah Davis (1998). Flavors of Korea: Delicious Vegetarian Cuisine. Tennessee: Book Publishing Company. ISBN 1570670536. ISBN 9781570670534.
  • Cost, Bruce. Asian ingredients: a guide to the foodstuffs of China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. New York: Harper Perennial, 2000. ISBN 0-06-093204-X
  • Food in Korea, "Jontongjoo - Kinds of Traditional Liquors" taken from [2]
  • Fritscher, Lisa. "Korean Food Basics: What You Might Find On A Korean Food Menu" taken from [3] on 2007-11-17.
  • Herskovitz, Jon. Reuters, "North Korean beer: great taste, low proliferation risk", Mar 9, 2008, taken from [4]
  • Hopkins, Jerry. Extreme Cuisine: The Weird & Wonderful Foods that People Eat, Signapore: Tuttle Publishing, 2004.
  • Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corporation. "Introduction of Eumcheongryu" taken from [5] on 2008-05-22.
  • Korea Tourism Organization. "Experience Royal Cuisine" taken from [6] on 2008-06-13.
  • Koryǒsa, The History of the Koryǒ Dynasty, Seoul, 1990.
  • National Assembly of the Republic of Korea. "King Sejong's Humanism" taken from [7] on 2008-06-10.
  • Marks, Copeland. The Korean Kitchen: Classic Recipes from the Land of the Morning Calm. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1993.
  • O'Brien, Betsy. Let's Eat Korean Food. Elizabeth, NJ:Hollym, 1997. ISBN 1-56591-071-0
  • Pettid, Michael J., Korean Cuisine: An Illustrated History, London: Reaktion Books Ltd., 2008.
  • Sohn Gyeong-hee (손경희). Inje Food Science Forum (인제식품과학 FORUM), "Part 1 HIstorical overview of Korean traditional eumcheongryu (제 1 주제 한국 전통 음청류의 역사적 고찰)" taken from [8] on 2008-06-16.
  • The Academy of Korean Studies. "농사직설(農事直說), Nongsa jikseol" taken from [9] on 2008-06-10.
  • The Chosun Ilbo. "Hanjeongsik, a full-course Korean meal" taken from [10] on 2008-06-11.
  • The Korea Economic Daily, "Brew master.. the only beer in the world" (브루 마스터 .. 세계 유일의 맥주) taken from [11]
  • Yi Kyubo, Tongmyǒng-wang p'yǒn' (The lay of King Tongmyǒng) in Tongguk Yi Sangguk chip (The Collected Works of Minister Yi of the Eastern Country), Seoul, 1982.
  • Yi Yang-Cha, and Armin E. Möller (1999). Koreanisch vegetarisch: Die kaum bekannte, fettarme, phantasievolle und küchenfreundliche Art asiatisch zu kochen (Korean Vegetarian: Almost Unknown, Low Fat, Creative and Kitchen-friendly Way of Asian Cooking). ISBN 3775004572. ISBN 9783775004572.
  • Yi Tǒngmu, Sasojǒl (Elementary Etiquette for Scholar Families), quaoted in Sources of Korean Tradition, Volume Two: From the Twentieth Centuries, ed. Yǒongho Ch'oe, Peter H. Lee and W. Theodore de Bary. New York, 2000.
  • Yu Jisang (유지상). "How about today? Pojangmacha, outing at night" (오늘 어때? 포장마차 ‘밤마실’) taken from [12] on 2008-06-13.

See also

External links

Korean restaurant links

Personal tools