If there is something to say about korean gastronomy is the intensity of its flavours. You can like it or not, but no one stays indifferent to the huge range of possibilities the korean food can offer.
I wanted to talk about korean food in this blog since a long time ago. As a good korean, when it’s a long time since I don’t have korean food, I start feeling a withdrawal syndrome. I could say that I am a gastronomy lover in general terms but from times to times, I need to feel the food inside my body, not only in my mouth.
Certainly the most known dish in Korea. More than a main dish, it is an accompanyment which uses to be served with many others more in restaurants (panchan). It consists in vegetables, tubers or roots (chinese cabbage, cucumber, turnip…) macerated in sauce with korean pepper (that’s why the red color) which are fermented until the optimum point. Each house has its own recipe. With Kimchi you can make Kimchichigae. It is a spicy soup which normally contains meat. Probably my favorite soup.
I said probably because Tokkuk is something amazing. Tok is a paste made with rice with which are made many things in korean gastronomy. Tokkuk consists is a soup of Tok with Mandu (Gyoze in japanese), which are pattys filled with meat, fish and/or vegetables. The soup is made with meat, seaweed and egg. It’s common to eat it for New Year, but any excuse is worth it to prepare it. Mostly cold days are the mood days for Tokkuk as it could rise a dead.
Miyeokkuk or seaweed soup is, par excellence, the soup for birthdays. It consists in a soup which brings also meat and it is very easy to prepare. It has a very characteristic flavour and is usually liked by the western palates as it’s not so spicy as other dishes. In addition, they say that seafood is the food of the future, so it’s time to get used to this delicious dish of the korean gastronomy.
Naengmyeon is a summer dish. It is particular because it is very cold as it contains ice. It is a kind of cold soup with shredded vegetables and noodles. I have tried it with pear, with noodles made with Green tea… There is a wide variety. It is one of those dishes that can blow your mind because I do not get to find a similar equivalent in the west. Maybe the spanish gazpacho for the fact of being a cold dish, but I don’t know any cold dish with noodles and ice.
Probably the most international dish of Korean gastronomy. As I said before, kimchi is the most famous, but it is not a main dish. The literal translation of Bibimbap is “mixed rice”, and that’s what it consists in. Rice with many different vegetables, meat, egg and whatever creativity can bring. You should add some “kochujang”, a red pepper paste which gives the final touch to the king of korean dishes. The more you get used to spicy food, the more red will be your plate.
Korean omelette has no reason to envy to spanish one. It’s even even healthier as it doesn’t contain anything fried. Neither the french one, as it is even more creative with the ingredients. Although the base are vegetarian, the nice one brings seafood like mussels, octopus or squid … For those who don’t dare strong korean flavours yet, this is a perfect dish to start introducing to our gastronomy.
It is actually a chinese dish but it is part of the korean gastronomy since hundreds of years. It consists on fresh noodles prepared with a very characteristic black-brown sauce which is made with soy. It also brings vegetabes and meat. A dish which is very liked, mostly by children and of which you will not remain indifferent as I still haven’t found nothing similar in the occidental cuisine.
Bulgogi is another famous dish in korean cuisine and it consists in beef meat with sauteed pepper, onion and carrrots that you leave marinating with a combination of soy sauce and many other ingredients that you can know in the récipe. It is very characteristic for its sweet flavour and is very liked by the western people. It is very common to find it in any korean restaurant in the world.
Although makis are very famous in the japanese gastronomy and around the world, korean gastronomy has its own versión with its own particular ingredients. If you like makis, you will probably love gimpab. The common ingredients appart from rice and seaweed are carrots, omelette, smashed meed, spinachs amd takwan which is marinated turnip with a mustard yellow color. The difference with the japanes makis is the distinctive taste of the sesame oil.
Galbi is beef ribs marinated in a similar sauce to bulbogi’s one and its main difference is the way the meat is cross-cutted to the bone and not in parallel, as it is usually cutted everywhere. The perfect way is in the korean barbecue, which consists in restauransts specifically built with a barbecue in each table and with a fume extractor so the clients don’t get smoked. Korean barbecues use to offer more kind and cuts of meat. You can not miss this gastronomic show.
Tokbokki is one of these dishes that western people can’t imagine in their minds until they try it. We talked about tok before, a paste made with rice. In this case, Tokbokki is made with some kind of small tok tubes with a dangerous-red color sauce. It is not so spicy actually, it is a sweet-spicy mix and it is flavor that will not make you remain indifferent. That’s why you can love it or not.
In Korea there is a wide gastronomic culture around the pork. Samgyeobsal is pork panceta and it is commonly served with a mix of soy paste with the already named kochujang (red pepper paste). There is a common way to eat it and it is putting it with some rice, garlic and the paste on a leaf of lettuce. This way of eating it is also very common with bulgogi.
12 dishes are far from enough to have an idea of the variety of the korean gastronomy. Maybe you didn’t notice, but we haven’t started talking about fish yet. We will talk about that another day in next posts of my blog. It is very common to see street stalls with alive fish and seafood where the customers choose the piece they want to eat. There is also a huge culture of salted fish.
The raw fish culture (Hae) is also very common, because in Korea it is more usual to see white fish instead of the red one due to the fact that in Japan and Korea, tuna fish is a luxury good.
It is also very common to eat the living octopus. Only the brave ones eat the entire living octopus in one piece. There is a mythic frame in Oldboy where the main actor eats it in a nasty way, but do know it is very common. By my own experience I can say it can be shocking to feel a living animal in your mouth trying to escape while you are chewing it. This is why I recommend to ask the waiter to cut it in pieces in front of you as it will also be shocking the tentacles moving once sliced and to have to take them with the chopsticks to your mouth.
We will soon talking about food, but by the momento, I think there is a good list of dishes to taste untill then. Bon profit!
“Love is as important as eating, but it doesn’t feed you”.
(Gabriel García Márquez)