Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Korean Food Culture


Korean food is much more than kimchi, though it is a big part of it. An excellent way to preserve vegetables for the winter months, they are made in big ceramic pots. They are served on the side, part of banchan (a collection of small dishes served to go with rice or your meal), or sometimes an ingredient in the main dish.

They are also into soupy dishes, like sundubu jjigae and samgyetang; so much so that they have expressions such as “a meal without soup is like a face without eyes”.

Anthony Bourdain would be right at home with his love of spicy food and night markets.

One big difference people don’t necessarily talk about is that many Korean restaurants specialize in a particular dish, and offer very few items on the menu. It’s also a good sign that you will have a delicious experience. We went to a restaurant that served different kinds of samgyetang (one apparently with herbs and spices optimized for women vs. men), and very little else. We also dined at an eatery with a long queue (another good sign) with no other foreigners (also a great sign), where they had 2 types of Korean pancakes or jeon, to accompany their main specialty, soup with hand-torn flour flakes, or sujebiand maybe one other dish. It may be inconvenient, but it’s a mental adjustment worth making because these restaurants concentrate on making those few dishes well and serve you efficiently and with pride.

Experiencing Korean food is also a history lesson, where one can experience how Chinese culture traveled through Korea to Japan: gimbap can be seen as a precursor of makisushi and musubi, and the word manju obviously comes from mandu. It’s the best type of history lesson.


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This entry was posted on April 26, 2015 by in Culture, Food, Korea and tagged , , , .
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