What You Need to Know about Korean Cuisine
Korean food has become a must-try cuisine for foodies and is well-known for its health benefits. Have some fun getting to know the wide range of choices and styles.
Side dish: Banchan
Being served a spread of small tasty side dishes is a classic delight of Korean eating etiquette. Not just for the range of flavors, but also for digestion. Expect several choices of meats, soup, rice, salad and loads of pickled vegetables, like the ever-popular Kimchi, also sautéed or steamed vegetables. In a group, Banchan is especially fun, set in the middle of the table to be shared. Selections can vary by restaurant, a nice surprise for guests.
Kimchi is the most popular Korean dish, enjoyed as a side dish but also cooked a la Kimchi soup, Kimchi fried rice, and Kimchi Joen. Kimchi is known as a super food, cabbage fermented with sea salt, chili powder (gochugaru), garlic, and ginger. It’s probiotic, so good for your gut, and boosts your immune system, plus, it’s absolutely delicious. You may get addicted after a few visits!
Koreans love to serve food in a boiling Hot pot, dishes such as soup Jige), Bibimbab, and Bude Jige. Hot pot is made with clay and it keeps the heat throughout your dining time. Soup and rice served on Hot pot brings out more aroma and taste. Don’t be surprised when you get a soup on your table that’s still boiling. In Korea, if soup doesn’t come out boiling, customers send it back!
Koreans eat rice with any main meal. Even noodles like Jabche are eaten with a bowl of rice. Having rice is essential Korean food culture. Koreans even ask “How are you?” as, “Did you eat rice today?” Back during the Korean War, people were so poor, eating rice was precious, so people would always check each other if they have eaten well. Korean rice is bigger than Southeast Asian rice with heavier moisture. A small bowl of Korean rice would be enough to fill you up, and it is very nutritious.
Basic Korean ingredients include Gochujang (savory, sweet, and spicy fermented condiment made from Gochutgaru chili powder, glutinous rice, fermented soy sauce sesame oil, barley malt powder, and salt), Miso paste (seasoning produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji and sometimes rice, barley, or other ingredients) and, of course, the iconic Kimchi. Generally Korean food has more ingredients and spices than Japanese food. Koreans use more garlic and ginger or sometime chili powder/sauces with Japanese food simpler with plainer taste.
How does Korean food differ from other Asian cuisine?
Koreans use more ginger, while Southeast Asian food leans towards other herbs (coriander, lemongrass, lime leaves, cilantro, basil, galangal) and tropical fruits. Southeast Asians tend to use rice noodles, while Koreans prefer sweet potato glass noodles. Most Thai dishes tend to use palm or vegetable oil, while Koreans prefer sesame oil.
Korean BBQ is the most well-known Korean cuisine in the world. Korean BBQ is cooked on your dining table top. There is a special BBQ system on the table with a charcoal or gas system. Sharing BBQ and the Korean drink Soju with friends is a popular Korean night-out thing. Normally Koreans cook their BBQ by themselves. Outside of Korea, Korean restaurants often serve BBQ for customers. Korean BBQ is also famous for serving lots of side dishes and salad together with meats. You can expect at least 5 to 10 different sides. A typical way of enjoying Korean BBQ is wrapping meats and side dishes on salad leaves. Koreans call it “Ssam,” which can simply translate to wraps.
Korean food manners
People can be overwhelmed with all the choices when Korean food is served at your table. They don’t know how to start. Are the side dishes appetizers or should we eat them with main meals? The simple answer is… eat any way you like! Koreans don’t mind mixing rice with side dishes, that’s how the famous dish Bibimbab is made. You don’t need to worry about using your hands, even while eating BBQ. Koreans love free-style eating. Ask a Korean if you want to know their unique manner, defined over the ages, they’d love to tell you!
Visit Seoul vibe Korean restaurant in Koh Phangan, Thailand for real Korean dining experience!