Korean cuisine is the customary cooking
traditions and practices of the culinary arts
. Korean cuisine has evolved through centuries of social and political change. Originating from ancient agricultural and nomadic traditions
in Korea and southern Manchuria
, Korean cuisine has evolved through a complex interaction of the natural environment and different cultural trends.
Korean cuisine is largely based on rice
s, and (at least in the South) meat
s. Traditional Korean meals are named for the number of side dish
es (반찬; 飯饌; ''banchan
'') that accompany steam-cooked
short-grain rice. Kimchi
is served at nearly every meal. Commonly used ingredients include sesame oil
'' (fermented bean paste
), soy sauce
, salt, garlic, ginger, ''gochugaru
'' (fermented red chili paste) and napa cabbage
Ingredients and dishes vary by province. Many regional dishes have become national, and dishes that were once regional have proliferated in different variations across the country. Korean royal court cuisine
once brought all of the unique regional specialties together for the royal family. Foods are regulated by Korean cultural etiquette
In the Jeulmun pottery period
(approximately 800 to 1500 BCE), hunter-gatherer societies engaged in fishing and hunting, and incipient agriculture in the later stages.
Since the beginning of the Mumun pottery period
(1500 BCE), agricultural traditions began to develop with new migrant groups from the Liao River
basin of Manchuria. During the Mumun period, people grew millet
, legumes and 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
The Three Kingdoms
period (57 BCE – 668 CE) was one of rapid cultural evolution. The kingdom of Goguryeo
(37 BCE – 668 CE) was located in the northern part of the peninsula along much of modern-day Manchuria
. The second kingdom, Baekje
(18 BCE – 660 CE), was in the southwestern portion of the peninsula, and the third, Silla
(57 BCE – 935 CE), 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 cold foods and fermented foods like ''kimchi
''. The spread of Buddhism
through cultural exchanges with China during the fourth century CE began to change the distinct cultures of Korea.
During the latter Goryeo period, the Mongols
invaded Goryeo in the 13th century. Some traditional foods found today in Korea have their origins during this period. The dumpling dish, ''mandu
'', grilled meat dishes, noodle dishes
, and the use of seasonings such as black pepper, all have their roots in this period.
Agricultural innovations were significant and widespread during this period, such as the invention of the rain gauge during the 15th century. During 1429, the government began publishing books on agriculture and farming techniques, which included ''Nongsa jikseol
'' (literally "Straight Talk on Farming"), an agricultural book compiled under King Sejong
[King Sejong's Humanism, from National Assembly of the Republic of Korea]
A series of invasions in the earlier half of the Joseon caused a dynamic shift in the culture during the second half of the period. Groups of ''silhak
'' ("practical learning") scholars began to emphasize the importance of looking outside the country for innovation and technology to help improve the agricultural systems. Crops traded by Europeans from the New World
began to appear, acquired through trade with China, Japan
, and the Philippines
; these crops included corn
, sweet potato
es, chili pepper
s, and squash
. Potatoes and sweet potatoes were particularly favored as they grew in soils and on terrains that were previously unused.
Government further developed agriculture through technology and lower taxation. Complex irrigation system
s built by government allowed peasant farmers to produce larger crop volumes and produce crops not only for sustenance but also as cash crop
s. Reduced taxation of the peasantry also furthered the expanded commerce through increasing periodic markets, usually held every five days. One thousand such markets existed in the 19th century, and were communal centers for economic trade and entertainment.
The end of the Joseon period was marked by consistent encouragement to trade with the Western world, China and Japan. In the 1860s, trade agreements pushed by the Japanese government led the Joseon Dynasty
to open its trade ports with the west, and to numerous treaties with the United States, Britain, France, and other Western countries.
The opening of Korea to the Western world brought further exchange of culture and food. Western missionaries introduced new ingredients and dishes to Korea. Joseon elites were introduced to these new foods by way of foreigners who attended the royal court as advisers or physicians. This period also saw the introduction of various seasonings imported from Japan via western traders and alcoholic drinks from China.
Colonial period to Modern period
Japan occupied the Korean peninsula
from 1910 to 1945. Many of its agricultural systems were taken over by the Japanese to support Japan's food supply. Land changes resulting from the Japanese occupation included combining small farms into large-scale farms, which led to larger yields. Rice production increased during this period to support the Japanese Empire's war efforts. Many Koreans, in turn, increased the production of other grains for their own consumption.
Meals during the Japanese occupation were quite varied. Koreans usually ate two meals a day during the cold seasons, and three during the warm seasons. For the lower classes, satiety, rather than quality, was most important. Those in even lower economic levels were likely to enjoy only a single bowl of white rice ''each year'', while the remainder of the year was filled with cheaper grains, such as millet
. For the Korean middle and upper classes during the occupation, things were quite different. Western foods began emerging in the Korean diet, such as white bread and commercially produced staples such as precooked noodles. The Japanese occupational period ended after the defeat of Japan during World War II
The country remained in a state of turmoil through the Korean War
(1950–1953) and the Cold War
, which separated the country into North Korea
and South Korea
. Both of these periods continued the limited food provisions for Koreans,
and the stew called ''budae jjigae
'', which makes use of inexpensive meats such as sausage and Spam
, originated during this period.
At this point, the history of North and South Korea sharply diverged. In the 1960s under President Park Chung-hee
, industrialization began to give South Korea the economic and cultural power it holds in the global economy today. Agriculture was increased through use of commercial fertilizers and modern farming equipment. In the 1970s, food shortages began to lessen. Consumption of instant and processed foods increased, as did the overall quality of foods. Livestock
and dairy production was increased during the 1970s through the increase of commercial dairies and mechanized farms. The consumption of pork and beef increased vastly in the 1970s. Per-capita consumption of meat was 3.6 kg in 1961 and 11 kg by 1979. The result of this increased meat consumption brought about the rise of ''bulgogi
'' restaurants, which gave the middle class of South Korea the ability to enjoy meat regularly. Meat eating continued to rise, reaching 40 kg in 1997, with fish consumption at 49.5 kg in 1998. Rice consumption continually decreased through these years, from 128 kg consumed per person in 1985 to 106 kg in 1995 and 83 kg in 2003. The decrease in rice consumption has been accompanied by an increase in the consumption of bread and noodles.
Nature’s influence on Korean cuisine
Understanding the environmental characteristics of Korea is necessary to see its influence on Korean cuisine and culture. Korea is located between the Chinese Mainland and the islands of Japan, and it therefore shares many cultural characteristics with the two countries. However, its unique climate and geography have also produced many differences.
Korea is located on the Korean Peninsula, which extends southward from the northeastern region of the Asian continental landmass. It shares its border with China and Russia to the north but is otherwise surrounded by water, resulting in a flourishing fishing industry. Forested, mountainous terrain covers 70 percent of the nation, yielding a variety of wild edible greens that are also grown in dry-field farms. Korea’s major rivers, including the Nakdong River, the Han River and the Geum River, tend to flow westward along the mountain ranges, creating well-developed plains in the peninsula’s western region. The conditions in the western and southern regions of the peninsula are therefore favorable to rice farms, while dry-field farms predominate in the northern and eastern regions. Korea’s eastern coast has a smooth coastline, but the southern and western coasts have jagged coastlines with many islands. This provides an ideal environment for exploiting a rich variety of marine products. Due to the varying geographical features and climates of the four regions of Korea, they have resulted in differing regional cuisines. Despite the development of transportation increasing contact between regions, and making local cultures less distinct, many of the unique local specialties and distinct styles of each province still remain.
The climate of Korea is characterized by four distinct seasons–spring, summer, autumn and winter–yielding a diverse array of seasonal foods. Even the same ingredients may have different tastes and nutrients in each season, which produces a variety of flavor variation within recipes. Unlike the abundant food materials available in the hot, humid summers and clear, dry springs and autumns, cold winters see Koreans eating dried vegetables and kimchi instead of fresh vegetables. Jeotgal, a salted fermented fish, was developed by the ancestors in the southern region of Korea as a way to preserve fish for a long period of time during the cold winters and hot summers. However, recent climate changes have introduced a subtropical climate to the peninsula, changing the types of seasonal food materials available.
s have been one of the most important staples of the Korean diet. Early myths of the foundations of various kingdoms in Korea center on grains. One foundation myth relates to Jumong
, who received barley
seeds from two dove
s sent by his mother after establishing the kingdom of Goguryeo
. Yet another myth speaks of the three founding deities of Jeju Island
, who 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.
During the pre-modern era, grains such as barley and millet were the main staples. They were supplemented by wheat, sorghum
, and buckwheat
. Rice is not an indigenous crop to Korea and millet was likely the preferred grain before rice was cultivated. Rice became the grain of choice during the Three Kingdoms period, particularly in the Silla
Kingdoms 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 uses 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.
As rice was prohibitively expensive when it first came to Korea, the grain was likely mixed with other grains to "stretch" the rice; this is still done in dishes such as ''boribap'' (rice with barley) and ''kongbap
'' (rice with beans).
White rice, which is rice with the bran removed, has been the preferred form of 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 to at least the Goryeo period
, and these pots 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.
Rice is used to make a number of items, outside of the traditional bowl of plain white rice. It is commonly ground into a flour and used to make rice cakes called ''tteok
'' in over two hundred varieties. It is also cooked down into a congee
(''juk'') or gruel
(''mieum'') and mixed with other grains, meat, or seafood. Koreans also produce a number of rice wine
s, both in filtered and unfiltered versions. And for centuries, grains have also been used to make misu
, drinks made from grain powder that are sometimes used as meal supplements.
s have been significant crops in Korean history and cuisine, according to the earliest preserved legumes found in archaeological site
s in Korea. The excavation at Okbang site, Jinju
, South Gyeongsang
province indicates soybean
s were cultivated as a food crop ''circa'' 1000–900 BCE. They are made into dubu(tofu
), while soybean sprouts are sauteed as a vegetable (''kongnamul
'') and whole soybeans are seasoned 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 byproduct of soy milk production is ''biji
'' or ''kong-biji'', which is used to thicken stews and porridges. Soybeans may also be one of the beans in ''kongbap
'', boiled together with several types of beans and other grains, and they are also the primary ingredient in the production of fermented condiments collectively referred to as ''jang'', such as soybean pastes, ''doenjang
'' and ''cheonggukjang
'', a soy sauce called ''ganjang
'', chili pepper paste or ''gochujang
'' and others.
(Mung bean) is commonly used in Korean cuisine. ''Sukju
namuls (Mung bean sprouts)'' are often served as a side dish, blanched
with sesame oil, garlic, and salt. Ground Nokdu is used to make a porridge called ''nokdujuk'', which is eaten as a nutritional supplement and digestive aid, especially for ill patients. A popular snack, ''bindaetteok
'' (mung bean pancake), is made with ground nokdu and fresh sukju namul. Starch extracted from ground nokdu is used to make transparent dangmyeon ( cellophane noodles
). The dangmyeons are the main ingredients for ''japchae
'' (a salad-like dish) and ''sundae
'' (a blood sausage
), and are a subsidiary ingredient for soups and stews. The starch can be also used to make jelly-like foods, such as ''nokdumuk
'' and ''hwangpomuk
''. The ''muk'' have a bland flavor, so are served seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil and crumbled seaweed or other seasonings such as ''tangpyeongchae
Cultivation of azuki bean
s dates back to ancient times according to an excavation from Odong-ri, Hoeryong
, North Hamgyong Province
, which is assumed to be that of Mumun period
(approximately 1500-300 BCE). Azuki beans are generally eaten as ''patbap
'', which is a bowl of rice mixed with the beans, or as a filling and covering for ''tteok
'' (rice cake) and breads. A porridge made with azuki beans, called ''patjuk
'', is commonly eaten during the winter season. On Dongjinal
, a Korean traditional holiday which falls on December 22, Korean people eat ''donji patjuk'', which contains ''saealsim'' (새알심), a ball made from glutinous rice flour. In old Korean tradition, ''patjuk'' is believed to have the power to drive evil spirits away.
Condiments and seasoning
s are divided into fermented and nonfermented variants. Fermented condiments include ''ganjang
'' and vinegars. Nonfermented condiments or spices include red pepper, black pepper, cordifolia, mustard, chinensis, garlic, onion, ginger, leek, and scallion (spring onion).
can be found in many writings. Some of the writings are the ''Mangi Yoram
'', ''The Three States'', the ''Nonggawolryeongga'', the ''Gijaejapgi'', and the ''Hyangyak-jipsongbang
''. The ''Hyangyak-jipseongbang'', which dates back to around 1433 during the Chosun Dynasty, is one of the oldest writings mentioning gochujang.
Gochujang is a fermented bean paste that has red pepper powder, soybean powder and rice flour added to it to create a spicy paste. It typically can be added to most dishes. Gochujang can be used as a seasoning and sometimes as a dipping sauce.
Many variations come from ''jang'', fermented bean paste. Some variations can include doenjang
(soybean and brine), kanjang
(soybeans, water, and salt), chogochujang
(gochujang and vinegar), and jeotgal
(mixture of other jangs and seafoods).
Vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots, and cabbage use gochujang as a dip. Gochujang is a common seasoning for foods such as Korean barbecue including pork and beef. One popular snack food that is very commonly eaten with gochujang is bibimbap. Bibimbap
includes rice, spinach, radish, bean sprouts. Sometimes beef is added to bibimbap. Another popular dish including gochujang is tteokbokki
Gochujang was used to revitalize people who were sick with colds or exhaustion during the Chosun Period. There have been some studies that show that red peppers fight obesity and diabetes. Gochujang is also added to many foods so that there can be additional nutritional value with each meal.
In antiquity, most meat in Korea was likely obtained through hunting
. Ancient records indicate 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.
is the most prized of all, with the cattle holding an important cultural role in the Korean home. Beef is prepared in numerous ways today, including roasting, grilling (''gui
'') or boiling in soups
. Beef can also be dried into ''yukpo
'', a type of ''po
'', as with seafood, called ''eopo
The cattle were valuable draught animals, often seen as equal to human servants, or in some cases, members of the family. Cattle were also given their own holiday during the first 'cow' day of the lunar New Year
. The importance of cattle does not suggest Koreans ate an abundance of beef, however, as the cattle were valued as beasts of burden
and slaughtering one would create dire issues in farming the land. Pork and seafood were consumed more regularly for this reason. The Buddhist ruling class of the Goryeo period forbade the consumption of beef. The Mongol
s 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. Only in the latter part of the 20th century has beef become regular table fare.
has played an important role as a protein in Korean history, evidenced by a number of myths. One myth tells of the birth of Kim Alji
, founder of the Kim family
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 in Korean culture. Chicken is often served roasted or braised with vegetables or in soups. All parts of the chicken are used in Korean cuisine, including the gizzard
, and feet. Young chickens are braised with ginseng
and other ingredients in 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
has also been another important land-based protein for Korea. Records indicate pork has been a part of the Korean diet back to antiquity, similar to beef.
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. All parts of the pig are used in Korean cuisine, including the head, intestines, liver, kidney and other internal organs. Koreans utilize these parts in a variety of cooking methods including steaming, stewing, boiling and smoking.
Koreans especially like to eat grilled pork belly, which is called ''samgyeopsal
'' (삼겹살, 三--).
Fish and seafood
have been a major part of Korean cuisine because of the oceans bordering the peninsula. Evidence from the 12th century illustrates commoners consumed a diet mostly of fish and shellfish, such as shrimp
, and loach
, while sheep
and hogs were reserved for the upper class.
Both fresh and saltwater fish are popular, and are served raw, grilled, broiled, dried or served in soups and stews. Common grilled fish include mackerel
and Pacific herring
. Smaller fish, shrimp, squid, mollusks and countless other seafood can be salted and fermented as ''jeotgal
''. Fish can also be grilled either whole or in fillets as banchan
. Fish is often dried naturally to prolong storing periods and enable shipping over long distances. Fish commonly dried include yellow corvina
(''myeolchi'') and croaker
Dried anchovies, along with kelp, form the basis of common soup stocks.
Shellfish is widely eaten in all different types of preparation. They can be used to prepare broth
, eaten raw with ''chogochujang'', which is a mixture of ''gochujang
'' and vinegar, or used as a popular ingredient in countless dishes.
Raw oysters and other seafood can be used in making kimchi to improve and vary the flavor.
Salted baby shrimp 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
[Korea Tourism Organization]
or dried, mixed with vegetables and served with rice. Mollusk
s eaten in Korean cuisine include octopus
, and squid
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.
Commonly used vegetables include Korean radish
, napa cabbage
, cucumber, potato, sweet potato, spinach, bean sprouts, scallions, garlic, chili peppers, seaweed
, mushrooms, 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.
Medicinal herbs, such as ginseng
, lingzhi mushroom
, ''Codonopsis pilosula
'', and ''Angelica sinensis
'', are often used as ingredients in cooking, as in ''samgyetang
Medicinal food (''boyangshik'') is a wide variety of specialty foods prepared and eaten for medicinal purposes, especially during the hottest 30-day period in the lunar calendar, called ''sambok''. Hot foods consumed are believed to restore ''ki
'', as well as sexual and physical stamina lost in the summer heat.
Commonly eaten ''boyangshik'' include ginseng, chicken, black goat, abalone, eel, carp, beef bone soups, pig kidneys and dog
is less popular today in South Korea than in the past, being viewed largely as a kind of health tonic rather than as a diet staple, especially amongst the younger generations who view dogs as pets and service animals. That said, historically the consumption of dog
meat can be traced back to antiquity. Dog bones were excavated in a neolithic
settlement in Changnyeong
, South Gyeongsang Province. A wall painting in the ''Goguryeo'' tombs complex
in South Hwanghae Province
, a UNESCO World Heritage site
which dates from 4th century AD, depicts a slaughtered dog in a storehouse.
'' people enjoyed dog meat, and the Koreans' appetite for canine cuisine seems to have come from that era.
Koreans have distinguished Chinese terms for dog ("견; 犬", which refers to pet dogs, feral dogs
, and wolves
) from the Chinese term ("구; 狗") which is used specifically to indicate dog meat. "Hwangu" has been considered better for consumption than "Baekgu" (White dog) and "Heukgu" (Black dog).
Around 1816, ''Jeong Hak-yu'', the second son of ''Jeong Yak-yong
'', a prominent politician and scholar of the Joseon
dynasty, wrote a poem called ''Nongga Wollyeongga'' (농가월령가). This poem, which is an important source of Korean folk history, describes what ordinary Korean farming families did in each month of the year. In the description of the month of August the poem tells of a married woman visiting her birth parents with boiled dog meat, rice cake, and rice wine, thus showing the popularity of dog meat at the time (Ahn, 2000; Seo, 2002). ''Dongguk Sesigi'' (동국세시기), a book written by Korean scholar Hong Seok-mo in 1849, contains a recipe for Bosintang
including a boiled dog, green onion, and red chili pepper powder.
2008 Seoul Shinmoon article
According to one survey conducted in 2006, dog meat was the fourth most commonly consumed meat in South Korea, but in 2019, 71.9 percent of Korean avoid eating dog meat.
Ginseng chicken soup (samgyetang)
Samgyetang is a hot chicken soup to boost energy in the hot summer season. It is made with a young whole chicken stuffed with ginseng, garlic and sweet rice. Samgyetang is a Koreans' favorite energizing food and it is common to have it on sambok (삼복) days — Chobok (초복), Jungbok (중복) and Malbok (말복) — which are believed to be the hottest days in Korea.
Korean foods can be largely categorized into groups of "main staple food
s" (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
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
'') either as a place of origin or for a famous regional variety. Restaurants will often use these famous names on their signs or menus (e.g. "Suwon
Soups and stews
s 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
'' are often made with meats, shellfish and vegetables. Soups can be made into more formal soups known as ''tang
'', often served as the main dish of the meal. ''Jjigae
'' are a thicker, heavier seasoned soups or stews.
Some popular types of soups are:
'' (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.
'' (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.
'' (곰국) or ''gomtang'' (곰탕), and they are made from boiling beef bones or cartilage
. Originating as a peasant dish, all parts of beef are used, including tail, leg and rib bones with or without meat attached; these are boiled in water to extract fat, marrow
, and gelatin
to create a rich soup. Some versions of this soup may also use the beef head and intestines. The only seasoning generally used in the soup is salt.
'' (냉국), which are cold soups generally eaten during the summer months to cool the diner. A light hand is usually used in the seasoning of these soups usually using ''ganjang
'' and sesame oil
*Shin-Son-Ro (or Koo-Ja Tang), the name of it came from its special cook pot with chimney for burning charcoal. The meaning is a hearth or furnace or a pot for fire or incense burning that always contains nineteen fillings. The nineteen fillings were including beef, fish, eggs, carrot, mushrooms, and onion.
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
'') 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
'') or tofu (''sundubu jjigae
refers to often fermented vegetable dishes usually made with napa cabbage
, Korean radish
, or sometimes cucumber. There are 4 types of raw materials which are major ones: spices, seasonings, and other additional materials. Red and black pepper, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, onion, and mustard are the example of spices. There are endless varieties with regional variations, and it is served as a side dish or cooked into soups and rice dishes. In the late 15th century, it depicted Korean's custom that Korean ancestors buried kimchi jars in the ground for storage for the entire winter season, as fermented foods can keep for several years. These were stored in traditional Korean mud pots known as jangdokdae
, although with the advent of refrigerators, special kimchi freezers and commercially produced kimchi, this practice has become less common. Kimchi is a vegetable-based food which includes low calorie, low fat, and no cholesterol. Also, it is a rich source of various vitamins and minerals. It contains vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, and vitamin K and minerals which are calcium, iron, phosphorus, and selenium. South Koreans eat an average of 40 pounds of kimchi each year.
Noodles or noodle dishes in Korean cuisine are collectively referred to as ''guksu'' in native Korean or ''myeon'' in hanja
. While noodles were eaten in Korea from ancient times, productions of wheat was less than other crops, so wheat noodles did not become a daily food until 1945.
Wheat noodles (''milguksu'') were specialty foods for birthdays, weddings or auspicious occasions because the long and continued shape were thought to be associated with the bliss for longevity and long-lasting marriage.
In Korean traditional noodle dishes are ''onmyeon'' or ''guksu jangguk'' (noodles with a hot clear broth), ''naengmyeon
'' (cold buckwheat noodles), ''bibim guksu
'' (cold noodle dish mixed with vegetables), ''kalguksu
'' (knife-cut noodles), ''kongguksu
'' (noodles with a cold soybean broth), ''japchae
'' (cellophane noodles made from sweet potato with various vegetables) and others. In royal court, ''baekmyeon'' (literally "white noodles") consisting of buckwheat noodles and pheasant
broth, was regarded as the top quality noodle dish. ''Naengmyeon'' with a cold soup mixed with ''dongchimi
'' (watery radish
kimchi) and beef brisket broth was eaten in court during summer.
'', a staple Koreanized Chinese
noodle dish, is extremely popular in Korea as fast, take-out food. It is made with a black bean sauce usually fried with diced 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.
'' refers to Korean instant noodles similar to ramen
is a term referring collectively to side dishes in Korean cuisine. Soups and stews are not considered banchan
'' 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 vegetable 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
'', the name of which was originally ''galbi gui''.
:*List of grilled dishes commonly found in Korean cuisine
'' and ''seon
'' (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.
:*List of steamed dishes commonly found in Korean cuisine
'' (raw dishes): although the term originally referred to any kind of raw dish, it is generally used to refer to ''saengseonhweh'' (생선회, raw fish dishes). It is dipped in ''gochujang
'', or soy sauce with wasabi
, and served with lettuce or perilla
:* list of raw dishes commonly found in Korean cuisine
'' (or ''buchimgae'') are savory pancakes made from various ingredients. Chopped kimchi or seafood is mixed into a wheat flour-based batter, and then pan fried. This dish tastes best when it is dipped in a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and red pepper powder.
:*List of ''jeon'' dishes commonly found in Korean cuisine
'' may refer to either ''saengchae
'' (생채, literally "fresh vegetables") or ''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) is blanched and seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil
, chopped garlic, or sometimes chili pepper powder.
:*List of ''namul'' dishes commonly found in Korean cuisine
''Anju'' (side dishes accompanying alcoholic beverages)
is a general term for a Korean side dish consumed with alcohol. It matches well with Korean traditional alcohol such as Soju or Makgeolli and helps people to enjoy their drinking more. 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) and Jokbal
(pig's leg served with salted shrimp sauce). Samgyupsal (pork belly) is also considered as Anju with Soju. Most Korean foods can be considered as 'anju', as the food consumed alongside the alcohol depends on the diner's taste and preferences.
All Korean traditional nonalcoholic beverages are referred to as ''eumcheong'' or ''eumcheongnyu'' (음청류 ) which literally means "clear beverages". According to historical documents regarding Korean cuisine, 193 items of ''eumcheongnyu'' are recorded.
[Baek Un-hwa, The industrialization of Korean traditional beverages]
''Eumcheongnyu'' can be divided into the following categories: ''tea
'' (fruit punch), ''sikhye
'' (sweet rice drink), ''sujeonggwa
'' (persimmon punch), ''tang'' (탕, boiled water), ''jang'' (장, fermented grain juice with a sour taste), ''suksu'' (숙수, beverage made of herbs), ''galsu'' (갈수, drink made of fruit extract, and Oriental medicine), honeyed water, juice and milk by their ingredient materials and preparation methods. Among the varieties, tea, ''hwachae'', ''sikhye'', and ''sujeonggwa'' are still widely favored and consumed; however, the others almost disappeared by the end of the 20th century.
[Introduction of Eumcheongryu, Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corporation] [Sohn Gyeong-hee, Historical overview of Korean traditional eumcheongryu]
In Korean cuisine, tea
, or ''cha'', refers to various types of herbal tea
that can be served hot or cold. Not necessarily related to the leaves, leaf buds, and internode
s of the ''Camellia sinensis
'' plant, they are made from diverse substances, including fruits (e.g. ''yuja-cha
''), flowers (e.g. ''gukhwa-cha
''), leaves, roots, and grains (e.g. ''bori-cha
'') or herbs and substances used in traditional Korean medicine
, such as ginseng
'') and ginger (e.g. ''saenggang-cha
'' 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 as well as a sweet rice drink. The top-selling domestic beers (the Korean term for beer being ''maekju'') are lager
s, which differ from Western beers in that they are brewed from rice, rather than barley. Consequently, Korean beers are lighter, sweeter and have less head than their Western counterparts. The South Korean beer
market is dominated by the two major breweries: Hite
is a North Korean beer
produced at a brewery based in Pyongyang since 2002. Microbrewery
beers and bars are growing in popularity after 2002.
'' 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.
'' 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 ''makgeolli
'', a white, milky rice wine traditionally drunk by farmers.
[Food in Korea, "Jontongjoo – Kinds of Traditional Liquors"]
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.
Traditional rice cakes, ''tteok
'' and Korean confectionery ''hangwa
'' are eaten as treats during holidays and festivals. ''Tteok'' refers to all kinds of rice cakes
made from either pounded rice (메떡, ''metteok''), pounded glutinous rice
(찰떡, ''chaltteok''), or glutinous rice left whole, without pounding. It is served either filled or covered with sweetened mung bean paste, red bean paste
, mashed red beans, raisin
s, a sweetened filling made with sesame seeds, sweet pumpkin, beans, jujubes, pine nuts or honey). ''Tteok'' is usually served as dessert or as a snack. Among varieties, ''songpyeon
'' is a chewy stuffed ''tteok'' served at ''Chuseok
or another soft sweet material such as sweetened sesame or black beans are used as fillings. Pine
needles can be used for imparting flavor during the steaming process.
'' is a sweet rice cake made with glutinous rice, chestnuts, pine nuts, jujubes, and other ingredients, while ''chapssaltteok
'' is a ''tteok'' filled with sweet bean paste
On the other hand, ''hangwa
'' is a general term referring to all types of Korean traditional confectionery
. The ingredients of ''hahngwa'' mainly consist of grain flour, honey, ''yeot
'', and sugar, or of fruit and edible root
s. ''Hangwa'' is largely divided into ''yumilgwa
'' (fried confectionery), ''suksilgwa
'' (tea food) and ''yeot
''. ''Yumilgwa'' is made by stir frying
or frying pieces of dough, such as ''maejakgwa
'' and ''yakgwa
''. ''Maejakgwa'' is a ring-shaped confection made of wheat flour, vegetable oil, cinnamon
'', and pine nut
s, while ''yakgwa'', literally "medicinal confectionery", is a flower-shaped biscuit made of honey
, sesame oil
and wheat flour.
'' is made by boiling fruits, ginger, or nuts in water, and then forming the mix into the original fruit's shape, or other shapes. ''Gwapyeon
'' is a jelly
-like confection made by boiling sour fruits, starch, and sugar. ''Dasik
'', literally "eatery for tea", is made by kneading rice flour, honey, and various types of flour from nuts, herbs, sesame, or jujubes. ''Jeonggwa
'', or ''jeongwa'', is made by boiling fruits, plant roots and seeds in honey, mullyeot
(''물엿'', liquid candy) or sugar. It is similar to marmalade
''Yeot'' is a Korean traditional candy in liquid or solid form made from steamed rice
, glutinous rice, glutinous kaoliang
, corn, sweet potatoes or mixed grains. The steamed ingredients are lightly fermented and boiled in a large pot called ''sot'' (솥) for a long time.
Regional and variant cuisines
Korean regional cuisines (Korean: ''hyangto eumsik'', literally "native local foods") are characterized by local specialties and distinctive styles within Korean cuisine. The divisions reflected historical boundaries of the province
s where these food and culinary traditions were preserved until modern times.
Although Korea has been divided into two nation-states since 1948 (North Korea
and South Korea), it was once divided into eight provinces
(''paldo'') according to the administrative districts of the Joseon Dynasty
. The northern region consisted of Hamgyeong
Province and Hwanghae
Province. The central region comprised Gyeonggi
Province, Chungcheong Province
, and Gangwon Province
Province and Jeolla
Province made up the southern region.
Until the late 19th century, transportation networks were not well developed, and each provincial region preserved its own characteristic tastes and cooking methods. Geographic differences are also reflected by the local specialty foodstuffs depending on the climate and types of agriculture, as well as the natural foods available. With the modern development of transportation and the introduction of foreign foods, Korean regional cuisines have tended to overlap and integrate. However, many unique traditional dishes in Korean regional cuisine have been handed down through the generations.
Korean temple cuisine originated in Buddhist temples of Korea. Since Buddhism
was introduced into Korea, Buddhist
traditions have strongly influenced Korean cuisine, as well. During the Silla period
(57 BCE – 935 CE), ''chalbap'' (찰밥, a bowl of cooked glutinous rice
'' (a fried dessert) and ''yumilgwa
'' (a fried and puffed rice snack) were served for Buddhist altars and have been developed into types of ''hangwa'', Korean traditional confectionery
. During the Goryeo Dynasty
, ''sangchu ssam
'' (wraps made with lettuce), ''yaksik
'', and ''yakgwa'' were developed, and since spread to China and other countries. Since the Joseon Dynasty, Buddhist cuisine has been established in Korea according to regions and temples.
On the other hand, royal court cuisine
is closely related to Korean temple cuisine. In the past, when the royal court maids, ''sanggung
'', who were assigned to ''Suragan'' (hangul: 수라간; hanja: 水剌間
; the name of the royal kitchen), where they prepared the king's meals, became old, they had to leave the royal palace. Therefore, many of them entered Buddhist temples to become nuns. As a result, culinary techniques and recipes of the royal cuisine were integrated into Buddhist cuisine.
in Korea may be linked to the Buddhist
traditions that influenced Korean culture from the Goryeo
dynasty onwards. There are hundreds of vegetarian restaurants in Korea, although historically they have been local restaurants that are unknown to tourists. Most have buffets, with cold food, and vegetarian kimchi
being the main features. ''Bibimbap
'' is a common vegan
dish. Menus change with seasons. Wine with the alcohol removed 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 stainless steel oval chopsticks
and a long-handled shallow spoon called together ''sujeo
Food is an important part of traditions of Korean family ceremonies, which are mainly based on the Confucian culture. Gwan Hon Sang Je
(관혼상제; 冠婚喪祭), the four family ceremonies (coming-of-age ceremony, wedding, funeral, and ancestral rite) have been considered especially important and elaborately developed, continuing to influence Korean life to these days. Ceremonial food in Korea has developed with variation across different regions and cultures.
For example, rituals are mainly performed on the anniversary of deceased ancestors, called ''jesa
''. Ritual food include rice, liquor, soup, vinegar and soy sauce (1st row); noodles, skewered meat, vegetable and fish dishes, and rice cake (2nd row); three types of hot soup, meat and vegetable dishes (3rd row); dried snacks, ''kimchi
'', and sweet rice drink (4th row); and variety of fruit (5th row).
In South Korea, inexpensive food may be purchased from ''pojangmacha
'', street carts during the day, where customers may eat standing beside the cart or have their food wrapped up to take home. At night, ''pojangmacha'' (포장마차) become small tents that sell food, drinks, and alcoholic beverages.
Seasonal street foods include ''hotteok
'', and ''bungeoppang
'', which are enjoyed in autumn and winter. ''Gimbap
'' (김밥) and ''tteokbokki
'' (떡볶이)are also very popular street food.
People also enjoy to eat ''Sundae
'' (순대), ''Twigim
'' (튀김), and ''Eomuk
'' (오뎅/어묵) which are popular with ''tteokbokki''. Also, ''Gyeran-ppang
'' (계란빵) which is Egg Bread and ''Hoppang
'' (호빵) are also enjoyed in winter. ''Dak-kkochi'' (닭꼬치) is a popular food in Korea with various sauces on the chicken. ''Beondegi
'' (번데기) and ''Honeycomb toffee
/Bbopki'' (뽑기) are two examples of the original street foods that everyone enjoyed since the childhood.
Dining etiquette in Korea can be traced back to the Confucian
philosophies of the Joseon period. Guidebooks, such as ''Sasojeol
'' (士小節, ''Elementary Etiquette for Scholar Families''), written in 1775 by Yi Deokmu (이덕무; 李德懋), 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",
[Yi Tǒngmu 62.]
"when you are having a meal with others, do not speak of smelly or dirty things, such as boils or diarrhea
"when eating a meal, neither eat so slowly as to appear to be eating against your will nor so 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",
among many other recommendations which emphasized proper table etiquette
Other than the etiquette mentioned above, blowing one's nose when having a meal is considered an inappropriate act as well. Such act should be avoided.
The eldest male at the table was always served first, and was commonly served 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 is that the younger members of the table should not pick up their chopsticks
or start eating before the elders of the table or guests and should not finish eating before the elders or guests finish eating.
[Pettid, 159.] [Jang et al. (2005, p.102).]
In Korea, unlike in other East Asian cuisines such as Chinese
, the rice or soup 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
. 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, and the spoon used should be clean, because usually diners put their spoons in the same serving bowl on the table. Diners should also cover their mouths when using a toothpick
after the meal.
The table setup is important as well, and individual place settings, moving from the diner's left should be as follows: rice bowl, spoon, then 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 stew
s. Vegetables remain on the left along with the rice, and kimchi
is set to the back while sauces remain in the front.
The manner of drinking alcoholic drinks
while dining is significant in Korean dining etiquette
. Each diner is expected to face away from the eldest male
and cover his mouth when drinking alcohol.
According to Hyang Eum Ju Rye (향음주례; 鄕飮酒禮), the drinking etiquette established in Choseon Dynasty
, it is impolite for a king and his vassal, a father and his son, or a teacher and his student to drink face to face. Also, a guest should not refuse the first drink offered by host, and in the most formal situations, the diner should politely twice refuse a drink offered by the eldest male or a host. When the host offers for the third time, then finally the guest can receive it. If the guest refuses three times, drink is not to be offered any more.
Royal court cuisine
Collectively known as ''gungjung eumsik'' 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. This nature 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 banquet
s, and a spring fed channel, Poseokjeong
, was created for the singular purpose of setting wine cups afloat while they wrote poems.
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 predating the Joseon period, the majority of these records mostly reflect the vast variety of foods, but do not mention the specific foods presented. The meals cooked for the royal family did not reflect the seasons, as the commoner's meals would have. Instead, their meals varied significantly day-to-day. 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 use for royal meals.
Food was considered significant in the Joseon period. Official positions were created within the Six Ministries
'', 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.
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.
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, 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 the dishes were not poisoned.
Banquets (궁중 연회 음식) were held on special occasions in the Korean Royal Palace. These included birthdays of the royal family members, marriages, and national festivals, including Daeborum, Dano, Chuseok, and Dongji.
Banquet food was served on individual tables which varied according to the rank of the person. Usually banquet food consisted of ten different types of dishes. Main dishes were prepared based on the seasonal foods. Main dishes of the banquet included ''sinseollo'', ''jeon'', ''hwayang jeok'', ''honghapcho'', ''nengmyun'' and ''mulgimchi''.
A typical banquet ingredient was ''chogyetang'' (chicken broth with vinegar), which was prepared with five different chickens, five abalones, ten sea cucumbers, twenty eggs, half a bellflower root, mushrooms, two cups of black pepper, two peeled pine nuts, starch, soy sauce and vinegar. ''Yaksik
'' was a favorite banquet dessert.
[Kim, Jong Su "Royal Banquets and Uigwe during the Late Chosun Period," Korea Journal, Summer 2008]
* ''Dae Jang Geum
* Korean baked goods
* List of Korean drinks
* List of Korean dishes
* List of Korean desserts
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Food in KoreaList of articles about Korean cuisine
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at the Empas