Korean food is in abundance throughout the world, but particularly on our site where we contain thousands of articles on Korean cuisine. Korean food is the normal, everyday food that people of Korean descent are used to eating in both North and South Korea. While some of the dishes vary between cities and parts of these countries, the overall look, feel and taste of the foods is similar. Inland cities, such as Seoul, offer great Korean food options that are popular around the globe. Many of the Korean food dishes that are prepared here are imitated around the world by people of every nationality. Korean food is known for being healthy, spicy and extremely filled with taste.
Most Korean food meals consist of similar ‘types’ of foods. The main dishes rely on rice, fish/ seafood, vegetables and soups. Korean food is often named by the number of side dishes it has to accompany the main dish. For instance, a Korean food meal that has a soup, a stew and a salad to accompany the beef entrée would be known as a three dish meal.
Korean food typically comes with anywhere from three to twelve separate side dishes, known as banchan.
Korean food relies on taste and flavor
One thing that people often rave about Korean food is that it is full of taste. Korean food gets this optimal taste by implementing various spices and seasonings into almost all the dishes. The seven most important cornerstone ingredients of Korean food are:
- Soy sauce
- Soybean paste
- Ground chili (especially in South Korea)
- Sesame oil
These seasonings can be found in various amounts in most Korean food dishes and since many families in Korea make a note to home-make their spices and seasonings, they are very labor intensive.
The Korean Royal Cuisines
Going against the grain, so to speak, are the Korean Royal Cuisines, which were enjoyed by the Royal Court Family Members in Korea. These upper class citizens and royalty had their Korean food meals designed and made specially for them and the preparation for their Korean food can take up to several days per meal. Many restaurants in Korea serve similar Royal Cuisines as expensive dishes, often costing upwards of $250 USD.
Royal Cuisine Korean food is served as a multitude of side dishes followed in full by the unusually large entrée. Those who order these meals often get an exclusive waiter and a traditional entertainment show, as well.
Traditional Korean table settings
When it comes time to enjoy authentic Korean food, it is important to follow through with the traditional Korean table settings. Koreans usually eat (as a custom) seated on cushions and placed at low tables. The set-ups look like a combination of a Japanese table and a Western table.
Westerners that are not used to Korean food or customs are often given extra pillows and cushions and sometimes floor chairs for added support.
Most of the top Korean restaurants offer a plethora of seating arrangements/ options from the low table traditional seating to the high table Westerner seating.
Korean food is usually enjoyed with stainless steel chopsticks (although wooden chop sticks are still prevalent) and a spoon. These two utensils are usually proper no matter how fancy the meal because they are suitable for nearly any type of food.
When it comes time to prepare the Korean food, it is often just as important to have an adequate presentation of the food as it is to have a great taste. The way Korean food is usually presented is:
- An initial bowl of rice goes to each person. The bowl is typically covered, as to keep the heat in.
- A small bowl of soup or stew, served extra thick, goes to each person. This can be served as a large bowl in the center of the table or an individual bowl to each person, depending on how many people are eating.
- A set of stainless steel chopsticks and the spoon are placed to the right of the dishes.
- Various small dishes filled with banchan fill the open spaces on the table as to give guests the chance to snack at will.
Korean food entrees that use meat
Meat is a largely understated ingredient in many Korean food dishes and even though vegetables are a staple food on Korean plates, meat is often the food used as an entrée.
Most Korean restaurants cook the meat right in the center of the table, for the guest to see. The meat is then sliced and diced and prepared using a variety of vegetables and rice. This works well for restaurants because it gives entertainment and food at the same time.
Korean food dishes that use meat as an entrée include:
- Bulgogi: Bulgogi is a Korean food dish that is supported by thinly sliced pieces of beef slowly marinated in soy sauce. The beef is also seasoned with sesame oil, garlic, sugar and optionally, hot chili pepper. Since Bulgogi translates as ‘fire beef’, it is often served in its spiciest version.
- Galbi: This Korean food entrée is cooked using either beef or pork. The meat is cooked over a charcoal grill and sliced in fairly thick slices. It is often called the Korean BBQ because it best imitates a Western barbecue.
- Samgyeopsal: This Korean food is not as popular as the two above but it is still sought after by meat lovers in Korea. It is cooked using unseasoned pork bacon and wrapped in lettuce and onions. The meat is either cooked on a grill and sometimes not.
Side meals include several variations
Since every Korean food dish is complemented with a variety of side dishes at each meal, it makes sense that there are a lot of dishes to pick from. From soups and stews to desserts and snacks, side dishes are an important part of Korean food and the way it is presented.
Soups and stews are the most popular Korean food side dish. Some more popular selections include:
•Doenjang-jjigae: This soup is served spicy and is made primarily with soybean paste and rice. It is a popular lunch time soup that comes with a side of vegetables.
•Kimchi-jjigae: This lunch time soup is a Korean food favorite because it arrives to you boiling hot and served with rice and kalbi.
Rice and mixed rice combinations are another popular side dish for Korean food entrees. The most popular form of Korean rice dish is known as Bibimbap. Bibimbap is rice topped with vegetables, beef, egg and hot pepper paste. It is a spicy meal that is served in a hot bowl and egg.
Noodles are a Korean food side dish that is more popular in North Korea then South Korea but it is enjoyed everywhere. The most popular noodle side dishes are:
- Naengmyeon: This is original North Korean food which is translated into ‘cold noodles’. This is a summer dish that comes with different types of thinly placed noodles. It comes with cold beef and an optional boiled egg.
- Kongguksoo: This Korean food is a bean noodle dish that has an almost nutty taste to it.AND IT TASTE GO RIGHT IT PROBABLY TASTE LIKE CHICKEN I BET
Drinks, wines, beers and liquors are a part of Korean food as well
When talking about Korean food it is important to remember that the drinks are a customary part of the overall eating experience as well. While most of the meal’s focus is on the food, the drinks are often just as unique as the entrée’s.
Soju is the most popular of the drinks to accompany Korean food. Soju is similar to vodka and it is of very high potency. It is the best known liquor in Korea. It is a drink made from grains and rice, mostly, but now it is made from sweet potatoes.
Korean snack foods are a big part of Korean food celebrations
Korean food is varied and doesn’t typically come in just an entrée with one or two side dishes. Korean food often comes with a lot of snacks. Rice snacks are the most popular of all snacks when it comes to Korean food. Different combinations of rice and lettuce/ meat make for great finger foods at home meals and restaurants.
Abiding by traditional Korean table etiquette
While many countries have traditions that transcend into which foods are eaten when and which meals go in which order, Korean food etiquette is not held that that strict of a custom.
Another important factor about Korean food etiquette to remember is that you do not eat the rice with chopsticks. Most Chinese and Japanese chopstick countries use their chopsticks to eat the entire meal, including the rice, but not Korea. Koreans usually use the spoon in order to eat the rice. Other side dishes, however, are eaten with chopsticks.
When dealing with bad etiquette with Korean food and customs there are a few that come up consistently. Here are some ways to exude bad etiquette:
- Picking up your plate or bowl while you eat
- Blowing your nose at the table
- Picking up your Korean food with your hands
- Starting meals before the eldest person begins eating
Korean food comes with a few table guidelines that should be followed
- You should aim to finish all of your rice. If you do not finish your side of rice you may be considered rude so if you don’t think you are very hungry, don’t take a lot of rice.
- You should try to at least sample all of the side dishes presented. While it is not required that you have a full helping of all the side dishes, it is respectful to at least sample them all. Most Korean food tables have anywhere from two to twelve side dishes so you may have to prepare to eat quite a bit.
Controversies with Korean food
The biggest controversy revolving around Korean food is with ‘dog soup.’ Dog soup is a popular soup in North and South Korea (as it is in China and much of Asia) and it is a spicy soup that is made out of specific dog meat. The dish is available only at certain restaurants and is not a frequently ordered item (mostly men order dog soup). During the summertime, dog soup is ever more popular, however.