Rice, noodles, vegetables, meat, fish, beans, sesame oil, soy sauce, and spices – here are the most typical Korean products. The list looks small but this is a false impression because Korean cuisine has all kinds of snacks, meat and fish dishes, and soups. It is not fatty and has many vegetables. Korean cuisine is delicious but European tourists might find it spicy because local chefs enjoy adding various spices in most dishes. Rice is a garnish and separate food, snack, and bread in Korea. It can be consumed in the morning, afternoon, and evening. That being said, rice is not the main food in this country. Rice is a perfect addition to various snacks and main dishes, but beans are also very popular, same as various vegetable dishes without rice.
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Thanks to the generous use of spices – chili and black pepper, garlic and onion – Korean food is spicy and hot for European guests. Chili pepper adds a reddish color to food. As this is the most widespread spice in the region, most dishes in South Korea have different shades of red. The spicy taste is not the only peculiarity of Korean food. Fresh ingredients are a must here. Even if they are roasted or stewed, this is done for a short time. Fermented and salted food is also ready fast.
Buddhism has made a certain impact on the culinary traditions of the country. This religion came to the Korean peninsula more than a thousand and five hundred years ago. Thanks to Buddhism, vegetarian dishes are very popular in Korea. However, local people are mostly not vegetarians, they like meat too. Pork and chicken are the most popular meat types here. Meat can be roasted, boiled, grilled, and marinated. It is an essential ingredient in soups, ragouts, dumplings, and salads. Seafood such as oysters, crabs, shrimps, clams, and seaweed have a special place in South Korean cuisine. They can be marinated or fried. Fish is often marinated in pickle water with vinegar and spices and then consumed raw. Hoe is one of these dishes. If you prefer fried fish, consider trying such dishes as Okdom gui and Godeungeo Gui. Copyright www.orangesmile.com
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Here are some of the most popular dishes in South Korea. Bulgogi or literally “fire meat” is a popular dish containing beef, chicken, or pork. Slices of meat are previously marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and pepper. After that, the meat is grilled or stir-fried with vegetables. In restaurants, visitors roast bulgogi themselves using portable stoves or waiters roast the meat for guests. Mandu is a popular dish that has variations in many other cuisines of the world such as dumplings, pelmeni, khinkali, etc. Korean mandu are similar to Chinese dumplings and can have different fillings such as meat, fish, or vegetables. Mandu can be roasted, boiled, or steamed.
Now let’s move to snacks. Kimchi is a favorite dish in every family. Some fans of this dish even have a separate refrigerator only for kimchi. It is cooked from some salted or pickled vegetables – daikon, cucumber (oi sobagi), asparagus, or pumpkin but traditional kimchi with napa cabbage is the most popular. The main vegetable is fermented with soy and spices. Chili pepper is an essential ingredient in kimchi. Gimbap is a popular dish that appeared in Korea in the first half of the 20th century during the Japanese occupation. Gimbap resembles Japanese rolls but it doesn’t have fish. These large rolls can contain ham, omelet, cucumber, carrot, and sesame oil instead of vinegar.
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Japchae is a salad with glass noodles, meat, and vegetables. All ingredients are roasted in traditional sesame oil, stir-fried, sprinkled with different spices, and served. Small side dishes are very popular in Korean cuisine. They can be served as an addition to the main dish. Tourists enjoy trying banchan – a collective name for small side dishes in separate plates. The term banchan can refer to only one side dish or more than a dozen of colorful small plates with different food. When it comes to drinks, Koreans love coffee. There are coffee houses virtually every 100 meters in South Korea. Tea is significantly less popular. Soju, a Korean distilled vodka-type drink, is the most popular alcoholic beverage. It is usually no more than 20% alcohol by volume. Soju is usually made from sweet potato so the drink has a sweetish taste. If you are searching for a souvenir to bring from South Korea, Soju is a great choice.
Tourists, who do not know much about South Korea, might find local restaurants unusual. As a rule, traditional Korean restaurants have tables with small stoves and one frying pan for everyone at the table, as well as one wine glass. This way it is comfortable to spend time with friends and family members. Koreans rarely eat alone. If you do not want to eat like this, visit European style restaurants that serve ready dishes and have separate utensils for every guest. Also, note that many cafes and restaurants specialize in some dish or dish type. They can offer only meat or fish dishes. Mixed menus are less widespread.
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In South Korea, just like in neighbor China and Japan, people eat food with chopsticks. However, Korean chopsticks are metal and intended for multiple uses. They also have ornaments to hold food better. Soups are eaten with the spoon. Local people believe that soups make everyone more slender and healthier. One of the local soups, Miyeok-guk, is eaten on birthday as a wish of long life. It doesn’t matter what places in South Korea you visit, you will always see many fast food and street food options. Local food is delicious and inexpensive. To get acquainted with the culinary traditions of the country, it is better to try both restaurant food and street food.