Food Guide

Food delivery Korean style

Korean Food Introduction

Thanks to the likes French actress Brigitte Bardot and other animal rights' activists, Korea is known more for its dog eating than its kimchi. Another dish that has appeared in the news is live octopus. The Korea Herald reported in April 2002, that Mr Ha, a 61-year old, suffocated while eating the delicacy.

Contrary to international perceptions, most Koreans have never tried dog or octopus. These are speciality dishes along with snake and puffer fish. The staple foods are rice and kimchi (usually fermented cabbage) and are eaten with every meal. Korean food is hot and spicy. Common ingredients are garlic, chilli pepper, green onions, soy sauce and sesame seeds. Traditional Korean food is healthy. Kimchi has a high nutritional value and garlic is believed to reduce cholesterol and help the immune system.

Soup, rice and side dishes (panchan) come with every meal. The preparation and washing up time involved has caused many a Korean housewife to complain. As more Korean women are choosing a career over staying at home, convenience food is catching on. Nowadays Western junk food is popular with school children. As the diet is changing, Korea has witnessed the emergence of the fat Korean.

The Koreans have not yet mastered the art of cooking Western food. It is possible to find peculiarities such as cream soup topped with cornflakes, pizza with peas and carrots and potato filled with pink cream.

dried squid, octopus and sweet potato chips

Types of Korean Food

Kimchi is Korea's national staple food. There are many different kinds of kimchi. It is usually cabbage or radish mixed with chilli pepper, garlic and ginger and is left to ferment in salt water in large earthenware pots. Korea is resourceful with its food from the times when fresh vegetables were scarce. Another food that keeps for a long time is denjang, fermented soy bean paste.

As a port city, Busan is known for its seafood. Another regional speciality is Dongnae paejon, a cross between and omelette and a pancake with green onions, vegetables and eaten with seafood side dishes.

Popular rice dishes are kimbab (rice and vegetables in rolls of seaweed), bibimbab (rice, vegetables, chilli paste and egg) and bukumbab (fried rice). Noodle dishes include udong, ramyon (usually instant cup noodles) and naeng myon (cold noodles). Chigae or stew can be tasty, the smell of denjang chigae (bean paste) receives mixed reactions from foreigners and kimchi chigae is very spicy. Kalbi tang (beef soup) is tasty but high in calories. For something healthier, try samgye tang (chicken ginseng soup).

Dishes popular with foreigners include mandu (meat dumplings), omu raisu (omelette with rice) and doncasu (pork cutlet). Dokpogi (rice stick in spicy red sauce) and tiggim (battered fried food) can be found at street stalls. Usually a street vendor specialises in one type of snack, such as roasted chestnuts, peanuts, corn or sweet potatoes. For something more unusual try bondegi (chrysalis).

More dried fishy stuff

One of the most expensive kinds of restaurants is the DIY Korean barbecue. Bulgogi is marinated beef, kalbi is on the rib and pork (dweji kalbi) is cheaper. Meat is not essential to a Korean meal. If you are treated to a bulgogi meal by a Korean host, it is a sign of hospitality and generosity. Garlic and chilli peppers are side dishes. Koreans have a tendency to say 'It's not hot' as they chomp on the chilli as bugs bunny would a carrot. Unless you have a high tolerance for chilli, don't believe them.

The Koreans don't go in for desserts. A chilled sweetened drink is served at the end of a meal. Patpingsu is popular during the summer months. It is a fruit salad on ice with red beans and ice cream. Dok, or rice cakes are a sticky traditional sweet.

Eating Customs

Food is important in Korea. A Korean may ask when you greet them 'Have you eaten?' rather than 'How are you?' This is not an invitation to eat as it may be construed in the West, but a tradition from the days when Korea was a poor country. A person was considered healthy if they had eaten. Because of this past, Koreans don't like to waste food and when they entertain they expect their guest to eat well.

The Korean style is to eat quickly and conversation is usually limited to comments of how delicious the food is. Unlike Western restaurants, everybody eats the same food and the communal side dishes are placed in the middle.

Metal chopsticks are the norm and rice is usually eaten with a spoon. The utensils should be placed on the table when they are not being used, not left in the dish. Placing the spoon or the chopsticks upright in the bowl of rice will make your host shudder. This reminds them of the ceremony for their dead ancestors. The rice and soup bowls are not picked up like the Japanese do.

Koreans talk with their mouths full, slurp their soup and noodles, belch and pick their teeth at the dinner table, but blowing your nose is a definite no-no. The Korean respect for elders dictates that everybody waits until the oldest person starts to eat. It is considered rude to smoke in front of someone older or to leave the table earlier than the oldest.

The oldest person usually pays for the meal. This is usually done discreetly by slinking off before the meal has finished. The bill is not brought to the table, but you make your way to the counter by the door. The price is inclusive of the side dishes, soup, rice and dessert.

Korean Drink Introduction

The Koreans eat when they drink. Anju or drinking side dishes range from a fruit platter, peanuts, dried squid or fries. Popcorn is usually free. Koreans usually sit in one place. There are not many opportunities for them to mingle with the other patrons.

Korean drinking is usually male dominated although this is now changing. It is not uncommon to see otherwise respectable businessmen pissing in the street or slumped in a dark alley.

Type of Korean Drinks

Soju, a clear alcohol is an acquired taste and is the national Korean drink. Many will argue how it is made. It can be distilled from rice, sweet potatoes and yams, but some brands are chemical, which is probably why it can leave you with a blinding hangover. Another traditional drink that is even more potent is makkoli, a milky white rice drink.

Koreans are not really wine drinkers. The best wine is probably Majuang Red or White, whereas Jinro is cheap and nasty. The most popular Korean beers are OB, Cass and Hite.

Soju & Cigs are never far away

Drinking Customs

The focus of drinking in Korea is the group you are with. When someone offers you soju, they are also offering you friendship. It is better to get drunk rather than break the good mood of the party.

With Koreans, you mustn't pour your own glass. When you receive a drink, receive with two hands or with one hand on the glass and one hand on your sleeve. It is more important to accept the drink rather than drink it. If you don't want to drink you could sip or touch the glass against your lips. Usually a glass is only refilled once it is empty.

If drinking with someone much older than you, it is considered polite to turn your head and drink away from them. Some Koreans drink like this in front of their parents. Usually one person is the ringleader of a night out and will organise the ordering of dishes and the payment. Sometimes the most senior pays, but amongst friends it is common to split the bill.

Food and Drink Links


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