Vanshika Sharma, Haridwar, Uttarakhand
“Food has a culture. Food has a history. Food has a story. It acts as a relationship which binds people from different countries together.”
Eating the local cuisine is one of the best ways to experience a country’s culture. Like most cuisines around the world, traditional food helps in connecting generations and building memories and friendships. Traditional cuisine is the identity and the mirror of a country’s lifestyle, and sharing it with others is the best way to show one’s love for the food.
Traditional Korean food is an Asian cuisine that derives subtle elements from Japan, Mongolia, and China, while still retaining its authentic touch. Since foreigners from different countries have started liking the Korean taste, more and more Korean restaurants have been popping up all over the world in the past few years.
A typical Korean meal consists of a bowl of rice, a bowl of soup or stew, and a few side dishes. There are a variety of Korean dishes, therefore everyday meal includes at least a few dishes, and rather than being served as per courses, Korean dishes including side dishes are served all at once and are meant to be shared. There is no such division of starters or main courses in a Korean meal. Rice, which is one of the staples in every meal, can sometimes be replaced with noodles.
I have always been extremely fascinated by traditional Korean food. So, I visited one of the Korean restaurants in my city. I found that restaurant to be extremely delightful and harmonious that aligns well with the traditions and culture of South Korea. The dishes that I ordered were Kimchi, Bibimbap, Kimbap or Gimbab, Japchae, and Tteok-bokki. When the food arrived, I felt as if I was transported to a new world of Korean cuisine. Each and every single dish was well-seasoned, mouth-watering, and surprising to my taste buds as they all had a unique taste. After my experience at this restaurant, I am addicted to Korean dishes, as it has become one of my favourite cuisines to relish.
There are a few popular traditional Korean dishes that you will definitely find in Korean kitchens, in family gatherings and occasions, or in restaurants all around the world. I will review some of these dishes.
Kimchi is the first dish that comes to our mind whenever someone mentions Korean food. It is the most famous traditional side dish of Korea that goes along with several Korean dishes. It is a spicy and crunchy salad made of vegetables, generally with cabbage as its main ingredient. Some varieties of kimchi are also made of radish or cucumber. It tastes great with rice, noodles, and soup.
Bibimbap, another equally loved Korean dish, is a Korean rice bowl topped with an array of vegetables and meat that is served with Gochujang sauce. Bibim means mixing and bap means rice. The mixing usually takes place at the dinner table itself at the time of eating. Bibimbap is served in a piping hot stone bowl that slowly cooks the ingredients and crisps the rice as you eat.
Mandu, also known as Korean dumpling, are dumplings stuffed with a mixture of meat & vegetables, and can be deep-fried, boiled, or pan-fried. Mandu is often prepared by Korean families as a part of their tradition and celebration of the Korean Lunar New Year also known as Seollal. Preparing and eating mandu is considered as a symbol of good luck for the upcoming year.
Japchae refers to Korean stir-fried noodles. It is one of the most popular noodle dishes in Korea. Japchae consists of glass noodles that are made of mung-bean or sweet potato. It is known for its sweet and flavorful taste, and it is soft, yet has a slightly chewy texture.
Ttteokbokki is a Korean spicy rice cake, that is also one of the famous traditional Korean street food. It is made with slices of garae-tteok (boiled rice cake), vegetables, and other ingredients, that are stir-fried in sweet red chilli sauce. Distinguished by its bright red-orange ensemble, this is the most popular dish sold by street vendors and at snack bars in South Korea.
Hotteok is a sweet, brown sugar-filled pancake. It is a popular street food in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Hotteok is prepared with the same ingredient that you find in a traditional pancake such as flour, sugar, yeast, milk, flavored with cinnamon as well as peanuts.
There are numerous other Korean traditional dishes other than the aforementioned, that you must experience if you want to explore Korean cuisine. I recommend you to try them when the pandemic subsides because once you connect with the food, you’ll keep wanting to go back for more. Have you ever tried any Korean traditional dish? Share your experience in the comments down below!