Introduction to Korean Cuisine

In the summer of 1998, I was asked to write a series of short pieces to introduce Korean cuisine for a TV magazine, and am happy to share these with those who want a brief guide to few aspects of Korean cuisine - Margaret Chang, Managing Director, Arirang Korean Restaurant.
Introduction to Korean Cuisine

A country with over 4000 years of history, Korea is situated on a small fertile peninsular, with fair share of mountains, favored with four distinct seasons. An agrarian society almost until end of World War 2, wide range of grains, vegetables and fruits were cultivated; many kinds of seafood were plentiful; livestock were raised and nuts and wild plants such as mushrooms, roots and shoots were gathered from the mountains. There are also strong regional traditions of drying, preserving, salting and fermenting that add extra dimension to many regional cuisine. And the myriad ways that they have been prepared for the table is a testament to the imagination of women who have been almost sole guardians of the traditions of Korean cuisine.

Geographical proximity to China and Japan has meant many similarities in Korean cuisine with those of her neighbors, but whilst using similar ingredients, it is different emphasis in quantities and combination of seasonings and flavorings that makes Korean cuisine distinct.

Historically, garlic has always had an important role in Korean cuisine and is mentioned in the folklore surrounding founding of the nation in 2333BC. There is documentary evidence of ancient cooking practices that could be a forerunner of BoolGoGi; and arrival of Buddhism around 400AD signaled heavily vegetarian diet being introduced. Mongolian incursions introduced cattle herds in 13th century, and the rise of Confucianism in 14th century and thereafter saw increasing consumption of meat, as well as eating of raw foods. Finally Japanese invasion at the end of 16th century introduced many new fruits and vegetables, most important of which was red pepper.

Women have always dominated preparation of food in Korea, most prominently in royal court kitchens whose cooks were recruited from among girls from poor families at a young age to a lifelong service. Cuisine developed here trickled down to upper classes and gradually some of the dishes became popular fare particularly at more formal or festive times.

Click to get to know your Korean cuisine.

ThumbnailAbout Korean Food
ThumbnailBahb Mug Ut Ni?
ThumbnailBool Go Gi, barbecue Korean style
ThumbnailKimchee; NOT just another pickle!
ThumbnailVegetarian Korean? Why, yes!
ThumbnailAbout Bahn Chahn, the side dishes
ThumbnailMyu Reu Chi: Anchovies, anyone?
ThumbnailSeasonings and flavorings in Korean Cuisine
ThumbnailNaeng Myun, it's only cold noodles, right?
ThumbnailTreasures from the Korean seas
ThumbnailAbout Soup and Koreans
ThumbnailSOOL. Lovely alcoholic beverages from Land of the Rising Sun
ThumbnailJUHNTONGCHA. Fragrant fruit and herbal teas of Korea