Korean food looks great, it smells great and it tastes delicious. It is one of the central pillars to the Korean wave which is the spread of the Korean culture around the world and makes living in Korea, right here at the source, a joy for taste connoisseurs.
The passion of South Koreans towards their food is what ultimately sets the food apart. Koreans talk about food like the British talk about the weather or the Indians about cricket. It is what makes Koreans talk! Throughout Korea you will see people laughing and joking while enjoying their food and why not?
Whether you like spicy, barbecued or some healthy rice dishes, there is some sort of Korean cuisine for everyone, and what most people don’t realize is that Korean food is very easy to cook at home. Most dishes consist of rice, meat and vegetables, the banchan (side dishes) can be made in advance and kept in the fridge until needed and most main dishes only take 15-20 minutes to cook!
The flavors of Korean foods are based around some unique sauces that can be mixed to create a range of flavors and can be added to meats and soups to make exquisite dishes. Luckily, you can get these from most supermarkets.
Gochujang is a hot red pepper paste made simply by fermenting powdered sticky rice and red pepper powder, gochujang’s history dates back to the 16th century when chilis were introduced to South Korea. Gochujang is used extensively throughout cooking, added to most spicy dishes, like bibimbap, jeyuk bokkeum and deokboki. You can add gochujang to most meats. Simply mix in a small bowl a tablespoon with 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and some sugar for a quick marinade.
is a fermented soy bean paste that is made from dried soy beans, commonly used as a stock for soups and stews, like Korean miso soup. It can also be mixed with gochujang
to make ssamjang
which is used as a wrapping sauce.
The staple meal for the expat who is new to Korean cuisine: Bulgogi
Where to Start
Cooking food comes naturally to most Koreans. My cooking and recipes have been passed down to me from my mother and grandma as I grew up, and I am certainly looking forward to teaching my children to cook. However, I have found that my husband, who has little kitchen experience, has been able to pick up Korean cooking easily. In fact, I test all my recipes on him to make sure they are simple and easy to follow.
The best part of cooking food is watching people enjoy the results; therefore I think we should start your cooking adventure with one of most famous and tasty dishes. Bulgogi, which literally translates to fire meat,’ is a tasty beef dish which you can get anywhere in South Korea, and it is served all the time. My mum always has a small bowl of bulgogi alongside other side dishes and mains. What makes bulgogi tasty is the sauce that the meat marinates in. It gives a great flavor and keeps the meat succulent and moist. Made from soy sauce, Korean pears and apples, it is a fruity sauce that I make extra of to keep in the fridge for dishes later. The ingredients for bulgogi (4 people): 500g of bulgogi meat, you can get this from a butcher, just ask for bulgogi beef and you should get thinly sliced beef that is perfect.
Ingredients for your sauce:
- 300ml soy sauce
- 1 medium apple,
- 1 Korean pear
- 1 medium onion,
- 5 cloves of garlic.
To make the sauce, put all the ingredients in a blender, and blend well. Put the sauce in a jar and allow it to settle. You can keep this in the fridge until you need it. Take the meat and put it in a bag, with 7-8 tablespoons of your bulgogi sauce, I like to give the sauce a chance to mix well with the meat and leave it overnight in the fridge â the longer the better.To cook, put a small bit of oil in a hot pan and pour the contents of the bag in. Cook well. It should be done in 10-20 minutes. Then, serve on a bed of rice. A perfect, simple Korean meal that will impress your friends and get you started on your cooking journey.
Luna Points is the author and creator of Easy Korean Food, a site full of easy recipes you can make at home.