Korean Food

The Korean kitchen is diversified and unique, with a wide range of ingredients, flavors and styles. Their ingredients come from the mountains to the fields to the seas, all in close quarters on the Korean peninsula. Nevertheless, despite the wide assortment of dishes and tastes that Korean food offers, it would not be wrong for one to think “kimchi,” or “spices,” when the topic of Korean cuisine arises.


Kimchi is Korea’s national dish, and along with rice, is the most common ingredient found in any meal.  But while rice and kimchi are a common side dish, the typical Korean meal consists also of soup and three or more other side dishes, allowing for a well-balanced diet that Koreans are especially proud of. In fact, kimchi itself was invented as a way to preserve the valuable nutritious value of vegetables during the winter months when they could no longer be produced. Thus, the word kimchi is derived from chimchae, meaning preserved vegetables with salt.

Korean people began to pickle vegetables in the 7th century or before. At that time, kimchi simply meant pickled vegetables. Beginning in the 12th century however, Koreans began to introduce various flavors to these pickled vegetables, creating the special flavor of today’s kimchi. The addition of red peppers as an ingredient was only introduced in the 18th century, as another useful natural preservative.

Today, Kimchi is most commonly made of cabbage and flavored with salt, fish, chili, garlic, ginger and pepper. However, it is also commonly made of radish or cucumber, and its precise flavor varies depending on the location and season. Kimchi is also an ingredient in many other popular Korean food dishes such as kimchi stew, kimchi fried rice, kimchi pancakes, and kimchi ramyeon.

Meat Dishes

Korean food is comprised of a wide variety of meats, and Korean barbeque is now becoming popularized in the west. At traditional Korean restaurants, a grill is placed in the center of the table where meats are cooked. As chopsticks are the primary eating utensils, meats are often cut up into small pieces by your waiter before or as they are served.

Bulgogi is one of the most common meat dishes, made with thin slices of beef grilled and marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, sugar, green onions and black pepper. Beef, pork, and a range of seafood products are the most popular meat dishes in Korean cuisine. Dog meat can also be found in Korea, made of nureongee, a crossbreed raised for consumption. Due to the disgust felt by many dog lovers, especially from the west, the sale of dog meat has been made illegal in South Korea. However, the law is loosely enforced and dog meat remains widely available.


There is little to differentiate Korean snacks to Korean side dishes, as Korean meals are often comprised of a few of these small delicacies. Nevertheless, on the streets of Korea it is easy to find a cart selling an assortment of these Korean snacks.

Kimbap is probably the most popular snack in Korea, and resembles Japanese sushi. Cooked rice and a variety of seasonings and ingredients are put together and rolled in dried seaweed in a similar manner to sushi. The difference is found in the ingredients and seasonings. Kimbap is seasoned with sesame oil instead of rice vinegar, and instead of raw fish and rice, kimbap is most commonly furnished with rice, an assortment of vegetables and a source of protein, varying from tuna to beef, and even ham or cheese.

Other Korean Food

Soups and noodles are also common dishes found at the Korean table, and both can be made in a large variety of ways using many different techniques. Steamed vegetables and tofu are also common, as are salads. However, with the decline of Buddhism, vegetarian restaurants have become harder to find. Nevertheless, major cities all have them, and they have recently been regaining popularity.

Eating Customs

Many Koreans today continue to eat Korean food in the traditional way, sitting cross-legged at a low table. While chopsticks are the primary eating utensils, spoons are used to eat their soups and steamed rice, and these dishes usually remain on the table. Many families will not drink during their meal, similar to other Asian countries, but restaurants commonly serve water or tea. Side dishes are almost always shared, and it is considered impolite to begin eating before your elders at the table. In formal settings and at home, these rules are often strictly enforced, though in casual settings many Koreans ignore such traditions.



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