Category Archives: Food

Kiwi’s Korean Sojourn

This kiwi had a tough time coming to grips with South Korea because it is so different from New Zealand. The language, the food and the sheer number of people crowded into the cities was all a little overwhelming. My article will look at these areas in a little more depth to gain insight into what is a fascinating land of extremes.

Never having been exposed to Asian languages I felt thoroughly confused by Korean writing when first encountering it. It helped having an English translation under the Hangeul words everywhere I looked so it was not long before I had some Korean place names committed to memory. I then began to learn the Korean alphabet and how to pronounce the letters. As I walked to the subway and down the street I often read Korean words aloud and was pleasantly surprised when I discovered English words written in Korean. I could understand these but Chinese characters used in Korean (Hanja) were a different story. I eagerly bought books on the subject though and began devouring the meanings of Chinese characters.

Korean food is very spicy. Koreans use a lot of red pepper paste and hot sauce. Koreans love spicy food so much they will eat powdered sauce on its own. Noodles are a popular snack food and each packet has a sachet of powdered sauce inside which you flavor the noodles with. I saw Koreans eating just this sauce and then gasp for water because they had burnt their mouths. Seafood, rice and seaweed are main staples in the Korean diet. Rice and meat wrapped in seaweed is an appetizing meal and very cheap. I was not game enough to eat live octopus which were kept in tanks outside fish restaurants. You just walk in, choose your fish and the establishment cooks it (or not) for you. If this is not your thing there is lots of western food available such as pizza which Koreans absolutely love. There are literally dozens of pizza stores around including international chain stores like Dominos and Pizza Hut offering tremendous variety in the way of pizza toppings. The prices vary so it pays to shop around. I think my favorite Korean food has to be pizza (‘It’s Yammy’ was one sign that I saw) and my least favorite would have to be silkworms.

In Korea there are so many people and such a lack of space that the vast majority live in eighteen storey buildings. There is no such thing as individual sections over there. You have flower and vegetable gardens outside the apartment blocks and play areas for the children. These things are communal and are for the use of all, not just one particular family. I remember buses and trains sometimes being so full of people I had to stand for most of the journey. I was glad when the vehicle stopped, the doors opened and everyone poured out onto the street or platform. There was finally some room to move.

In this article I have offered you a brief glimpse of my life in South Korea. On the map Korea as a whole looks tiny but in reality it is a big country in terms of population and economic power. The country is a melting pot of ideas and languages, a mix of eastern and western food, roads are clogged with vehicles and it seems there are skyscrapers everywhere you look. In Korea civilization is never far away from you. How different that is to New Zealand and how long it took for this kiwi to come to grips with one of Asia’s tigers.

East Asian Food and Diet

China is the largest country in the world and has many different cuisines. Although China stretches across mid-Asia as well as to the east, Chinese food as a whole is considered East Asian food. Throughout most of China, rice is an important food staple. However, in some regions, noodles rather than rice are the foundation of the diet. Most food is prepared by mincing and cooking it, along with a small amount of oil, in a wok.

Within China there are three distinct regional cuisines: Shanghainese, whose regional food is known for its hot and spicy chili pepper flavoring and distinctive red-colored meats. Cantonese and Chaozhao regions associated with flavorful meat and vegetable combinations. Beijing, Mandarin, and Shandong regions serve noodles and steamed bread dumplings used instead of rice as the foundation of most meals.

Japan is an island nation and much of its food uses fish and fish-based ingredients. Rice is a staple in Japanese cooking as are sliced, salted vegetables. Soy products such as tofu, soy sauce and soy paste called miso are used in many dishes. Foods of Japan also include sushi, meats flavored with teriyaki sauce, and lightly battered and fried meats, fish, and shellfish called tempura.

Korean food is a blend of Chinese and Japanese influence, yet it has its own distinct flavors including soy sauces, garlic, ginger, chilies, pine nuts, and sesame seeds among other spices and foods. Traditional Korean meals include meats and seafood. Most meals include a vegetable dish called gimchi made of grated vegetables pickled with garlic, chili, and ginger.

Exciting and Fun Korean Recipes

As an Asian cuisine, Korean food uses the staples of rice, fish, and spicy chili peppers. Koreans also eat spicy pickled cabbage called kimchi at every meal. It is made from Chinese cabbage, or, bok choi, treated with garlic, ginger, and spicy chili paste and fermented all winter before being enjoyed in the spring. Kimchi making is an annual tradition that is seen as an important part of Korean family life.

Korean recipes are very similar to their Japanese counterparts, though they are often distinguished by extra flavor and kick. Korean foods can be some of the spiciest in the world.

The national food of Korea is Bibbimbap, or, rice mixed with vegetables. This food comes from the ancient city, Jeonju, in North Jeolla province. The best Bibbimbap is still said to come from this region. It is rice covered with assorted vegetables, chili paste, and occasionally diced beef. Korean mixed rice can also be served in a searing stone bowl lined with sesame oil. The rice gets crispy, and a whole raw egg can be cracked over the rice. The heat from the stone bowl will cook the egg when it is mixed. A steaming pot full of color and savory scents is delivered to the table, and diners must mix all the ingredients together.

A favorite Korean recipe is Kimchi Fried Rice. White rice is mixed with sliced kimchi and served with a fried egg on top. Authentic Korean dishes include corn, ham, and occasionally bean sprouts.

Koreans typically eat miyokguk, or, seaweed soup, on their birthday. This soup is believed to bring good luck. The salty mixture of seaweed, soybean paste, and tofu is believed to be a natural medicine for women who have recently given birth. As a tradition, everyone drinks this soup on their birthday.

Samgyetang is a popular soup in the winter months. It consists of a whole small chicken stewed in broth. The chicken is stuffed with rice, ginseng, and Korean dates. This satisfying meal signifies the bounty of the harvest and always leaves diners happy. In Korean culture, guests are encouraged to lift the large soup bowl with both hands to drink the delicious broth to the last drop.

No discussion of Koran recipes would be complete without mentioning Korean barbecue. Bite sized slices of bacon or short ribs are served piping hot, dipped in vinegar or soy bean paste, and wrapped in lettuce leaves. Barbecue can also be enjoyed with a side of white rice. Pork and bacon are the most popular meats to barbecue, but occasionally marinated beef, chicken, and seafood are added to the mix. Koreans always drink their national beverage, soju, a strong rice spirit, while eating barbecue.

Popular Korean Dish For a New Year’s

Tteokguk is traditional Korean food for the celebration of New Year’s Day. It is believed that people have to eat Tteokguk because it is predicted to grant the luck for the forthcoming year and for him or her to supposedly gain an extra year of life. Eating one bowl of Tteokguk in the morning of New Year’s Day means that you get one year older. The first day of the New Year is the new beginning for all formation.

People begin eating Tteokguk cooked from white rice cake (Tteok) to signify the day’s pure and solemn nature. Why is rice cake round? Some people say it was shaped after coins to bring people prosperity and some people say it shaped after the sun. According to a 19th century handbook on traditions, the history of eating rice cake soup dates back to the late 18th century.

It is significant to make a good broth for this dish to be tasty. Beef brisket is boiled for several hours and the stock is strained to clarify the broth. Long rice cake sticks are thin-sliced diagonally and boiled in the clear beef broth. The rice cake slices should be cooked until they’re very soft. Make sure you bring the egg to room temperature before you beat it and add it to the broth. An egg that just came out of the refrigerator will make the broth murky instead of smooth and thin ribbons.

It is very simple to make Tteokguk today because most of the Korean grocery stores sell rice cake slices.

This is how to cook Tteokguk:

INGREDIENTS (For 4 people)

5 cups BEEF BROTH.

1 lb/455 g sliced “GARAETTEOK” (rice cake), soaked in water for 2 hours

1 EGG, beaten

2 sheets of “GIIM” (seaweed), toasted slightly

SOY SAUCE to adjust seasoning

2 SCALLIONS, cut diagonally

BLACK PEPPER

1. Prepare the beef broth early on. Prepare GARAETTEOK (rice cake) slices and remove the egg from the refrigerator and leave it alone in room temperature.

2. Bring the broth to a boil, then add the rice cake slices. Let it cook until it becomes tender. Now, lightly toast the seaweed on a toaster. Cut the seaweed into 4 pieces with scissors and then into strips. Set it aside. Adjust the soup seasoning with soy sauce and put in the scallion.

3. Swirl the soup with chopsticks while adding the beaten egg as a stream. Separate the soup into individual bowls and top them with crumbled seaweed.

All sorts of Tteokguk have been made in the northern part and southern part of Korea, which are different in climate and types of farming. In the north, the farming of rice is rare; people added Mandu (Korean style Dumpling) to Tteokguk and enjoyed Tteokmanduguk.

Foods to Eat For a Healthy Lifestyle

Due to busy daily schedules, more and more people are tending to skip meals. The lack of sufficient nutrients in your body will cause you to suffer from fatigue, stress, insomnia, heartburn, and various other symptoms.

The following are 7 recommended foods you can eat to prevent these symptoms and to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Watermelon Seeds
Watermelon contains a lot of citrulline, a kind of amino acid that facilitates urination. Therefore, it is perfect for people with reduced kidney function or for people who often experience swelling. It suppresses cancer and prevents the accumulation of impurities in the blood vessels. Also, it helps to eat the seeds and the fruit of the watermelon together, without spitting out the seeds, as they play a role in reducing cholesterol. Lycopene, which gives the fruit its red color, eliminates harmful active oxygen in the body and plays a role in cancer resistance. The amount of lycopene in watermelon is about 3~6 times that in tomato or red wine.

Egg Yolks
Eggs have been praised as the most perfect protein on earth. They are known to increase cholesterol levels but if people eat only the white part, cholesterol absorption can be reduced, according to recent studies. Yolk contains lecithin, which prevents Alzheimer’s disease in addition to promoting brain development in children. Therefore, except for those who have hyperlipidemia or diabetes, it is good to eat one egg per day. Yolk also contains an element for preventing eye diseases.

Mackerel
In mackerel, nutrition elements such as protein, fat, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, and vitamins A, B, and D are abundant. In addition, it has high amounts of EPA and DHA, which are only found in fish. These two fatty acids help to adjust muscle contraction of the heart and blood vessels in blood circulation and they help to maintain normal blood pressure by facilitating cholesterol metabolism.

DHA improves memory and learning ability by promoting brain development and activity. Accordingly, it is important for older adults, because their brain function is naturally deteriorating. Both EPA and DHA help to prevent lifestyle diseases such as high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, and Alzheimer’s disease, by promoting brain activity through the significant reduction of cholesterol in the blood.

Red Apples
Many inorganic minerals such as fiber, potassium, and vitamin C are contained in apples and its polyphenol component acts as an antioxidant, which prevents diseases. Also, kaempferol and quercetin, contained in the red skin, play a role in suppressing cancer growth by blocking the protein component of the blood vessel that delivers nutrition to breast cancer cells. Apples are an essential food for smokers as they contain substances that protect the lung; this was announced recently in England and the Netherlands. With abundant fiber, it is excellent for easing constipation.

Leeks
Leeks help one overcome the summer heat; it goes perfectly with traditional Korean fermented soybean paste or Kimchi.

Since ancient times, leek has been known to strengthen the liver, to help blood circulation, to keep the body warm, to improve chronic lumbago, and to cure colds, diarrhea, and anemia.
According to studies, leeks are reported to suppress the induction of the mutation of cancer-generating genes and suppress the growth of stomach cancer, breast cancer, and liver cancer cells. This cancer resistance has attracted attention.

Leek Kimchi and leek soybean paste use leeks as an ingredient. Their cancer resistant properties are also attracting attention.

Also, the leek is a vegetable that goes well with traditional Korean fermented soybean paste. Since ancient times, soybean paste soup containing leeks has helped people with diarrhea or indigestion.

When leek is put into soybean paste soup, it not only reduces the salty taste of soybean paste but also provides vitamins A and C, which are lacking in this paste. Therefore, the leek is an ideal nutritional match.

The cancer-resistant function of soybean paste is well recognized. Leek soybean paste soup must be the perfect food in the age of well-being both for its nutritional and health-promoting properties.

Walnuts
The “highlight of autumn” is the walnut. This old saying is supported by the fact that walnuts have recently proven to be good for memory improvement and the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Rich nutrition and savory tasting meats are packed inside the walnut’s hard, dark brown/yellow shell. Since walnut meats have the same shape as a human brain, people have long believed that eating a lot of walnuts improves brain function. There is another saying: if people in their 40s eat one walnut per day, they will live 10 years longer; if people in their 50s eat one walnut per day, they will live 5 years longer.

The walnut, which is thought to originate from Persia, is a fruit loved by all people of the east and the west. In Korea, people eat it together with other nuts such as peanuts and chestnuts. When people lose their appetite and become weak, they eat walnut porridge in order to recover strength. Also, the walnut is very familiar to us from the expression, “it’s like the inside of a walnut” when things are complicated and people cannot decide what to do.

Hot Peppers
Perhaps no group of people likes hot peppers more than Koreans. Pepper powder is used in most Korean foods. Recently, it has been reported that Koreans’ love of hot pepper is beneficial for our health. Time, a US weekly magazine, reported that Sunchang, a city that has presented hot pepper paste to kings since ancient times, was selected as one of the most famous longevity villages in the world. Time indicated that the people’s diet of fermented foods, like hot pepper paste, along with the clean natural environment of Sunchang are secrets for longevity.

The Spicy Hot Foods of Korean Cuisine

Generally, many places that you will find hot and spicy food around the world have a couple of things in common. These locations are usually tropical and/or hot places, geographically, or they were part of a major spice route centuries ago. Korea is neither tropical or hot, having a rather cold climate overall. Nor has it ever been on a major spice route.

Without any of these traits, Korea is said to have the highest per capita consumption of chiles in the world. So how did this Korean love of hot and spicy food come about? The chile made it’s first appearance in the region in China in the 12th century, where it is believed to have been introduced by the Portuguese. They introduced the Chinese to the hot pepper, and from there some seeds made it from China into Korean hands, and on into Korea. There is also a belief that the chile was brought over by the Dutch to Korea much later, around the 17th century.

Even before the arrival of the chile, Korea was already preparing food that was spicy. The pungency of Korean food came from the use of mustard plant and radishes in cooking, which, with the use of chiles, still exists today.

The most popular of chiles in Korea is a variety known as koch’s. This is a long, finger-like chile, with a smooth skin that tapers at the end. It is most similar to the Anaheim or New Mexico chile common in the Western world.

This chile is used to make a hot, red chile powder that is sold in three grades: course grade, flaked, and fine. The course grade is often used to make kimchi, a type of fermented cabbage very popular in Korea. The flaked version of the chile is most often used as a zesty garnish. The fine grade is most often used to make a red hot chile paste known as koch’ujang, which is used in almost every prepared Korean dish. It is a complex paste that is traditionally made in the home, but can be readily found in Korean and Asian markets. Besides the fine red hot chile powder, the paste contains barley malt powder, water, sweet rice flour, hot red chile powder, fermented soybean paste, soy sauce, and salt.

Korean Thanksgiving

Chusok, sometimes Romanized as Chuseok, is often called Korean Thanksgiving. It is one of Korea’s main holidays, and is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth month by the Lunar Calendar. This Harvest Moon Festival is over 2,000 years old, and is a traditional time for Koreans to thank their ancestors for the year’s harvest. It is celebrated over a three day period, and viewing the full moon is a feature in the evenings.

I remember my first Chusok in the 1980s when a Korean family invited me and a couple of friends to Chusok dinner. I remember the one thing that stands out for all of the Chusok dinners I’ve enjoyed since, plates and bowels full of great food. For anyone who enjoys Korean food, Chusok and New Year’s are the holidays you want to attend in Korea. The food is outstanding!

Chusok and New Year’s are also the most popular holidays in Korea, and unfortunately, that means unbelievable traffic. I’ve visited during the holiday and traveled with in-laws to our family gathering, and the traffic is definitely one of the down sides. Highways and roads are jammed as people journey to visit families and honor the graves of their ancestors.

This remembering of ancestors is an important tradition of the Chusok holiday. Food is offered during a memorial rite (jesa) which is accompanied by a deep bow to the floor (from kneeling position). Depending on each families religious and other beliefs, the ceremony may be different. However, regardless of those beliefs, Chusok is celebrated with a family feast. And I’ll admit, when my wife and her sisters get together in the kitchen to prepare for Chusok, all thoughts of diet go out the window. Just like the American tradition of stuffing oneself on Thanksgiving in November, I’ve stuffed myself during Chusok just as full. One of the special foods prepared for Chusok is songpyun. These are special rice cakes that are molded in a shape that looks like a half moon and are stuffed with sesame seeds or chestnuts sweetened with honey. They are an excellent desert or snack. Some of the main foods served are galbi (grilled ribs) and or bulgogi (marinated beef), chapchae (clear noodles), saengsun jun (battered and fried fish), and kimchi of course. And yes, I love kimchi. If you have only tried the kind in a jar at American supermarkets, you are doing yourself a disservice. Good kimchi is excellent, and there are many varieties. There are many other side dishes and foods on the table, including soups, vegetables, fruits, and much more.

Besides the great food, I like the holiday for the meaning behind it. Just like the meaning behind American Thanksgiving (That I’m afraid some people forget), the Korean holiday focuses on some of the most important aspects of Korean culture. These include family, respect for elders and ancestors, and the sharing of communal food and drink. Besides eating together, families play games and have the opportunity to catch up with one another. Often traditional games are played by family members and outside festivities are visited. It is a great holiday to celebrate family and give thanks.

Quick & Easy Korean Cooking

I love Korean food and found “Quick & Easy Korean Cooking” by Cecila Hae-Jin Lee to be a nice little cook book full of Korean recipes. My wife is Korean, and she liked it too. (Just because she is Korean does not mean she knows how to cook every Korean dish without a reference)

The photographs in the book are great, especially some of the ones from different places in Korea. However, I would have really liked to have had a picture of each dish that was in the cook book. My wife commented that she would have liked a picture of each dish too.

The recipes are divided into the following categories: Appetizers and Snacks, Soups and Hot Pots, Small Side Dishes, Chicken Beef and Pork, Fish and Shellfish, Kimchi and Other Pickled Things, Rice, Noodles, and Sweets and Drinks. There are short chapters on sauces and other basics, quick and easy Korean menus, and some other resources on the Internet and other books. The beginning of the book also included some notes on Korean food, a glossary of Korean ingredients and useful utensils for cooking Korean food.

Each recipe has the Korean name under the English name, but not in Korean characters, or Hangul. The name is in Romanization. That is the only Korean in the book. Lee also included different facts about the foods such as history of the dish, or when it is served. The recipes themselves are just like the title states, easy and quick to make.

If someone wants an attractive book of quick and easy Korean recipes with additional information on the dishes, this is a great book to get. We are looking forward to trying each and ever recipe in the book!

Korean Bulgogi BBQ

Cheap BBQ is great. Cheap Korean BBQ is just something a little different and fun when you want to mix it up a bit. Your Girlfriend/Boyfriend/”Life Partner” will love it!

My best suggestion is that before actually attempt to do Korean BBQ, go to a nice cheap Korean BBQ place in your city when you get a chance and experience it for yourself. There are pretty much two options at the places I have gone to. You have your dishes prepared in the kitchen such as your stir fry’s and soups. The staff will sit you at a table and take your order and bring it out to you. The other option is to have the staff sit you at a table with a BBQ hot plate in the middle. You then order your marinated raw meat and cook it yourself on the table.

To get a really good idea of the whole experience, I suggest going a bunch of times so you can really understand what it is all about. Any excuse to keep going back is good enough for me. Also, make sure you go with some friends. In the end they will probably encourage you to put on a Korean night or something.

I personally fell in love with the whole Korean food experience when I met my Korean friend “Colin”. He was into baseball and visiting Australia at the time. I took him to a few games and thought I would take him to a Korean restaurant so he could feel a bit of home and I could give the stuff a try. From then on, every week after baseball practice we went straight there for dinner. Since then, I think I have introduced more people to Korean food than any Korean has.

What sold me on doing it for myself was some pictures that he showed me of his grandparents that live up in the mountains somewhere. The whole family was sitting on the ground around a big wood fire BBQ with all sorts of meat and stuff on it. They were all picking away at the food with chopsticks and they looked so happy. I thought “This is what I want to do”.

I have had a lot of experience with a lot of different sorts of BBQ’s. Korean doesn’t just incorporate the cooking or the social part. It totally puts the two together and involves everyone.

Try the Korean Diet to Lose Weight

South Koreans have one of the lowest obesity rates amongst people in the developed world. Koreans pay a lot of attention to their appearance. This alone is good reason to try and incorporate the Korean diet to lose weight. It is based upon fresh vegetables, a lot of seafood, lean meats and plenty of spices.

You first have to see if there is a restaurant in the vicinity of your home that can help you with the Korean food. Once you can set up a running order with them you are good to go.

Korean food is packed with colors, textures and flavors. Two of their favorite meals are rice bowl with vegetables and noodle soup with vegetables (onmyeon). They have a very healthy practice of providing lots of vegetables as accompaniments to meat dishes.

The diet contains lots of seafood and lean meats. They do not deep fry their food, preferring to stir fry it or have it in soups and broths. The other characteristic of Korean food is its extreme spiciness. This boosts up your metabolism and makes you more active.

Kimchi, a Korean staple made of fermented cabbage and sometimes radish, is excellent for digestion. Eat a bit of Kimchi with every meal, just like the Koreans do.

The custom in Korea is to eat large helpings of food. Since a large part of it is vegetables, you automatically get a high fiber, high nutrition diet. This works well if you do not want to cut back on your eating.

Another thing to emulate from the Koreans is to take the time out to enjoy the meal. Meals are family events and are not rushed affairs. If you slow down to enjoy your food, you will consume less.

Try out the Korean diet to lose weight and you will be amazed at the results