Korea is a small peninsular country neighboring China to the north and Japan to its south eastern side. Because of its proximity to the two nations, its cuisine also carries a notable resemblance to Chinese and Japanese cuisines. Yet, despite of strong influences, the Korean cuisine is still distinct and has a character of its own, attributable to the vibrant Korean culture. From the nomadic Manchurian tribes, Korean food largely comes from the rich resources of land and sea. Foreign influences are mainly from the Chinese proximity and the Japanese occupation.
Land of abundance
The rich Korean soil provided the varied greens and vegetables, the three sides of ocean ensured more than enough supply of fish and seafood, and the valleys and flatlands provided ample space for farming and growing cattle, poultry, and other livestock. The almost endless source of food is prominent in Korean table settings and food servings.
The traditional Korean table setting consists of dozens of dishes served all at once. There is typically one main dish to every meal, usually a noodle, meat, stew, soup or porridge. Aside from the main dish, there are also several side dishes, which could be as little as three in a simple meal to several dozens in elaborate feasts. Steamed rice is a constant to every meal. Side dishes should be varied and should include a vegetable, seafood, meat, and fruits.
The Ban Chan
Ban Chan is the name that refers to the side dishes served with rice and a main dish. There are several types of Ban Chan, each separately cooked and prepared. There are six main types of Ban Chan that includes the Kimchi, wet or dry Bokkeum, Namul, Jeon, JJim, and Jorim.
The main dish is served in a large bowl and is placed in the middle of the table. Side dishes are served in smaller bowls and are arranged around the main dish. Each diner gets a bowl of hot steamed rice. Aside from the rice, the dishes are shared by everyone.
Table setting is precise and follows aesthetic rules. The dishes are arranged in such a way that the diner eat in a progression that will result to an exceptional gastronomic experience. Colors, spices, temperature, texture, and food ingredients are all considered in achieving the right balance and arrangement.
Korean Flavors, Tastes and Influences
The Korean cuisine consists of five distinct tastes. It is noted for its spicy dishes, particularly the kimchi. Other tastes include sweet, sour, salty and bitter. It is notable how Korean cooking incorporates two or more tastes in one dish. Common combinations are sweet and sour, sweet and spicy, spicy and salty, and sweet and salty.
The Korean peninsula juts out from the mainland China. The proximity has brought in strong Chinese influences in its culture and food. The influence of the neighboring Chinese is apparent in its noodles, dumplings, tea drinking, the soy bean tofu, and sweet and sour flavors.
The Japanese island lies just a few miles off the Korean coastline. The years of Japanese have also infused its own food flavors to the native Korean dishes. Although Japanese cuisine is a lot blander than its Korean counterpart, its contribution is notable in its bland soups, the fermentation of food, spicy pastes, alcoholic beverages and seaweed dishes.
Korean cuisine rely its tastes from the distinct flavors of spices used. Spicy foods are common. There are spicy noodle soups, spicy pickles, spicy vegetables, fish, and meat dishes. The red hot pepper is one of the most favorite Korean spice, they include it in almost any dish. Soybean paste and soy sauce are prominently used to create salty taste. Other popular condiments include, ginger, onions, garlic, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and scallions.
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