Cultured Palate: Dishes from South Korea

One type of Asian cuisine that doesn’t receive enough global attention is Korean cuisine. For many people, the combination of spices and unique ingredients that aren’t found in any other dishes in the world make Korean food completely and totally addicting.

The format of meals can be confusing for a first timer. If you’re eating a sit-down meal, it will generally include a main dish along with several bowls of smaller bites called banchan, which are shared among the diners. If you’ve never explored Korean cuisine, here are a few favorite dishes to get you started.

Kimchi

Kimchi is one of the most well-known dishes of Korean cuisine outside of Korean culture. Made of thinly sliced vegetables that have been left to ferment in spices and salt, kimchi is one of the most popular banchan dishes served in Korea. Several companies have even come up with specialty refrigerators that can hold large quantities of kimchi at the perfect temperature.

The primary ingredients for kimchi are cabbage, radishes, salt, and chilis. Kimchi has been a part of Korean cuisine for around 2000 years, but tongue-tingling chili peppers are a newer addition – they were brought to Korea by Portuguese settlers around 1700.

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Gochujang

Gochujang is a popular Korean condiment that’s frequently used as a topping, a marinade, and everything in between. It’s made of hot peppers, sticky rice, soybeans, and salt.  All of these ingredients lead to a rich, earthy flavor that lends itself well to both meat and veggie dishes.

However, gochujang isn’t your average, run-of-the-mill hot sauce. Like kimchi, gochujang is fermented, which means it packs a sour punch that you may not find in other types of hot sauce.

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Samgyetang

The Korean version of chicken noodle soup one ups the traditional North American version by including a whole chicken in every single pot. Samgyetang is a popular Korean dish that most Koreans will consume in the summer. The theory is that this aromatic, spicy soup will help regulate your internal temperature while you deal with the humidity and heat of the hot summer days.

Samgyetang is made with plenty of ginseng, and enough Cornish game hen for each diner to have their own. The hens are stuffed with rice, and boiled in the tasty broth until each bite is suffused with the taste of spices, succulent chicken, and perfectly cooked rice.

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