Food Culture and Tradition

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Glossary of Foods and Food Terms in Korea


Bam-Kyung-Dan: dessert of spiced pureed chestnut formed into balls, rolled in honey then chopped almonds.

Bibim-Bab: literally, mixed rice: a variety of fresh and dried vegetables all individually cooked plus beef and egg shredded pancake. All of these are precisely shredded and sliced then arranged over a bowl of rice to be mixed just before eating.

Bin-Ja Tuk: a pancake made from soaked mung beans. After the batter is poured on a hot griddle (inverted pan), small strips of pork and Kimchi are placed on top then flipped. Good inexpensive meal eaten with rice and other Kimchi with vinegar soy sauce as a dip.

Bulkoki or Bulgogi: small tender patties of good beef fillet marinated in spicy hot sauce, briefly cooked in sesame oil then eaten by dipping in more fiery spiced sauce.

Chun-Kwa: treats made from thinly sliced vegetables coated with sugar glaze.

Hobahk Juhn: ground beef and slivered zucchini stirred with beaten eggs. Spoonfuls of the mixture are dropped into hot sesame seed oil to form small, 3-inch omelets. This is served with rice and a dipping sauce called Cho Jung (mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, minced onion, and toasted sesame seeds).

Hong-Haisam: a festive dish using sea cucumbers, for special occasions like weddings and sixtieth birthdays.

Juk: rice “porridges” made with addition of white sesame seeds, or red beans or pine nuts or soy beans – all served in little bowls with sugar. Sometimes made with meat and vegetables.

Kalbi-Kui: barbecued short ribs of beef. The meat is deeply scored in criss-cross fashion then marinated three hours or overnight in a sauce of soy, garlic, ginger, green onions, sesame oil and seeds, with the addition of sugar, vinegar, and pepper. The chunks of meat are then drained and barbecued over hot coals. A barbecue meal is usually served with a salad of blanched greens (watercress), soybean sprouts dressed with soy, sugar, onions and toasted sesame seeds, and rice and Kimchi.

Keran-Chikai: steamed egg custard prepared in small dishes. Ground beef and mushrooms are mixed with the stirred egg then garnished with threads of red pepper and green onion on top. Served as a breakfast dish.

Kimchi: the national dish of Korea. Can be made many ways but the classic is Baichu-Kimchi, made from salted, fermented, spiced and chopped Chinese cabbage. The baichu may be layered with other items such as sliced onions, shredded radishes, dried shrimp, cuttlefish, squid, garlic, ginger root, sugar, anchovy sauce, etc. Other types include: Kaktuki, pickled radish or daihon; Nabak-Kimchi, slightly different variation on the kaktuki often served on New Year’s; Oi-Sobaki, small cucumber pickles; Put-Kimchi (green pickles), salted, seasoned and fermented spring greens such as turnip greens, watercress, mustard greens, etc. (made in small quantities and used quickly); and Tong-Chimi, another type of pickled radish (bigger pieces). The juice of the latter is sipped while eating Tuk (rice cakes) on New Year’s. Note: While the many varieties of Kimchi may be considered in the category of pickles it should he noted that they are not only served with every meal as a side dish or condiment, they are also used as ingredients in other dishes. Even the tangy fermented juice is enjoyed as a beverage and as a flavoring in stews and soups.

Kochujan: a hot red pepper and mashed bean paste blended in equal parts with soy sauce. Used as a condiment alone or in combination with other flavorings.

Ku-Jul-Pan: a special dish with separate compartments used especially for the attractive arrangement of mixed appetizers.

Kuk: the general name for soup. Most soups are prepared with minimal ingredients and maximum flavor. Tiny strips of meat and vegetables are tossed and browned in a little oil, then the second rinse water from the rice is poured in to make the stock base (of Chinese origin). Soups are great favorites, especially in cool weather, and many types are made. Examples include: Kori-kuk, oxtail soup; Aitang-kuk, a spring soup prepared after a family outing to collect the first greens, usually mugwort; Yukkai Jang-Kuk a rich beef broth garnished with green onions eaten especially in the hottest summer weather in order to maintain strength and give heat relief; Muik-Kuk, a broth made from seaweed. The latter is believed to have many healthful properties. It is given to mothers four or five times a day after childbirth. It is also the soup served on birthdays, perhaps to remind one of his or her birth. It is as common a birthday dish as cake is in the western world. Note: An important ingredient in many soups, used to add flavor, is Joki, a white-meat fish that is purchased brine-pickled, dried, or salted. When not available, salt cod can be used.

Kyung-Dan: “sweet dumplings” made from glutinous rice powder dough with chestnut paste or red bean paste placed in the center. Tiny balls are then rolled in yellow-bean powder and, finally, chopped dates or nuts.

Myun: noodles. The Korean favorite is noodles made from buckwheat flour.

Naing-Myun: a dish of cooked cold buckwheat noodles swirled on a plate and topped with attractively arranged chopped Kimchi, stripped beef, chicken, sliced pear, and hard egg. To serve, a chilled broth is poured over. Side condiments include mustard, red pepper, or vinegar.

Na-Nul-Jan-A-Chi: whole heads of fresh garlic pickled in vinegar, soy, and sugar. Served sliced very thinly crosswise and with wine and rice.

Sang-Chi-Sam: the “lettuce lunch” which is considered a meal, and usually served with soup. Fresh lettuce leaves are well washed. The addition of a few drops of sesame seed oil in the last rinse assures shiny leaves. The leaves are arranged on a platter with a second platter of variously prepared tidbits of fish, seafood, meats, vegetables, condiments, bean paste. Morsels are chosen as desired, placed in a lettuce leaf, then rolled up and eaten.

Sinsun-Lo: the “hot pot” of Korea. Traditionally made up of nineteen different ingredients, today much simplified but still popular. Consists of several meats and fish slivered, dipped, and fried in sesame oil. It also contains tiny meat omelets arranged in sliced rolls, sliced onions and watercress, and flour and egg dipped then fried. All of these prepared foods are artfully arranged in a special utensil called Sin-Sul-Lo (like a Mongolian hot pot). Red charcoal is placed in the center chimney and as soon as the meats sizzle, hot broth is poured over and eaten by all.

Tahk-Kui: chicken, marinated then barbecued. See Kalbi-Kui.

Tongtak Juk: roasted chicken. A special occasion dish flavored with garlic, ginger, and sesame seed oil.

Tu Bu: soybean curd.

Tuk: rice cakes.

Tuk-Kuk: New Year’s rice cake soup. One of the important festive dishes traditional for New Year’s, it is prepared by steaming then kneading regular rice flour. The soup is garnished with crushed dried kim (seaweed) and black pepper. A popular festive soup garnish is shredded egg pancakes.

Yot: a thick, sweet syrup boiled from barley and rice then dipped into with rice cakes. A great treat, especially for children, who regard it as a candy.

Yuk-Po: dried beef

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