“The biggest influence that eating so much Korean food growing up had on me was that I have no limit for spiciness. The hotter the better.” — Patrick Stump, American singer who grew up in a Korean-heavy suburb

Korean Cuisine

Authentic Korean Food

Korean cuisine is a world of intense theatrical operas. Diverse ingredients come together in a dish & sing notes of harmony. As you continue through the meal, Korean cuisine’s signature use of spice gradually matures into a climatic falsetto — keeping you engaged & wanting more — until it’s finally over. Known for it’s use of fresh herbs & spices, Korean cuisine is famous for it’s trove of fiery spicy dishes.

Korean cuisine is one that doesn’t shy away from it’s love of nose-clearing spiciness. Spice has become an essential flavor in so many Korean dishes and has heavily influenced modern-day Korean food & food culture.

Geographically, Korea sits on a bed of mountains & valleys. The rough terrain & infamous harsh winters makes it difficult to cultivate farmland for agriculture. This is the reason why traditional Korean cuisine leans heavily into cooking methods that preserve ingredients like stewing, pickling, & fermentation.

Among these techniques, fermentation plays the strongest role in creating bold & complex Korean flavors — most famously — in the Korean fermented cabbage dish: kimchi. Although fermentation is a popular cooking technique in many cultures, Korean cuisine is one of the few that relied on this method as a means of survival.

Today, fermented Korean dishes like kimchi, soybean paste, & pickled vegetables are served as side dishes in Korean restaurants all around the world.

“Fermented foods contain natural probiotics or healthy bacteria, that can take your health to the next level. Nearly every culture has a version of fermented food: yogurt, kefir, miso, kimchi.”Sara Gottfried M.D., Author & Writer

Top 20 Korean Dishes

  1. Bibimbap (Mixed Rice)
  2. Korean Fried Chicken
  3. Tteokbokki Rice Cakes
  4. Japchae (Korean Glass Noodles)
  5. Kimchi (Fermented Napa Cabbage)
  6. Silken Tofu Stew
  7. Soybean Paste Stew
  8. Korean Army Stew
  9. Gimbap (Seaweed Rice Rolls)
  10. Pajeon (Korean Pancakes)
  11. Hotteok (Korean Sweet Pancake)
  12. Bulgogi (Korean-Marinated Beef)
  13. Galbijjim (Korean Braised Short Rib)
  14. Samgyeopsal (Grilled Pork Belly)
  15. Bossam (Boiled Pork Belly)
  16. Ginseng Chicken Soup
  17. Cold Buckwheat Noodles
  18. Jajangmyeon Noodles
  19. Korean Knife-Cut Noodles
  20. Manduguk (Dumpling Soup)

The History of Korean Food

Korea is a peninsular region located on the coasts of Eastern Asia. Its unique climate bears a combination of harsh winters and warm summers. Historically known as “Koryo,” meaning the Land of High Mountains and Sparkling Streams — the terrain is largely mountainous with small valleys and coastal plains. The T’aebaek Mountains, Mount Sŏrak, and Jeju Island are just among a few of the mountain ranges & volcanic islands in Korea.

The rough geography and terrain make only a few portions of the land arable for agriculture. Most farmable lowlands are found in South Korea which has become an agricultural powerhouse for the rice harvest. The waters in the South are also abundant in seafood, which explains why seafood plays such a strong role in Korean food culture.

Geographically, Korea neighbors the nations of China & Japan. The proximity to these developed nation-states has also given rise to Korea’s recent economic & cultural development. One example is Korea’s written & spoken language. Chinese has played a strong role in imparting Chinese characters and pronunciation throughout the Korean language.

Today, Chinese characters in the Korean language, known as “Hanja” continues to be used in both the written & spoken word. Similarly, Japan’s influence on ingredients like the signature red pepper in Korean food comes from the 20th-century political engagement between Korean & Japanese soldiers.

The story of Korea is one of diversity, historical significance, and a blooming cultural powerhouse.

Korea’s Culture – Did You Know?

South Korea’s National Exam Day

South Korea’s College Scholastic Ability Test, known as “Suneung” is one of the most important events in a student’s life. This senior high-school exam is an 8-hour marathon of back-to-back subjects covering, math, English, social studies, & a foreign language. The exam results dictate whether a Korean student is accepted into a university, as well as employment opportunities in the future. Needless to say, education is important in Korea. Preparation for the Suneung can begin as early as kindergarten, with parents enrolling their children into “hagwons” or night school to review & prepare with private tutors. On the day of the Suneung exam, construction work stops, and planes are diverted to reduce noise during testing; subways, buses, & public transportation operate at higher frequencies to ensure students aren’t late for testing. Suneung plays an important role in Korean culture, ensuring that education is at the forefront of social priorities

Korean Metal Chopsticks

Korean chopsticks have a one-of-a-kind style & deeply rooted history. Known as “cheot-grak,” traditional Korean chopsticks are made completely of silver. The origins of this Korean utensil date back to 18 B.C – 660 A.D. when royal families in Korea believed that silver chopsticks could detect poison in cooked foods. The idea was that if a particular dish was poisoned, the silver would change color and alarm the royal family of a potential perpetrator.

Modern-day traditional chopsticks in Korea still retain the shiny silver appearance through polished aluminum or steel. Though the historical significance may have faded, many contemporary historians comment that Korean metal chopsticks are much cleaner than their wooden counterparts. As a result, many traditional Korean restaurants today continue to serve their guests with metal chopsticks for their meals.

South Koreans Are Older Than You

In Korean culture, a newborn child’s age is calculated using several methods. When a baby is born, he or she can be considered already 1 year old. Upon New Year’s Day or January 1st, sometimes another year is also added to the newborn’s age. Occasionally, this will result in a newborn baby being considered at 2 within a short period of time. This system stems from the belief that the baby’s nine months in the womb should be included as a year in a newborn baby’s age. In addition, holidays are often very significant in Korean culture & society. These age systems have been debated many times in Korean culture & politics. Most recently, the Korean president-elect’s transition committee, mentioned the incoming administration was looking to change the way age is counted to align South Korea with other global systems of age.

Find Local Korean Shefs & Meals

When searching for “korean cuisine near me”, you’ll find Shef delivers Korean food in the following locations:

Find your local home-cooked food today!