07-22-2009 18:16
[KoreaToday] Uniqueness of Korean Foods

With the typical four seasons of a temperate zone, Korea produces a variety of seasonal food ingredients such as grains, beans, vegetables and seafood. By using them, main dishes and side dishes, as well as storable fermented foods such as sauces, kimchi and salt-pickled seafood, have been developed.

And, with the custom being to share these foods with neighbors, seasonal and festival foods have also thrived, and regional foods made with native products have been developed. As the topographical character, mountains and fields spread out over the country, and three sides of the land are surrounded by sea, Korea has an abundance of marine products, and agriculture techniques for rice cultivation among others were developed at an early age.

During the Joseon Dynasty, when Confucianism prevailed, based on the conception of devotion to parents, serving ancestors in the patriarchal system emerged as most important. This is what established the traditional Korean dietary lifestyle.

The culture of Korean foods, harmonized with nature, and social and cultural environments, has developed foods to promote seasonal features and regional characteristics, which are as follows:

1. Main dishes and side dishes have been developed independently. Main dishes including rice, porridge and other flour-made dishes are accompanied with a side dish to provide a balanced meal.

2. There are various types of dishes and recipes. Korean dishes have various cooking methods, including cooked rice, soup, steamed foods, grilled foods, salad, and fried and braised foods.

3. A varieties of tastes and appearances are on offer. During cooking, various seasoning is added to heighten traditional Korean tastes. And lots of different garnishes made of ingredients such as nuts, eggs and mushrooms decorate dishes to make them more visually appealing.

4. There are two notions about foods. Based on the doctrine of ``eumyangohaeng,'' or of the five natural elements of the positive and negative in Asian philosophy, five-colored ingredients or garnishes are employed in foods, and the concept of ``yaksikdongwon,'' which means ``food and medicine are of the same origin," can be found in the recipes.

5. All dishes are served at the same time. Prepared dishes are served on one table at the same time. There are three-, five-, seven-, nine- and 12-course table setting rules, but all of them are basically for one person.

6. Regional, seasonal and fermented foods have been developed. There are various special native products from every region of the country. Regional and seasonal foods made with native ingredients have been enjoyed, and several fermented foods made as a seasonal specialty such as soy sauce, soybean paste, salt-pickled seafood and kimchi have been developed.

7. Korean food is characterized by an intricate table setting and a rigid set of table manners. Under the influence of Confucianism, festival and ritual foods for various ceremonies for first birthdays, marriages, funerals and memorial services have been developed.