Korean Cuisine and Recipes
Korean Recipes and cooking
by Country - September 2005
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North and South Korea form a peninsula
which has a land border with China to the north and a total 4908km of
coastline on the Sea of Japan, Yellow Sea, Korean Bay and Korea
Straight. About two thirds of the country is made up of mountainous and
hilly terrain although there are wide coastal plains in the south and
west, large streams and rivers.
Between the mountains lie lowlands which
were formed by river valleys and sea terraces and as these only
constitute approximately 20 percent of the peninsula, most lowland areas
Due to its position, Korea
has many microclimates although in general it can be described as having
a temperate monsoonal climate ranging from hot and humid in the summer
to bitterly cold in the winter.
times, History and Influences on Korean Cooking
The first inhabitants migrated from North Asia
and are thought to have been nomadic Mongol tribes who had settled there during
the Neolithic Age.
Originally hunter gatherers they soon settled into small farming communities in
the few decent lowland areas where crop cultivation was possible. Evidence shows
that by 3500BC millet was being grown and shortly thereafter various types of
beans including soybeans were being cultivated.
The influence of neighbouring China is clearly shown by the introduction of rice
c2700BC which was particularly suitable for growing in the more southerly parts
of the country. The introduction of iron around 500BC was another important
factor in the development of Korean cuisine not only by way of cooking utensils;
in particular the wok, but also its use in farming equipment which enabled the
small communities to better cultivate their limited farmland. The Chinese also
introduced domesticated animals such as cattle, pigs and poultry, cabbage and of
course, the use of chopsticks.
Unlikely as it may seem, Europeans were also to have a huge, albeit indirect
influence on Korean cuisine. Without their conquests in the 1500s, it is quite
feasible that the Chilli which is native to the America’s, wouldn’t have been
assimilated so completely into Korean cooking. Since the 18th Century chillies
have played an intrinsic part of everyday Korean cuisine.
The other major influence on Korean cooking was the weather and terrain. As
mentioned above, the very cold winters and heavy labour required to cultivate
the land encouraged the eating of hearty meals. Even breakfasts were robust
affairs often consisting of a large bowl of soup with tripe of beef ribs – a
fine start to what was to be a labour intensive day.
With such a large coastline and many rivers and streams, it is not surprising
that fish and seafood (both fresh and dried) have always been staples in many
parts of the country. From the earliest times, the preserving of foods for
winter use, mainly by drying or salting, has played an important role in their
diets – a tradition which is still upheld today.
Day Korean Cuisine
Rice and noodles are still staples however Korean
cooking does differ enormously from neighbouring Chinese and Japanese cooking in
that it makes use of strong and sometimes very pungent flavourings. Having said
that, everyday food is not necessarily spicy hot as, in general, chillies are
often used by means of condiments which can be added by diners to suit their own
tastes. The rice generally eaten in Korea is a sticky rice which can be obtained
by soaking the uncooked rice for 30 minutes prior to cooking.
Traditional households still own large earthenware preserving pots filled with
pickled vegetables (kimchi – see speciality dish) or soybean and chilli pastes
and dried fish, in particular cuttlefish, are eaten by most of the populace.