Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Traditional Korean Cuisine

Han Style - Chapter on Hansik

In Korea, traditional Korean food is referred to as '한식' or hansik (pronounced 'hahn-shik'). According to Jang Eun-ju, a cuisine researcher at Han Style, "Hansik has developed in parallel with the changes of the Korean history and culture. Hansik is not only nutritious but also provides the joy of eating. And so, it is said that hansik is food that satisfies not only the mouth but the five senses, i.e. the senses of touch, sight, smell, taste and sound. The different color ingredients used to cook Korean foods satisfy the eyes. Korean foods taste delicious and smell good. Foods cooked using many different ingredients make interesting sounds when eating. The spoon and chopsticks allow for a delicate sense of touch. In other words, one can enjoy the beautiful colors and shapes of the dishes with their eyes and various tastes with their nose and mouth. Hansik allows diners to enjoy the pleasant sizzling sound when cooking bulgogi. It also provides diners with pleasant experiences that satisfy their sense of touch with lettuce wrapped rice."

an introduction to traditional Korean dishes, including royal court cuisine

Han Style - Cover

The Essence of Han Style

Cathlyn's Korean Food Challenge
Episode 7: Hansik Stories (Part 1)
An introduction to the heart of Korean cuisine

According to Han Style, the key principles of Korean cooking are/were*:

1. Main and side dishes were developed separately.

2. Spices and seasonings are used with fine detail, but in most cases, used similarly for each dish. (ie. There is a consistency to the way each dish is seasoned. - Tasting Korea)

3. Cut almost all ingredients beforehand as the cooking techniques are complicated.

4. The types of food are developed in a diverse manner according to their table setting.

5. There should be greater emphasis on the taste rather than the form of a dish.

* Translation of principles provided by Tasting Korea

Korean food can be divided into five categories (Han Style):

1. Royal Court Cuisine (궁중 음식)
2. Regional Foods (향토 음식)
3. Seasonal Foods (시절 음식)
4. Food for Special Occasions (의례 음식)
5. Buddhist Temple Cuisine (사찰 음식)

For a greater overview of traditional Korean cuisine, read "About Hansik" at Han Style and the Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine's articles on the "Overview of Korean Food" and "Seasonings and Style of Korean Food" as well as "Special Food for Special Occasions" and other articles in its series on "Traditional Korean Food Culture". A more extensive exploration of the history and culture of Korean traditional cuisine can be found in the "Food Culture" section of the Jeonbuk Food Culture Plaza site.

Seasonings Used in Korean Food

Chef Youngsun Lee explains the seasonal approach in cooking Korean food (Zen Kimchi):

"We are very seasonal. We have four seasons in Korea. So we do follow seasonal food, like, religiously. There are unwritten rules we have to follow as a Korean chefs:
  • Spring — bitter (new sprouts, etc): This will bring our appetites back from the long winter. Also eating new sprouts means getting nature’s force — life, new life in spring — from the new life into our body.
  • Summer — sour (vinegar base, citrus, etc): As the weather gets hot, we loose our [sense of] taste. So by having sour food, it brings our appetites [back] and also keeps our bod[ies] cool and moist.
  • Fall — spicy (hot pepper, etc): Prepare for a long, cold winter. Pepper was introduced to Korea about 300 years ago. Before that, there was not much spicy food. All of our kimchi used be white. [배김치 (bae kimchi) is pickled but not spicy.]
  • Winter — salty (kimchi, pickle, etc): Long-lasting food, such as fermented dishes are served to help in surviving winter. And we use “sweet” to balance all these flavors. But, again, sugar was introduced to Korea about 300 years ago, so before that we used to use honey or fruits for sweetener. Still till these days, we like to use honey or fruits for our sweetener instead of sugar."

(Han Style)

This video focuses on Korean food and its spread to other countries like France, Japan, and the United States as well as the health benefits of Korean cuisine with a focus on the art of making kimchi, fermented bean paste, and soft tofu as well as soft tofu stew. Buddhist temple cuisine and its purpose as well as Korean cuisine's spread to New York in restaurants like Bann are also featured.

("Tourism" section of

A quick and vibrant introduction to Korean cuisine. Introduces the core influences on Korean cuisine and the main types of dishes as well as more extensive coverage of the science and tradition of kimchi and jang (장, a term that refers to a group of sauces comprised of red pepper and soybean paste as well as soy sauce). Korean table settings, food for special occasions/different seasons, and the value of using one's hands in Korean cooking are also featured. A crash introduction to Korean food.

In the following video, watch how ancient Korean cuisine has influenced and shaped the Korean food we know today.

Posted by tastingkorea

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