Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Korean Food is a Cultural Heritage

As delicious as Korean food can be, it is more than something tasty to eat. It is a cultural heritage of Korea, both North and South. And so it should be given the proper respect due to something of that importance. That means acknowledging that it is a cultural heritage and honoring that by presenting Korean food with the right spirit, recognizing and understanding the place it comes from and respecting that in how one presents the food and how one comes to understand it. There are far too many people, whether bloggers or culinary professionals, who speak far too casually and flippantly about Korean food. Many of them are not ill-willed and show a nice appreciation for Korean food otherwise, but their lack of critical discernment as well as their ignorance and disregard for the history and culture behind Korean cuisine does a great disservice to a true understanding of the food. One does not have to be a Korean food expert to write about it intelligently, but one does need to do due diligence in terms of research, making sure that there is a solid basis for one's statements. Of course, perfection cannot be expected 100% of the time, but one should do one's best to research claims before making them.  

Korean food has been around for quite a long time. Many dishes have been prepared and honed for generations. So I am highly skeptical when I find someone who claims to have improved upon a time-honored recipe like kimchi chigae for example. Now, everyone has their own individual taste. Some prefer kimchi chigae with pork, some with tuna, and some with beef, etc. One needs to understand the intent behind each flavor profile to truly know if one has improved upon the dish. Kimchi chigae is not meant to be a heavy stew, so adding something like miso would counteract that purpose, not to mention dull the refreshing sharpness of the kimchi that is meant to be the star of the dish, hence the name, kimchi chigae. If one finds the broth too diluted for one's taste, that means that one should add more of the broth base such as pork, tuna, etc. to bring out a fuller and heartier flavor or use a more sour kimchi. What tastes good is a matter of interpretation. It is not up to the individual to dictate how a culture's cuisine should taste.

Additional Resources:

Korean Food in K-town vs. Korea by Tasting Korea

Rant: Yelp reviews of Korean food from One Fork, One Spoon

Posted by tastingkorea


  1. Hi, thank you for your insight. I'm currently in France and I've realised how little people know about Korean food. I've been trying to introduce my French friends to the Korean taste by hosting dinner parties. For the next session, I made kimchi, but without chili powder. Do you think it's breaking the principle of Korean cuisine?

    I'm not sure if you've heard of Koreataste, but I'm blogging for the site and it seems a shame that a site like that with a lot of potential is going to waste. So I wondered if you'd be interested in contributing your articles to the site. You can just apply for a blogger on the site and post your articles there. I hope to see you there.

  2. White kimchi does not use chili powder, but red chili peppers. There are many kinds of kimchi.

    I am aware of that site, but right now, I will focus on this blog. Thanks for the suggestion :)


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