Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Origin of Red Chili Pepper in Korea

It is commonly believed that the red chili pepper came to Korea from Portugal by way of Japanese traders, but in 2009, Korean researchers found that this was not the case. According to Dr. Dae-Young Kwon of the Korea Food Research Institute, he and his team along with another team from the Academy of Korean Studies uncovered that the aji pepper discovered by Columbus in Central America and spread by Portuguese traders could not be the original pepper grown in Korea biologically or through cultivation (Joong-Ang Daily). There are references to the use of red pepper paste in Korean cuisine that go back as early as 1433, the 15th year of King Sejong's reign, in the 향약집성방(鄕藥集成方)*, a Korean medicine reference, demonstrating its introduction to Korean cuisine well before the Imjin War (1592-1598), the period mistakenly believed to be when the fruit was introduced to Korea (Joong-Ang Daily), and certainly before "when the Japanese occupied Korea". In the 향약집성방 and previously, red pepper paste (고추장) was referred to as '초장(椒醬)' ('cho-jahng'). Pepper existed in China by 850 at the latest according to a reference to red pepper paste in the 食醫心鑑 (식의심감 in Korean), a Chinese text on food therapy, and it is thought as a possible source for the original Korean red pepper (Joong-Ang Daily), but further research needs to be done to confirm this link.  

*Hanja (Sino-Korean characters) were used to represent the Korean language in written form before the Korean alphabet was invented. The individual characters are Chinese, but the combinations and the meaning of those combinations may differ from the Chinese language along with the pronunciation of the individual characters, which is very different.

Additional references:

"김치의 필요한 고추, 한국 고추의 전래 역사 바로알기^^" - 천년의 김치맛! 이야기 
"An Essential Ingredient of Kimchi, Pepper, and the Proper Understanding of the Origin of Korean Pepper" - The Taste of Thousand Year Old Kimchi! The Story blog)

Posted by tastingkorea
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