Korean cuisine

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Typical Korean meal with bibimbap
Typical Korean food

The Korean cuisine is different Asian cuisines similar in many ways, but has some distinct unique selling points. As with Chinese , Vietnamese, and Japanese cuisines , rice is one of the most important ingredients in Korean cuisine. However, soups play a much larger role in Korean cuisine than in other Asian cuisines. A specialty of Korean cuisine is kimchi , which is only available in this form in Korea and should not be missing from any meal.


The staple food in Korea is rice, barley and millet are also important sources of carbohydrates. Noodles are also made from sweet potatoes . Almost no meal can do without kimchi , for the preparation of which vegetables such as Chinese cabbage or radish are pickled with salt, chilli , garlic and fish sauce . In winter, this fermented vegetable serves as a source of vitamins. A soup is served in almost every everyday Korean meal, as soup served as an alternative to water in Korea in earlier times. A variety of vegetables are also prepared. Two indispensable foods are produced from soybeans : tofu ("dubu") and soy sauce ("ganjang").

Fish, squid and seafood of all kinds, as well as seaweed, are almost always on the table. Nowadays a lot of meat is eaten, especially beef and pork, always cut into small pieces, either grilled or briefly fried. Korea also produces a variety of tasty fruits.


There are a number of special dishes in Korea that can be divided into ceremonial dishes and ritual dishes. Ceremonial dishes are served when a child turns 100 days, for their first birthday, wedding and 60th birthday (Hwangap). Ritual dishes are served at funerals, ancestral rites, shamanic rites and in temples. The dishes in temples are characterized by the fact that they do not contain any garlic, ginger , spring onions (typical aromatic carriers of Korean cuisine) and no meat.

Rice cakes are an indispensable part of the ceremonial dishes. Their color and exact composition are matched to the Yin and Yang in order to achieve a balance. The composition also depends on the region and the festival.

The court kitchen was characterized by particularly elaborate menus that included numerous courses and for which a certain sequence of dishes and selected ingredients were prescribed.

While the food used to be predominantly vegetarian, with numerous vegetable preparations, tofu, eggs, and often also fish and seaweed , the consumption of meat, white flour products and especially sugar rose sharply with growing prosperity .


Korean cuisine developed between the 7th and 13th centuries of our era, but the cuisine we know today was not created until the 18th and 19th centuries. She was heavily influenced by Chinese cuisine . This can be seen from the typical ingredients of meals , namely rice, soup and side dishes, as well as the use of chopsticks . China also took over the consideration of the five elements in Korean cuisine, which also correspond to five flavors (salty, sweet, sour, hot and bitter) as well as the classification of food into five qualities. However, the differences between the two kitchens are greater than what they have in common, as they developed completely independently of each other.

Rice cultivation has been known in North Korea for about 4000 years, but it has only really been significant since the Silla period (668–935 BC) and it has only been a general staple food for the entire population since the 20th century; previously rice was reserved for the upper classes. "White rice with meat soup" was a well-known expression for luxury and good life. Millet , oats and buckwheat as well as kimchi and vegetable soup formed the basis of nutrition for a long time .

The Buddhism has not significantly affected the diet in Korea outside the monasteries. The Korean upper classes traditionally ate meat, including beef and pork, as well as lamb and chicken, and game . For the general population, however, meat was a festival dish until the 1970s.

At the end of the 16th century, chili was introduced to Korea as a spice, which is now considered typical of the kitchen, which prefers sharpness. It is used for making kimchi, but also for many dishes. Originally, however, the pungent taste was only a characteristic of the regional cuisine of Gyeongsang-do Province , while the spices in the north and south-west of the country were much less spicy. In the 20th century, the differences between regional cuisines largely disappeared, also due to the influence of Japanese cuisine .

Celebratory meals

Since the 15th century CE, Confucianism has increasingly influenced Korean culture. Most Korean festivals have a religious background. Each festival includes certain traditional foods with symbolic meaning, especially pasta , red beans and rice cakes . Sweet desserts are almost exclusively eaten on holidays. Noodles are a typical birthday dish because they are a symbol of longevity. At the winter solstice, a red bean porridge ( Korean 장영실 : 팥죽 , patjuk ) is served with sweet rice balls ( 경단 , gyeongdan ) to drive away the ghosts. For a child's first birthday there are colored rice cakes ( 무지개 떡 , mujigae tteok ). The New Year is celebrated with rice cake soup ( 떡국 , tteokguk ), the harvest festival Chuseok ( 추석 ) with songpyeon ( 송편 ), a filled rice cake. The design of the dishes plays an important role in traditional Korean cuisine and especially on festive days. Egg yolks, egg whites, watercress , chilli and black mushrooms are usually used for coloring .

Table label


In Korea there is a precise table etiquette that is expected to be observed by others in the presence of others. It also plays an important role because several people often use common bowls. Younger people should give way to older ones. The table manners may be ignored by the elderly, but never by the younger ones, as observing them is a sign of respect.

Important rules of table etiquette:

  • In contrast to China, soup and rice bowls are not raised with the hands and brought to the mouth to make eating easier. This has to do with the fact that in the past only the nobility ate at tables while the peasants held their bowls to eat. This way of eating is therefore considered "vulgar".
  • It is inappropriate to blow your nose, cough or sneeze at the table.
  • The oldest person starts the meal.
  • No food is removed from the plate by hand.
  • Spoons and chopsticks are never used at the same time.
  • Eating with the left hand is considered gross.
  • Smacking while eating is frowned upon (at least among people of higher rank), as is loud noises from spoons or chopsticks in the bowls. Sipping the soup, on the other hand, is common as it is usually served very hot.
  • Rice or soup are not stirred.
  • It is considered improper to look for the best pieces in the common bowls and stir.
  • The eating pace should always be adapted to that of the others so that they do not feel compelled to eat faster or slower.
  • Etiquette prohibits looking directly at an elderly person while drinking. When drinking alcohol, turn away from the other person (if he is a person of respect), support the glass on the floor with the flat right hand and shield the glass with the left.
  • It is expected that your own serving of rice will be completely eaten. This has to do with the fact that rice used to be reserved for the rich and was considered precious.
  • In very traditional families, people do not speak at the dining table as long as the eldest or highest ranking person does not speak at the table.

Traditional dishes

Mul naengmyeon

Meat dishes

  • Bulgogi ” ( 불고기 ) - marinated beef strips cooked in a special pan
  • Galbi ” ( 갈비 ) - marinated and grilled thick rib of beef
  • “Roseugui” ( 로스구이 ) - thin slices of beef fillet grilled in a pan
  • Samgyeopsal ” ( 삼겹살 ) - pork belly grilled in a pan, wrapped in a salad
  • "Samgyetang" ( 삼계탕 ) - chicken with ginseng root and Daechu cooked
  • "Bosintang" ( 보신탕 ) - Korean dog meat soup .
  • "Dak Galbi" (닭 갈비) - spicy, fried chicken with a sauce made from sweet potatoes, cabbage, perilla leaves, spring onions and tteok (rice cake)

Fish dishes

  • Haemultang ” ( 해물탕 ) - fish, seafood and vegetables cooked in a pot.
  • "Hoe" ( ) - raw fish

Rice and cereal dishes

  • Bibimbap ” ( 비빔밥 ) - rice with vegetables and egg
  • "Bokkeumbap" ( 볶음밥 ) - fried rice with vegetables
  • " Tteokbokki " ( 떡볶이 ) - fried rice cake

Pasta dishes

  • Japchae ” ( 잡채 ) - Korean sweet potato glass noodles , usually with beef, carrots and cucumber
  • Jjajangmyeon ” ( 짜장면 ) - thick wheat noodles with black bean sauce
  • Mulnaengmyeon ” ( 물 냉면 ) - cold noodle dish, typical summer meal
  • Dakkalguksu ” ( 닭 칼국수 ) - handmade wheat noodles in chicken soup, with chicken, zucchini and chili

Soups and stews

  • Budaejjigae ” - stew with gochujang, ham, sausages, meat, beans, ramyeon, cheese, onions, kimchi, tofu, tteok, etc. a.
  • “Cheonggukjang” ( 청국장 ) - thick soybean paste soup
  • “Daktoritang” ( 닭 도리탕 ) - spicy chicken stew with potatoes and noodles
  • “Galbijjim” ( 갈비찜 ) - stew with thick ribs, chestnuts, carrots, radish
  • “Maeuntang” ( 매운탕 ) - spicy fish soup with vegetables
  • "Manduguk" ( 만두국 ) - Maultasche Soup
  • “Sundubujjigae” ( 순두부 찌개 ) - spicy soup made from soft tofu, often with seafood and gimchi


  • " Gimbap " ( 김밥 ) - rice with vegetables and strips of omelette rolled in seaweed, typical snack


  • “Goguma Mattang” ( 고구마 맛탕 ) - candied sweet potato
  • Mandu ” ( 만두 ) - dumplings with meat filling
  • Jeon ” ( ) - pancakes
    • “Pajeon” ( 파전 ) - pancakes with seafood and leek
    • "Kimchijeon" ( 김치전 ) - pancakes with "Kimchi"
    • “Bindaetteok” ( 빈대떡 ) - pancakes made from ground mung beans
  • " Patjuk " ( 팥죽 ) - adzuki bean soup
  • "Shinseollo" ( 신선로 ) - meat and vegetables cooked in a soup in a gugelhupf-like pot
  • “Ssam” ( ) - ( English: wrapped, wrapped up ) Describes various leafy vegetables and other foods that are used to wrap meat, for example
    • Gim ssam ( 김쌈 ), wrapped in gim, a type of algae
    • Sangchu ssam ( 상추쌈 ), wrapped in lettuce leaves
    • Baechu ssam ( 배추 쌈 ), wrapped in Chinese cabbage
    • Kkaenip ssam ( 깻잎 쌈 ), wrapped in perilla leaves
    • Chwi ssam ( 취쌈 ), wrapped in Chwinamul , a Korean leafy vegetable
    • Hobakip ssam ( 호박잎 쌈 ), wrapped in pumpkin leaves
    • Kimchi ssam ( 김치 쌈 ), wrapped in kimchi
    • Jeonbok ssam ( 전복 쌈 ), with dried abalone in soaked slices
    • Muneo ssam ( 문어 쌈 ), with squid slices
    • Possam ( 포쌈 ), with seasoned, raw beef
    • Gotgam ssam ( 곶감쌈 ), with dried persimmons
    • Milssam ( 밀쌈 ) wrapped in a thin pancake made from wheat flour
    • Eossam ( 어쌈 ) wrapped in a thin fish fillet
  • “Yukhae” ( 육회 ) - Korean tartar

Typical ingredients


Makgeolli - rice wine

The everyday drink of the Koreans besides water is tea ( , cha ), which is brewed from roasted barley ( 보리차 , boricha ). But tea-like drinks are also made from rice, such as sikhye . Either soju (brandy) or maekju ( beer ) is drunk at festivals . Beer was introduced by the Japanese in the late 19th century and has been popular since the 1930s. Special fermented wines made from rice, which actually correspond to ale , were once made at home by many families. During the time when Korea was a colony of Japan (1910-1945), this private winemaking was banned and, due to the shortage of rice, this ban lasted until 1971. Today nongju (= makgeolli ), a milky rice wine, is very popular, other rice wines are cheongju , dongdongju and ihwaju . Basically, alcohol in Korea is only consumed with snacks ( anju ), not alone.

A typical Korean drink is yuja tea ( 유자차 , yuja chaphoto , also yujacha or yuja-cha ). The drink is prepared with hot water from a jam-like syrup made from honey, sugar and the cut rind of the yuja fruit ( Citrus x junos , Japanese yuzu ), a citrus fruit with a taste somewhere between grapefruit and mandarin. Yuja tea is said to provide relief from colds. Omijacha ( 오미자차 ) is a drink made from the dried fruits of the Chinese split basket ( 오미자 , Schisandra chinensis ) soaked in cold water . Sujeonggwa ( 수정 과 ) is a tea made from cinnamon and dried persimmons, which is usually served cold as a dessert.


  • Sunkyoung Jung, Yun-Ah Kim, Minbok Kou: The Korea Cookbook . Jacoby & Stuart, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-941787-43-8
  • Ham, Kiyung / Institute of Traditional Korean Food (Ed.): The beauty of Korean food. Research and Development Project for Standardization of Korean Cuisine. Hollym, Elizabeth (New Jersey) et al. a. 2009, ISBN 978-1-56591-253-3

Web links

Commons : Korean Cuisine  - Album with Pictures, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Article Korea in the Encyclopedia of Food and Culture