International Dining Followup – Korean Cuisine

If you missed the Korean dinner in May but are curious about Korean cuisine, look no further than this very informative handout created by member Dorothee Klein for the guests at the dinner:

Caught between Japan and China, Korean food is a wonderful combination of the two, mixed with its own distinctive elements.

Korean cuisine originated from prehistoric traditions in the Korean peninsula evolving through a complex interaction of environmental, political, and cultural trends.

The food has a warming robustness that defies the winter ice and snow, most notably in its national dish: kim chi, a spicy pickle served at every meal.

Korean cuisine is largely based upon rice, vegetables, and meats. Traditional Korean meals are noted for the number of side dishes (banchan) that accompany steam-cooked short-grain rice. The dishes are flavoured with soy sauce, ginger, bean paste and toasted sesame seeds, while the centre piece may be a steaming hotpot or thinly sliced meat, grilled at the table.

Meals are regulated by Korean cultural etiquette. Dining etiquette in Korea can be traced back to the Confucian philosophies of the Joseon period. The eldest male at the table was always served first, commonly served to them in the men’s quarters by the women of the house. Women usually dined in a separate portion of the house after the men were served. The eldest men or women always ate before the younger family members. The meal was usually quiet, as conversation was discouraged during meals. In modern times, these rules have become lax, as families usually dine together now and use the time to converse. Of the remaining elements of this decorum, one is that the younger members of the table should not pick up their chopsticks or start eating before the elders of the table or guests and should not finish eating before the elders or guests finish eating. Also, in Korea, unlike in China and Japan, the rice or soup bowl is not lifted from the table when eating from it.

This is due to the fact that each diner is given a metal spoon along with the chopsticks known collectively as sujeo. The use of the spoon for eating rice and soups is expected. There are rules which reflect the decorum of sharing communal side dishes; rules include not picking through the dishes for certain items while leaving others, and the spoon used should be clean, because usually diners put their spoons in the same serving bowl on the table. Diners should also cover their mouths when using a toothpick after the meal.

The table setup is important as well, and individual place settings, moving from the diner’s left should be as follows: rice bowl, spoon, then chopsticks. Hot foods are set to the right side of the table, with the cold foods to the left. Soup must remain on the right side of the diner along with stews. Vegetables remain on the left along with the rice, and kimchi is set to the back while sauces remain in the front

The manner of drinking alcoholic drinks at dining is significant in Korean dining etiquette. Each diner is expected to face away from the eldest male and cover his mouth when drinking alcohol. It is impolite for a king and his vassal, a father and his son, or a teacher and his student to drink face to face. Also, a guest should not refuse the first drink offered by host, and in the most formal situations, the diner should politely refuse twice a drink offered by the eldest male or a host. When the host offers for the third time, then finally the guest can receive it. If the guest refuses three times, drink is not to be offered any more.

Spicy fermented cabbage and spicy fermented radish / 김치, 깍두기

Kimchi is a staple of Korean life and many people include it in their meals three times a day. You can eat it by itself, or use it in so many different Korean recipes. When Koreans make kimchi, they make an effort to make the best kimchi possible and include many different kinds of ingredients depending on the region where they live.

Of course there are loads of differing recipes, this one is from allrecipes.com:

Ingredients:

2 heads Napa cabbage1 1/4 cups sea salt

1 tablespoon fish sauce

5 green onions, chopped

1/2 small white onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, pressed2 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

5 tablespoons Korean chile powder

Directions:

1. Cut the cabbages in half lengthwise and trim the ends. Rinse and cut into pieces about 2 inch square. Place the cabbage into large resealable bags and sprinkle salt on the leaves so they are evenly coated. Use your hands to rub the salt in to the leaves. Seal the bags and leave at room temperature for 6 hours.
2. Rinse the salt from the cabbage leaves and then drain and squeeze out any excess liquid. Place the cabbage in a large container with a tight fitting lid. Stir in the fish sauce, green onions, white onion, garlic, sugar and ginger. Sprinkle the Korean chile powder over the mixture. Wear plastic gloves to protect your hands and rub the chile powder into the cabbage leaves until evenly coated. Seal the container and set in a cool dry place. Leave undisturbed for 4 days. Refrigerate before serving, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month (if it lasts that long!).

Another can be found at http://www.treelight.com/health/nutrition/UltimateKimchi.html

Maangchi posted hers at http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/nappa-cabbage-kimchi and says:

I usually put all my kimchi in the fridge except for a little bit in a small container. I like fresh kimchi, so this way the kimchi in the fridge ferments slowly and stays fresh, while the smaller container ferments faster and gets sour. I use this sour kimchi for making things like kimchi chigae where sour kimchi is better. Then, when the small container is empty, I fill it up again with kimchi from the big container. It takes a little management, but experiment and you’ll get the hang of it!

How do you know it’s fermented or not?
One or 2 days after, open the lid of the Kimchi container. You may see some bubbles with lots of liquids, or maybe sour smells. That means it’s already being fermented.