Kimchi: a side dish made from cabbages, daikon, and a number of spices
Photo by: Angie Chang, Creative Commons
Korea is a country known for its rich cultural and historical heritage. Rarely does one hear of a country that has managed to preserve its root traditions and has successfully passed them down from generation to generation. Though beset with internal conflict, Korea has still managed to retain its long standing culinary traditions with few influences from other countries. In fact, Koreans can proudly say that their cuisine is distinctly their own and even include it as part of their national identity.
With very little outside influence, Korean cuisine has evolved from the dishes and techniques of the common populace as well as from that of the royal palace. This can be seen in the choice of ingredients, the method of preparation, and on how the dishes are served. Royal palace foods are known to be very elaborate and carefully prepared by women who are trained specifically for the task. There are different palace positions solely reserved for overseeing the different aspects of food procurement and preparation. The cuisines are varied and do not reflect seasonal changes, unlike those eaten by the peasants. Each of the cuisines of the eight provinces is represented in the meal, making for a huge feast. This grandiosity contrasts with the common man’s food, typically consisting of steamed rice, kimchi, and fish.
But whatever the differences are in royal and common food they share the basic characteristics of the abundant use of spices, the application of the process of fermentation, and the inclusion of a wide variety of side dishes. Spices are in the form of red peppers, garlic, onion, and a number of spice pastes that Koreans prepare themselves. Fermentation is a common process involved in food preparation especially in Korea’s popular side dish, kimchi, which is a common side dish made from cabbages, daikon, and a number of spices. The process of fermentation gives food a distinct taste and packs in nutrients that would otherwise be absent. This interplay of taste and nutrition can be best seen in the kimchi. Kimchi is a national dish and has also grown popular outside the country.