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Words Describing Traditional Korean Cuisine

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Traditional Korean cuisine, known as hansik, is a vital part of Korea’s rich cultural heritage and offers a wide array of flavors and dishes unique to the region. Here’s a guide to some key words to know to deepen your understanding and appreciation of Korean food.

Kimchi (김치)
Kimchi is a staple in Korean cuisine, typically made from fermented vegetables, most frequently napa cabbage or radishes, seasoned with chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and jeotgal (fermented seafood). It is known for its distinctive spicy and tangy flavor and is packed with beneficial probiotics.
I love the combination of flavors in kimchi, especially when it’s served with steamed rice.

Bulgogi (불고기)
Bulgogi, which literally means “fire meat,” is thinly sliced beef that is marinated in a mix of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and other ingredients before being grilled or pan-fried. This dish is often served with a side of lettuce or other greens, which are used to wrap a slice of the cooked beef.
My mother makes bulgogi on special occasions, and its sweet and savory aroma is irresistible.

Bibimbap (비빔밥)
Bibimbap is a popular Korean dish that translates to “mixed rice.” It consists of a bed of rice topped with a variety of seasoned vegetables, a gochujang (chili paste) sauce, a fried or raw egg, and sometimes sliced meat. The ingredients are all mixed together before eating.
Whenever I can’t decide what to eat, I go for bibimbap because it’s both delicious and nutritious.

Samgyeopsal (삼겹살)
Samgyeopsal refers to grilled pork belly, which is a favorite Korean barbecue dish. It literally means “three-layer flesh,” referring to the alternating layers of meat and fat in the pork belly. Diners typically cook the meat themselves at the table and dip it in a sauce before eating.
Eating samgyeopsal with friends is always a fun experience, especially with a dab of ssamjang on top.

Japchae (잡채)
Japchae is a festive dish commonly served at parties and celebrations. It consists of sweet potato starch noodles stir-fried with vegetables and sometimes meat in sesame oil. It is seasoned with soy sauce and a bit of sugar, then sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Japchae is my favorite Korean dish because of its pleasing texture and the perfect blend of vegetables and noodles.

Doenjang-jjigae (된장찌개)
Doenjang-jjigae is a nourishing Korean stew made primarily from doenjang (fermented soybean paste), vegetables, tofu, and sometimes seafood or meat. It’s known for its rich, deep flavor and is a common home-cooked meal.
On chilly nights, there’s nothing like a hot bowl of doenjang-jjigae to warm you up.

Tteokbokki (떡볶이)
Tteokbokki is a popular Korean street food snack comprising of cylindrical rice cakes that are stir-fried in a spicy, sweet gochujang-based sauce along with fish cakes and often a sprinkle of sesame seeds and sliced green onions.
I enjoy the spicy kick of tteokbokki when I’m out with friends, looking for a quick and tasty treat.

These are just a few words that describe traditional Korean cuisine. With each dish, there is a complex blend of flavors and textures that showcase the country’s culinary diversity. Not only are these meals a delight to the senses, but they also offer an insight into Korea’s history, traditions, and cultural practices.

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