Korean Food Story
- Shabnam(이슬) / 2014.12.05
Samgyetang is a hot chicken soup to boost your energy in the hot summer season. It is made with a young whole chicken stuffed with ginseng, garlic and sweet rice. Samgyetang is a Koreans' favorite energizing food and it is common to have it on sambok (삼복) days — Chobok (초복), Jungbok (중복) and Malbok (말복) — which are believed to be the hottest days in Korea.
According to the survey conducted by chosun.com, foreigners considered samgyetang as one of the best health foods for summer because of the good taste and nutrition
Koreans enjoying grilled meat and alcohol in the 18th century
See also: List of Korean dishes § Meat-based dishes
In antiquity, most meat in Korea was likely obtained through hunting and fishing. Ancient records indicate rearing of livestock began on a small scale during the Three Kingdoms period. Meat was consumed roasted or in soups or stews during this period. Those who lived closer to the oceans were able to complement their diet with more fish, while those who lived in the interior had a diet containing more meat.
'Marinated galbi before grilling
Beef is the most prized of all, with the cattle holding an important cultural role in the Korean home. Beef is prepared in numerous ways today, including roasting, grilling (gui) or boiling in soups. Beef can also be dried into jerky, as with seafood, called respectively yukpo and eopo.
The cattle were valuable draught animals, often seen as equal to human servants, or in some cases, members of the family. Cattle were also given their own holiday during the first 'cow' day of the lunar New Year. The importance of cattle does not suggest Koreans ate an abundance of beef, however, as the cattle were valued as beasts of burden and slaughtering one would create dire issues in farming the land. Pork and seafood were consumed more regularly for this reason. The Buddhist ruling class of the Goryeo period forbade the consumption of beef. The Mongols dispensed with the ban of beef during the 13th century, and they promoted the production of beef cattle. This increased production continued into the Joseon period, when the government encouraged both increased quantities and quality of beef.Only in the latter part of the 20th century has beef become regular table fare.
Chicken has played an important role as a protein in Korean history, evidenced by a number of myths. One myth tells of the birth of Kim Alji, founder of the Kim family of Gyeongju being announced by the cry of a white chicken. As the birth of a clan's founder is always announced by an animal with preternatural qualities, this myth speaks to the importance of chicken in Korean culture. Chicken is often served roasted or braised with vegetables or in soups. All parts of the chicken are used in Korean cuisine, including the gizzard, liver, and feet. Young chickens are braised with ginseng and other ingredients in medicinal soups eaten during the summer months to combat heat called samgyetang. The feet of the chicken, called dakbal (닭발), are often roasted and covered with hot and spicy gochujang-based sauce and served as an anju, or side dish, to accompany alcoholic beverages, especially soju.
Pork has also been another important land-based protein for Korea. Records indicate pork has been a part of the Korean diet back to antiquity, similar to beef.
A number of foods have been avoided while eating pork, including Chinese bellflower (doraji, 도라지) and lotus root (yeonn ppuri, 연뿌리), as the combinations have been thought to cause diarrhea. All parts of the pig are used in Korean cuisine, including the head, intestines, liver, kidney and other internal organs. Koreans utilize these parts in a variety of cooking methods including steaming, stewing, boiling and smoking. Koreans especially like to eat grilled pork belly, which is called samgyeopsal (삼겹살)
Korean fried chicken
Nutritious and delicious: Korean fried chicken. Image by Phillip Tang / Lonely Planet
Yes, Korean-style fried chicken (yangnyeom tongdak) is a fusion food, the origins of which go back to when American soldiers met Korean tastes during the Korean War. But what a fusion, with tender, smaller chicken pieces drizzled with finger-licking spices. Or chicken that can go to town in spicy honey sauces, sesame seeds, garlic, peanuts and chilli flakes. The chilli-shy can try it with a straight up crunchy coating under a nest of grease-cutting spring onion threads. Something about combining Korean chicken with beer (mekju) is so right, with the beer and a side of pickles cleaning the palate for more. No wonder this combo, known as chimek (chicken + mekju), is popular in bars and casual chimek diners, but you’ll also find Korean chicken at street stalls. The small boneless bite-sized pieces are still double fried, Korean style, giving them that distinctive crackle. A small box is a great way to satisfy a craving or try parmesan flavour for maximum fusion.
Chicken Feet – Dalkbal (닭발)
Korea does chicken really well, but this chicken dish probably won’t be seen on the cooking network in the near future. Why is dalkbal a Korean food for the brave? Well, dalkbal is a whole chicken foot, bones and all. Once it’s in your mouth, scrape off the little bit of meat that is on the bone with your teeth. If the talon scraping doesn’t scare you, there’s another reason you should be afraid. Dalkbal is known to be one of the spiciest dishes in Korea. The combination of a chicken foot in your mouth and mind numbing spiciness requires a certain level of bravery for even the most experienced Korean food connoisseurs.
Live Octopus – Sannakji (산낙지)
Raw octopus is a Korean delicacy that doesn’t seem too scary. It’s kind of like sushi, right? How about if it’s still alive? One variation of sannakji is to take a live octopus or squid and slice it up. Although it’s technically dead, the tentacles are still squirming, making it appear to be alive. Once you put it in your mouth, you can feel the suction cups grasping onto your teeth and tongue. The other variation of this dish is to take a baby octopus whole, no slicing and killing, and put straight into your mouth. Nothing else. It’s that simple. Eating a live octopus in Korea is probably the pinnacle of Korean food for the brave.
Fermented Skate – Hongeo (홍어)
This is another seafood that will challenge even the most extreme of eaters. If you ever come across Hongeo, you will know instantly. The extremely pungent odor, which many liken to the stink of ammonia, makes this one of Korea’s true delicacies. The smell is so strong and off putting that you will have a hard time even finding a restaurant that serves this dish. Many Koreans that have had the courage to tryHongeo vow never to eat it again, the smell is that strong. Hold your nose, shove it in mouth, and pray that you don’t have a gag reflex…. if you’re brave enough to try this Korean delicacy that is!
Do you know any other Korean foods that require a bit of courage? Share with us in the comment section.