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)