Koreans are proud of their diet, quite varied and full of nutrition. It is richly endowed with fermented foods, vegetables and grains, soups, teas, liquors, confectionery and soft drinks. Kimchi and doenjang paste made of soybeans are the best-known examples of Korean fermented foods, and these have recently become highly valued for their disease-prevention effects.
Korea also boasts hundreds of vegetable and wild green dishes. The Korean meal is almost always accompanied by a big bowl of hot soup or stew, and the classic meal contains a variety of vegetables. Korean foods are seldom deep-fried like Chinese food; they are usually boiled or blanched, broiled, stir-fried, steamed, or pan-fried with vegetable oil.
Traditional Korean dishes include the following:
Jeon - Pan-Fried Dishes
Mushrooms, zucchini, fish fillets, oysters, or green peppers with ground meat filling are thinly coated with flour, dipped in a beaten egg, and then pan-fried. There are also pancake-type jeon: mung bean powder, wheat flour or grated potato is used to make a batter, and green onion, kimchi, or chopped pork are stirred in, then pan-fried.
Jjim and Jorim – Simmered Meat or Fish
Jjim and jorim are similar. Meat or fish are simmered over low heat in soy sauce flavored with other seasonings until the ingredients become tender and tasty. Jjim also refers to a steamed dish.
Gui – Broiled or Barbecued Dishes
Bulgogi (thin-sliced marinated beef) and galbi (marinated beef ribs) are well-known examples of gui. Fish are often broiled, too.
Jjigae and Jeongol – Stew and Casseroles
Less watery and containing more substances to chew than soup, these dishes are one of the main parts of a meal. Soybean paste stew is a very popular jjigae. Jeongol is usually cooked in a casserole dish on a fire at the dining table. Noodles, pine mushrooms, octopus, tripe, and vegetables are favored ingredients for jeongol.
Hoe – Raw Fish
Sliced raw fish is becoming popular around the world. Tuna, croaker, flatfish, oysters, skate, sea cucumber, abalone, sea urchin, and squid are popular in Korea (some restaurants even serve raw beef). Sesame leaves or lettuces are common garnishes, and choices of thin-sliced ginger, mustard or red pepper paste sauce provide pungency. Hoe can also be pronounced as "hwey".
Namul – Vegetable or Wild Green Dishes
The Korean diet includes hundreds of vegetables and wild green dishes called namul, and a visit to a Korean marketplace shows a huge variety of unusual greens. Namul is usually parboiled or stir-fried and seasoned with combinations of salt, soy sauce, sesame seeds, sesame oil, garlic and green onion.
Jeotgal – Seafood Fermented in Salt
Fish, clams, shrimp, oysters, fish roe, or selected fish organs are the main ingredients of jeotgal, which is very salty. A pungent side dish in itself with boiled rice, it is sometimes added to kimchi or used to season other dishes.
Sometimes a delicacy, porridge has been served as a restorative food to recovering patients in Korea for hundreds of years. Pine nuts, red beans, pumpkin, abalone, ginseng, chicken, vegetables to health, mushrooms and bean sprouts are the most popular vegetables.
Guk and Tang – Soup
A Korean table is never complete without a soup. Vegetables, meat, fish and shellfish, seaweed, and even boiled cow bones are used to make guk and tang.
Bap – Boiled Rice
Boiled rice is a staple of the Korean diet. Barley, beans, chestnut, millet, or other grains are often added for better taste and nutritional values.