Where OLD meets NEW
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The Korean culinary tradition can be summed up in a few words — health, variety, flavour and beauty. Simple words, but they represent a history that reaches back to 5,000 BC when farming began in Korea. Surrounded by the sea on three sides, all varieties of seafood were abundant and four distinct seasons, in addition to a diverse landscape, cultivated a bounty of different crops. Today, this translates into hundreds of distinct dishes, unique to Korea.
Kimchi, a spicy side dish to most meals, is considered central to Korean cuisine. The main vegetables include radish, cabbage and cucumber, which are soaked in brine and fermented. This, however, is only the beginning. From there it can be mixed, stuffed or complemented with red pepper powder, green onions, garlic, ginger, fruit, fi sh and shellfi sh — creating countless combinations.
Bibimbap (see top image on left), steamed rice with mixed vegetables, can be made with up to 30 different vegetable varieties and offers both supremely healthy eating and a beautiful, bright arrangement. For meat lovers, bulgogi ranks as one of Korea's most famous grilled dishes. Fine slices of beef are marinated for a few hours in a mixture of sesame oil, soy sauce, pepper, garlic, sugar, onions, ginger and wine. As the meat sizzles, cloves of garlic, sliced onions and chopped green peppers are cooked alongside.
Traditional Korean wines and liquors occasionally accompany meals — the former consists chiefl y of fruit and medicinal wines, while the latter are distilled from rice, grains or sweet potatoes. The tea ceremony is a hallowed Korean tradition and an experience in itself — in the home, the restaurant and at tea houses throughout Seoul and, particularly, in the Insa-dong neighbourhood at the heart of the city. The mild, aromatic green tea, whose numerous health benefi ts are now widely acknowledged, perfectly complement the bold fl avours of Korean cuisine.
With many varieties of dishes and drink, there are as many different ways to enjoy it. Restaurant meals range from three to 12 courses, all served at the same time and presented in small bowls and square dishes, creating an appetite-rousing feast for the eyes. Or stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other eager patrons at food vendors that line the streets — pick up a quick, fi lling snack of sausages, spicy rice cake dishes, tempura, chicken or fried hotdog skewers.
If you hesitate at the thought of navigating the world of Korean cuisine alone, a one-day food tour in Seoul will introduce you to a little taste of everything. Or, if you prefer to enjoy while also picking up a new culinary skill, several cultural organizations offer cooking classes to travellers in meal preparation and dining etiquette. And, fi nally, you can sample the culinary tradition of an ancient, foreign culture right here at home. Korean eateries in Toronto offer dishes that have evolved over thousands of years and travelled thousands of miles to arrive at your table.
Contest Question: Contest Question: There are many side dishes and main dishes to enjoy with Korean cuisine. What is one well known side dish and one main dish from the article?
- A1: Kimchi & Bibimbap
- A2: Pajeon & Japchae
- A3: Galbi & Kimchi
- A4: Buldak & Samgyetang