Food in Korea
The Choson Dynasty (1392-1910) marks the period when Korea's culinary culture was refined. In the early part of the Choson Dynasty, agriculture books were also widely published. Moreover, researches in the fields of astronomy and meteorology began to invent new equipment to observe the celestial bodies and the weather, which contributed to improvements in farm cultivation. Significant strides in medical research were also made and they focused on the salutary benefits of a balanced diet which included a combination of rice, beans, vegetables, fish and meat.
The traditional dining table was classified into a three-ch'op, and five-ch'op, and a seven-ch-nop table, depending on the number of side dishes (panch-an). On the table, food was arranged in order to promote a balanced nutrition. Small amounts of medical herbs that were known to aid digestion were also sometimes added, particularly in the food of those who frequently suffered from indigestion. A variety of herbs were also mixed into water to make different kinds of healthful tea. These ingredients could be easily cultivated at home.
During the Choson Dynasty when Confucianism gained a stronghold in society, the culinary culture of Koreans underwent some significant changes. Since food preparation had to be made for many members of the household of varying ages, special techniques were required to cook and manage these large quantities of food. Women, for the most part, took on this burden among themselves. Also, given Confucianism family-oriented world view, special rites and ceremonies were often performed for family members, both living and deceased, and ceremonial food had to be prepared. in the course of preparing these frequent banquets, the families of the Choson period developed their own specialty foods according to regional and social standing. Variations in styles and preparation of these foods have certainly contributed to the variety of Korea's contemporary culinary culture.
The basic sauces of most Korean homes during the Choson Dynasty were soy sauce, bean paste, barley paste, and red pepper paste. The soy sauce and bean paste were cured with soybean malts, barley paste with barley malts, and red pepper paste with red pepper powder and malts made of glutinous rice, bean and rice. Since many Korean dishes are seasoned with these sauces, they are the key to what makes Korean food taste Korea. Soybeans are boiled in the early winter to make malt, which is then dried during the winter season Between late February and early March, the malt is soaked in water and fermented for 60 - 100 days. Later, some portions of the malt is sterilized by heating and made into soy sauce; the remaining dregs become bean paste.
During the Choson period, ceremonies were an important part of every family household and as a consequence, special goods for those ceremonies were developed. In particular, on the occasions of marriage and Hwan-gap, a special table-setting was arranged, which featured a variety of foods stacked to about 30-50 centimeters high in a shape of a big cylinder. It was a matter of course that long years of experience was needed to stack to products successfully. Of the many ceremonial dishes, rice cakes and confectionaries were popular.
Rice cakes, or ttok, are made of rice, and beans or other grains. In ancient times, rice cakes were eaten both during ordinary meal times and during ceremonies of rituals. It was only later, after the Three Kingdoms period, that rice cakes became primarily associated with ceremonial foods. Thus, rice cakes boast of a long tradition in the Korean history. Being indigenous and widely favored, there are many varieties. Rice cakes fall into three categories by cooking methods; steamed, and hen pounded, and fried. Most of them are made of rice, but other ingredients such as bean, red bean, chestnut, flowers, and herbs are also added to make variations of marvelous flavors, scents and colors. The records of Choson show as many as about 250 different types of rice cakes.
Traditional confectionaries are mostly made of wheat flour, honey and oil. Since these ingredients were rare in Korea, the confectionaries were prepared only for parties and ceremonies. Some popular traditional Korea confectioneries include yakkwa, kangjong, tashik, chon-gwa, yot-kangjong, and kwapyon.
Yakkwa is made of wheat flour kneaded with oil, honey and alcohol. The batter is fried and then dipped into honey. Yakkwa comes in different sizes and shapes. It was often made in the shape of flowers or fish, and during the Choson period, some yakkwa were prepared as large as 7 centimeters wide and long and 3 centimeters thick. They were displayed in stacked form.
Kangjong is made of glutinous rice flour mixed with alcohol. The batter is kneaded, divided, and then dried. The dried batter is fried and coated with honey.
Tashik (Powdered grains and pollen) is kneaded with honey and shaped into decorative molds. Beans, pine pollen, sesame, and rice usually used.
Chon-gwa is made of ginsen, Chinese quince, ginger, lotus root, steamed rice, and jujube, which are boiled in honey.
Yot-kangjong are roasted beans or sesame mixed with grain-glucose and then hardened.
Kwapyon is made from the flesh of strawberries, wide berries or cherries smashed up and hardened in honey.
TABLE MANNERS AND TABLE SETTINGS
From ancient times, Koreans have used a spoon and chopsticks are their eating utensils. The spoon was for scooping steamed rice, soup and stew, while chopsticks were used to eat a variety of prepared side dishes. Koreans are trained to use the spoon and the chopsticks correctly from childhood. Using both of these utensils at the same time is considered bad manners.
Meals were served on either high or low tables until the Koryo Dynasty. However, during the Choson Dynasty, the low table came to be predominantly used due to a type of under the floor heating system (ondol) that came into vogue at that time. The tables were often beautifully shaped and decorated. During the rituals and palace ceremonies, however, the high tables continued to be used, preserving the ancient tradition. Nowadays, the seated dining table with chairs is becoming popular while many families still use low tables.
A Traditional Korean Meal
Pansang is the usual meal of steamed rice, soup and side dishes.
Changkuksang is the main dish, and it is arranged with kimchi, cold greens, mixed vegetables, pan-fried dishes, confectionary, fruit and fruit punch. This simple meal can be served as lunch as well.
Chuansang - Alcoholic drinks (chu) and accompanying side dishes (an) are set on the table. The dishes vary depending on the kinds of liquor or wine.
Kyojasang is a large table prepared for banquets. Alcoholic beverages and a large variety of side dishes, rice cakes, confectionaries and fruit punch are all placed on the table. After the liquor is finished, noodle soup is served.
The Traditional Ceremonial Meal
Paegil (100th day after the birth of a baby) - Steamed rice, brown seaweed soup, white rice cakes, rice cake balls.
Tol (first birthday) - Steamed rice, brown seaweed soup, white rice cakes, rice cake balls, rice cakes of five different colors steamed on a layer of pine needles.
White rice cakes represent sacredness, rice cake balls, escape from misfortune, and rice cakes of five different colors, the five elements and the five virtues.
Marriage - The parents-in-law of the bride and bridegroom both prepare special dishes to express their mutual happiness and congratulations. The food includes fruit, confectionaries, and rice cakes which are stacked 30-60 centimeters high. This kind of table setting is called, "kyobaesang."
Hwan-gap (60th birthday) - Kyobaesang is also prepared to celebrate one's 60th birthday.
KIM CHI (New Facts About an Old Myth)
Kimchi is a uniquely pungent mixture of fermented vegetables and its variations amounted to roughly 80 kinds of dishes during the Choson period. For spring, summer and fall consumption, kimchi was cured in a small quantity, but for the winter months, large quantities were made so that it could be eaten over three or four months. The kimchi-curing for the winter season was called, "kimjang" and was usually done in late November.
In ancient times, kimchi was made of greens picked and salt or a salt and alcohol mixture. By the end of Unified Shillan ad the beginning of Koryo, sliced-radish kimchi pickled in brine became popular. Soon thereafter chili was introduced to Korea around 1500 and it was added to make kimchi as well. During the late Choson era, powdered chili, together with chotkal (fish or shellfish paste), bcame the favored ingredients in kimchi. In the southern regions, the chotkal was amde of anchovies, while in the northern regions, croaker and shrimp chotkal were more popular. The climatic differences of each region affected the taste of kimchi as well. In warm places, chotkal andchili poweder were used in abundance so that kimchi could be prevented from going bad. On the other hand, kimchi made in colder areas was less salty and pungent. Today, many firms are mass-producing kimchi.
Tangy and hot, it's the accent and counterpoint to a traditional meal of rice and soup, but nowadays, kimchi is turning up in pizzas and burgers, making it a most versatile ingredient, not to mention the test of a good cook. Even bachelors who can hardly cook to survive know how to transform leftover kimchi and rice into sizzling fried rice or bubbling kimchi stew.
The process of making kimchi is an excellent example of how Korean women approach cooking. (Most men never enter the kitchen, and most women learn how to cook only after marrying and under the tutelage of their mothers-in-law.)
Measurements? A handful of this, a pinch of that. Food processors? Bare hands rigorously pound, mash or rub. Fingers are dipped into the sauce for a taste. Seasonings are adjusted drop by drop. The best makers of kimchi are "old hands," literally, because Korean cooking is very much a manual-intensive labor and the best cooks are said to have a magic touch.
No recipe book can substitute for the year of trial and error necessary to develop tastebuds to detect subtle variations of flavor and the intuition to season accordingly. in the past, all the women who married into one family learned to make kimchi in the same kitchen with their mothers-in-law. The family's distinctive flavor of kimchi has been handed down through generations.
These days, fewer women have the time or space to make kimchi in the traditional way. With nuclear families now the rule, urban households living in apartments are unable to join together for Gimjang, the annual winter kimchi making during which enough batches are made to last several households all winter. Kimchi used to be stored underground in earthenware jars that aided the fermentation process, but nowadays, special containers and even refrigerators are being developed to allow modern women to make smaller batches all year round.
The easiest and quickest kimchi to make is mul kimchi, or water-kimchi. Slightly sweet and very refreshing, it's the perfect comlement to heavy, rich dishes. Unlike most other forms of kimchi, this one does not require fermented salt shrimp paste (jeotgal), and is fermented within days.
Becoming an International Favorite
Kimchi is a "great cultural myth from the old dynasty era of ancient Korea..." There is a superbly palate-pleasing kimchi to delight every taste. A global favorite, kimchi is a food that adds zest to all kinds of meals and its appeal cuts across all social, economic, ethnic and geographical boundaries. Kimchi is an exotic, super spicy side dish. While no one is quite sure whether kimchi is a pickle or a salad, its wide range of flavors, types and styles make it a palatable part of an irresistible side-dish, a great appetizer, and a naturally cultured healthy raw vegetable. Kimchi has been served daily with every meal throughout generations of Korea for thousands of years. Kimchi sparkles with the flavor of garlic, ginger, scallions and chilies. Kimchi adds zest to all goods. Kimchi is an excellent contributor to the human body. Unlike other similar foods, kimchi has its own unique nutritional value of promoting health and preventing disease, there is "none better" and it is "well worth" to the human diet.
A study of kimchi history reveals that people were enjoying kimchi's unique goodness more than 4,000 years ago. In about 2030 B.C. the inhabitants of northern India brought seeds of this vegetable to Mongolia, and the preservation of greens with other vegetables soon became common as cultured raw vegetables. Kimchi is the most versatile food. In Japan and Korea it is served as a side dish. An impressive range of all kinds of kimchi is becoming very popular in America, Hawaii, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and way down under in Australia. Indeed, it is found and enjoyed almost everywhere nowadays. Kimchi is never fickle where flavor is concerned. Its tantalizing taste attracts particular eaters.
In Japan, Korea, and both northwest and southeast Asia, each person munches an average of ten to fifteen kilograms of kimchi a year. In South Korea alone, that is about four hundred tons per year or more of kimchi consumed than any other vegetable.
Currently, kimchi has become a popular health food in the "New World" ever since the first immigrant settled in the Hawaiian Islands and North America from many Asian countries. The kimchi patch provided great emotional comfort to those under exiled conditions far away from their homeland. Kimchi touched and appealed to many ethnic settlers who started making kimchi and spoke enthusiastically its zesty flavors.
Believe in Beauty
In both Eastern and Western history, the most famous femme fatales, Cleopatra and Yang Gyuibee, were devoted eaters of cultured raw vegetables, and believed that cultured raw vegetables had made them more beautiful. Queen Elizabeth was another royal cultured raw vegetable fancier. The Emperor of the Han Dynasty enjoyed this vegetable everyday, and fighting men from the days of Julius Caesar's troops through the time of Napoleon on up until today have found them a delicious addition to drab soldiers' meals. During both the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Korean government drafted kimchi into the Korean armed forces diet and earmarked almost 90% of shelf-stable (canned) kimchi production for the Army, Navy and Marines. Going even further back, there is a reference to a sailor's salted and cultured raw vegetables in the eleventh book of the "Odyssey."
Kimchi is popular and is becoming more popular. For thousands of years in various forms "the famous and the not-so-famous" have enjoyed its unique ability to please the palate for cultured raw vegetables. Whether or not Cleopatra and Yang Gyuibee were right and this type of vegetable actually made them more beautiful, millions of cultured raw vegetable eaters for countless centuries agree that it has limitless appetite appeal. Everybody's favorite, it adds sparkle and zest to any food: a sandwich, a salad, a banquet, a snack.... or is delicious when accompanied with rice, noodles and eaten with every main dish as a great functional appetizer or a perfect side dish.
The Humor in Kimchi
Kimchi is a happy and cheerful food and more than a hundred different types of kimchi offer something to appeal to every personality and taste. The Koreans build kimchi awareness with humor, for example, they say "smile with kimchiiiii's sound!", instead of "cheese!" when they are taking photographs.
The fine autumnal harvest season is the right time for kimchi making for the long winter months. Every household is customarily and consistently serious in their efforts to preserve the best possible product for the family and other kimchi-fanciers, eaters or adorers in every neighborhood. At the same time, they recognize the nearly unlimited opportunities in keeping people's awareness of the role of the cheerful kimchi in brightening a meal or a day. Koreans say that the surest way to get an honest laugh is to talk about kimchi. Throughout the nation, many cities, counties, and villages traditionally have their customary events like new-kimchi-festivals, kimchi-fairs and or kimchi making contests, mostly in autumn, when new crops are harvested to celebrate the abundant blessings from God in their happy and healthy lives.
It is believed that a woman's housekeeping skill or quality is mainly evaluated by "how to make and preserve kimchi best" in their home throughout all generations from ancestors until now. Kimchi is also used as a raw material or an ingredient for a variety of other delicious dishes. Thus, making, preserving, and eating kimchi is a naturally healthy, wealthy food pattern Koreans have cherished and inherited. 'How to make Kimchi' for the Korean diet is not merely a proud, but an unavoidable mission to the people and the nation.
Now, kimchi makers are planning to organize an international event, "the World Kimchi Fair" with cooperation between the North & South Korean Ministries of Culture to explore their ancestors' mythic wisdom of unique food culture in the year 2002 in Seoul, Korea.
Beyond an Exotic Dish
Kimchi is naturally cultured raw vegetable that originated in ancient Korea. Kimchi has been served daily in every household at every meal throughout generations of the nation for thousands of years. Kimchi sparkles with the flavors of garlic, ginger, scallions and chilies. Kimchi adds zest to all foods. Kimchi is an excellent contributor to the human body. Unlike other similar foods, kimchi has its own unique nutritional value of promoting health and preventing disease; there is "none better" and it is "well worth" for the human diet. It adds spice, flavor, and an appetite to meals and joy to living. Cheerful and bright, the flavor-packed kimchi is a friendly favorite that enlivens a meal and lifts the spirits.
The power of kimchi is the power of peaceful, prosperous people who smile while working, instead of laughing at work. Because theirs is an ancient wisdom, Koreans have had an immense opportunity to note what is sound and what is likely to be of enduring value. In addition, since their is the food that has historically brought mankind a chuckle as well as refreshment, they are perhaps a little closer to the well springs of honesty and good cheer. They know that the ability to smile at oneself is a compliment to one's accomplishments, the reward of reasonable men, and the sign the humanity is in a happy condition.
Although kimchi is similar to sauerkraut and other pickled products in its method of fermentation, it differs from them because of the mixed spices and salt concentration that are used. In Korea, kimchi is served as a staple food and many "cooking with kimchi" recipes have appeared during recent years. Kimchi is served in Japan as a "health food." Thousands of professional scientists are working in kimchi research teams with an industry team functioning along side them.
There is the Kimchi museum, the Kimchi Foundation, the Kimchi Research Institute as well as Kimchi science departments in colleges in Korea. All of these institutions and programs' approach to research means that overlapping disciplines develop a comprehensive method of coping with research problems.
As many as 500 or more agricultural co-operations, academic institutions, science and technical programs, and big or small private industrial firms throughout the nation co-operate in devising ways to improve the product. Working through state institutions, the research program co-ordinates activities concerned with such aspects as horticultural breeding for better raw materials, quality controls, improving ideal flavor, ensuring shelf stability, culturing and preservation studies, packaging required, postproduction handling, and controls. Changing food patterns created the need for conveniently packed kimchi products. This in turn, required new types of products and completely different packing techniques.
One ancient record shows that types of cabbage were introduced into China in the second century B.C. Another record shows more than 40 centuries ago the peripatetic cabbage began a journey that carried the cured raw vegetables from India to every section of the globe except for the Arctic and Antarctic.
A study of the history of kimchi reveals that people have been enjoying some form of cured (fermented by natural process) vegetables, usually cabbage, for more than four thousand years. At about 2030 B.C., the inhabitants of northern India brought cabbage seeds to a valley region in the southern part of China. The preservation of this vegetable in brine became the common throughout China, Mongolia, and the Korean peninsula. However, the particular form of seasoned, then cured, begetable product that is now known as kimchi was developed only in the Korean peninsula.
Long before man began to write a record of history, cured raw vegetables were excited palates and creating tastier meals. Kimchi, a well seasoned traveler, makes friends and sparks appetites wherever it goes. In the beginning, kimchi was introduced overseas only by its own people. During the Korean war however, the UN troops who were stationed in both North and South Korea became kimchi eaters. Then the troops eventually became proponents of kimchi in their own home countries. Kimchi is no longer a mere side dish or condiment for the Korean diet alone.
It has now become a favored super spicy pickle in many countries throughout Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America, as well as in Australia in recent years. Kimchi deserves its popularity because of its unique component of natural flavors: hot, sour, sweet, salty, and spicy aromas. All of these flavors are recognized as basic food tastes, and their inclusion in a single dish is both distinctive and wholesome.
During the war in Vietnam, the South Korean government commissioned scientists to create kimchi for soldiers in a plant near Seoul. In the summer of 1966, "kimchi-in-tin" products were finally shipped and served to the Korean troops in Vietnam. This was the first mass production of kimchi on a modern industrial scale, and was based on scientific research on its long history of kimchi in Korea. The first academic research paper about the science of kimchi, exploration on the phenomenon of kimchi fermentation, the food value of kimchi, and its function to human diet and so forth, was presented to the 2nd. International Conference of Food Science and Technology in Warsaw, Poland, in August 1966. It was also acknowledged as the first original research paper about kimchi in English. Thus, kimchi has been a part of the global cuisine for almost four decades.
At present, there are more than 400 industrial kimchi manufacturers in South Korea alone. Although, the exact volume of kimchi production is not known in North Korea, it is probably no less than that of South Korea. Many Koreans acknowledge that the best palatable kimchi has traditionally been produced in certain regions of northern Korea. Pyongyang and Kaesung kimchies were historically graded as the "Gourmet kimchi" of the Korean peninsula from old dynasty era. Although kimchi is is similar to sauerkraut and other cured vegetables in its method of pickling, it differs from them because of the spices and many aromatic vegetables that are used.
In Japan, kimchi has been served as a "health food" for more than two decades. In Korea, kimchi is served as 'the staple' for centuries and many 'cooking with kimchi' recipes have introduced appealing new cuisine in recent years. Coordinated and comprehensive, kimchi industry research consistently improves cultural, pickling, preservation, packing and shipping methods. The result is a superior, mouth watering product of the consumer globally.
An untiring effort to develop the method of modernizing kimchi production from that cottage-industrial scale to a systematically improved manufacturing process in Korea. It has finally achieved a delicacy that is cherished for its pleasantly appetizing super spicy side dish, an exotic pickle of a global palate. While skillfully managing to maintain the original humble purpose of preserving vegetables, kimchi makers have now accomplished an authentic preference of fancy global taste.
The modern kimchi manufacturers use varieties of cabbages and radishes far superior to those used for kimchi is years past. Each species has its own characteristic flavors. Soil, moisture, the climate (mainly surrounding temperature of the growing field), and the location all have crucial effects on developing the right kind of tender, crisp and pungent flavor-packed cabbages for kimchi. With careful precision, they are selected and picked at precisely the time that will provide the tastiest kimchies.
Traditionally, kimchi is prepared and processed in autumn for long term preservation for the winter months when fresh greens are not accessible. It is packed into earthenware pots after the cabbage is marinated with mixed seasonings, then buried underground in the shady backyard of the house. Therefore, the kimchi pots re kept in constantly cool ambient temperatures during the whole period of a winter while kimchi is consumed.
Kimchi researchers and packers have improved conventional kimchi manufacturing practices and ultimately achieved their long cherished desire for delivering 'a global kimchi' to the world markets: accordingly, kimchi makers have developed new varieties of super savory flavors and created aesthetic packs of high quality kimchi that have become 'a global preference'.
However, there are currently three basic packs of kimchi products in modern super markets: 1) Freshly-packed items of salad type kimchi 2) refrigerated items of pickled kimchi 3) Pasteurized items of shelf stable kimchi. These kimchi products are produced on an industrial scale in modern facilities in response to increasing consumer demand in both domestic and foreign markets.
After the wilting period in brine, the cabbages are carefully washed, drained, sorted, and trimmed then marinated with the spicy seasonings selected to impart authentic flavor. This kimchi is firm, crisp, chili-red in color and refreshingly appetizing. Authentic, original kimchi is the major exception. This is wilted and marinated at the industrial facility by a pickling method using mild seasonings and packed in specially selected container for pasteurization. Throughout the entire process of wilting in brine and marinating for freshly packed and for pasteurized kimchi, meticulous quality control procedures assure atop quality product for the consumer. The kimchi has had a long, long journey for the past 4,000 years.
Today, modern methods produce a superb selection of perfect kimchi for people around the world.
There are more a hundred different kinds of kimchies prepared to appeal to every taste and fit in with every serving need. Also, there are many different varieties within the four seasonal groups, as well as the three major processing groups: pasteurized, refrigerated and fresh pack.
Pasteurized can be either fermented or pickled. Fermented kimchi preserved and cured by natural fermentation. Genuine kimchi made from cabbages wilted in special sea salt brine, seasoned with typical kimchi ingredient and mixed spices. Current kimchi is made the same as genuine kimchi except for the long term maturation period. Refrigerated may be made in several ways, including placing wilted cabbages in a pickling solution of spice-mixture and keeping them cool, or using partial fermentation followed by refrigeration to slow the process. Fresh pack kimchi packed in spiced-ingredients plus sour vinegar mixture. This sour-cured type tastes like fresh salad kimchi.
The four seasonally different types vary with its different materials and spice stuffing of each season - spring, summer, autumn and winter. The whole cabbage kichi is packed in conventional spice-mixture stuffing for a long term preservation throughout whole winter months. The autumn kimchi is usually seasoned lighter than that of the winter's.
The summer kimchi is mainly fresh pack or sour-cured type. The spring kimchi is usually combined with other spring vegetables and stocked fall winter vegetables. Often, they are prepared together as fresh spring pack. In spring, there is also some well stored winter kimchi to be found together with newly processed one. It is not only possible to have kimchi year round as a side dish, condiment or an appetizer, but also a wide range of "cook-with-kimchi" recipes is picking up momentum.
Facts About Kimchi
1. Kimchi is ready to eat right from its container all year round. Its firm, tender, crisp texture and its zesy, fully refreshing taste makes an exotic popularity. For kimchi eaters, there is not other food that can attain the same appeal as kimchi.
2. Kimchi satisfies the appetite and is also a perfect relish which enhances the taste of other food: it has 42 mg of vitamin C per 10g, which is more than half of the US government's recommended daily allowance. It is fascinating to note that when captain James Cook set sail in the 1770's, he served his seamen a daily portion of fermented, cured cabbage to prevent scurvy, which is now known to be the result of vitamin C deficiency.
3. Kimchi is high in fiber, a food component usually too low in the average American diet. Fiber also add the bulk necessary for proper digestion.
4. Kimchi is rich in minerals and vitamins and is an essential source of thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), calcium and iron, all of which are essential components for human health.
5. Kimchi is surprisingly low in calories for a food of such nutritional value, with only 33 calories per cup (less than 15 cal/100g). Hence, it provides a great way to lose weight or just keep it off. Kimchi is versatile, and its low cost and east of serving are among the reasons for its popularity.
6. Kimchi has finally achieved its long-cherished desire of meeting global demand in handy safe containers.