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Food Culture

Korean food is divided largely into usual diet, traditional dishes and drinks. The usual diet consists of staple foods and side dishes.

One kind of the traditional staple foods is pap (boiled cereals). Pap is made with rice, hulled millet, barley, millet, Indian millet and corn. There are different kinds of pap including rice pap, ogokpap (made with five cereals), yakpap (glutinous rice mixed with sugar, jujube, chestnut, pine-nut and sesame oil), pibimpap (boiled rice mixed with side dishes) and kimpap (seasoned rice rolled in laver).

Other staple foods of unique national tradition include ttok (similar to rice-cake), noodles and so on. There are scores of kinds of ttok including cha/ttok (glutinous rice-cake), songphyon (half-moon-shaped rice-cake, stuffed with beans and flavoured with pine needles), shiumttok (fermented rice-cake), siruttok (steamed rice-cake), etc. Noodles are not only a kind of usual diet but also a popular dish for a birthday party and wedding ceremony.

Pyongyang Cold Noodles are the most famous of them. As a saying goes that “Do not say you’ve been to Korea if you failed to eat Pyongyang Cold Noodles,” its popularity is great. Side dishes are soy sauce, bean paste, soup and kimchi. Among them soy sauce and bean paste are indispensable foods for diet. Hot soup is usually served for breakfast and supper, and often cold one in summer days.

Jijigae, a dish of fresh pepper, garlic, green onion and bean paste stewed in earthenware before serving, is an important element of the diet.

Kimchi is one of the most renowned traditional dishes of Korea. It is known far and wide for it efficacy in health and longevity as it contains plenty of vitamins and other nutrients.

Among Korean dishes are exquisite drinks such as tea, hwachae (honey juice with fruits in it), sikhye (sweet rice drink), liquor, fruit punch (made of honey, dried persimmon, pine nut and cinnamon), sweet drink (prepared with rice and malt), scorched-rice tea, etc.Liquors include rice wine, thakju (unrefined rice wine) and soju (Korean gin).

The renowned brands of Korean liquor are Pyongyang Liquor, Pyongyang Soju, Kamhongno Liquor, Taephyong Liquor, Kaesong Koryo lnsam Liquor, Wild Insam Liquor, lnphung Liquor, Wine, Paektusan Bog Bilberry Wine, etc.

Traditional candy Taffe.kwajul(fried cake made of wheat flour, honey and oil), yumilgwa (oil-and-honey pastry), kangjong (fried glutinous rice-cake), tasik (patterned savoury cake), suksilgwa (food made of steamed date or chestnut mingled with cinnamon powder, pine nut powder and honey), jonggwa (fruit jam), etc.

Table Manner

Korean people take it granted for elders to take spoons before young people.

At the table they sit up decently and try to create an amicable atmosphere.

They welcome guests and serve them with sincerity.

At the table the host takes the spoon first, putting delicious and rare dishes near him and helping him have his full.

He also tries to create a harmonious ambience for the guest to feel at home and avoids finishing the meal before his guest.



It is a national dish for the 15th day of the first month by the lunar calendar that dates as far back as ancient times when farming began. It is a dish made with five cereals including rice. They say the custom of having the dish on that particular day mirrors the people’s wish for another bumper crops in the new year and five blessings (longevity, wealth, health, blessing of children and peaceful death).

Sinsollo (cooking brazier)

Sinsollo, a dish made with scores of food ingredients put together and cooked, tastes good beyond description. Between the late 15th century and the early 16th century a scholar who lived in a mountain, prepared meals using a peculiar brazier and later the dish was named sinsollo in the sense that the brazier was used by Sinson, an old man of legend.

Article : Sinsollo

Soy Sauce and Bean Paste

From antiquity Korean people used boiled beans as a side dish.

People came to pay attention to the fact that animals were especially fond of moldy beans scattered on the ground. They boiled beans, fermented them and mashed and seasoned them with salt. It tasted good and extraordinary. Some provinces referred to it as ttuiunkong (fermented beans).

The fermented soybeans were seasoned with salt and screened to produce soy sauce. Soybean malt powder and salt were again added to the remnants to make bean paste. Later, with the advent of pepper farming, it developed into peppered bean paste and became an appetizing, fixed side dish.


An episode relates to jongol, a kind of beef stew. Long, long ago, triumphant soldiers chased the fleeing enemy only to reach a ravine. It was dark and they were hungry but their provisions had run out after a long travel.

Nothing but a little of the food people had given them was left; but that food was too hard to eat. They had no pan to boil it in. After a thought, they put the whole of rice and side dishes into their jonnip (a sort of helmet for soldiers in those days), added some water to it and placed it over a fire.

The appetizing smell of the simmering food was so good that they started to take one spoonful after another, braving the heat. They found it quite delicious.

This is the origin of the name jongol, and the present-day dish of beef, vegetable and fish boiled in a pot before serving came into being.


One of the World’s Five Healthy Foods Health, an American monthly, introduced Korean kimchi as following under the headline The World’s Top Health Food.

Kimchi, one of fermented foodstuffs, is rich in vitamins A, B, C and has a lot of fungi good for health that helps digestion. It is also a low-fat health food rich in fibre and especially acts as a suppressor of the growth of cancer cells.

Three Favourite Dishes

Kimchi, barbecue and mung-bean pancake are known as three favourite dishes of Koreans.

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