[Writer’s Choice] Korean Kuisine: Advanced Level Korean Food
BanSeok Shin, Sept. 12, 2019, 5:53 p.m.
With the rise and spread of Hallyu, especially K-Pop, interest in Korean culture has grown internationally garnering the attention of all kinds of people. One of the areas of Korean culture that people are particularly interested in is Korean food. The area of Korean food includes a multitude of unique and delicious dishes and bites that suit all kinds of tastes. However, it can take some getting used to for those who are not accustomed to consuming the ingredients and flavors used in Korean cuisine and other Eastern cultures.
Welcome to part four of the introduction into Korean Kuisine where a list of Korean dishes to help out people who want to try out Korean food! In this part we will take a look a more advanced level foods that are more challenging for the palate – especially for those more used to Western foods. If you missed the previous parts you can find them here:
If you’ve already tried out these foods and are looking to be more challenging, then let’s get started!
순대Sundae (Korean Blood Sausage)
As made clear by the name this is a sausage where one of the key ingredients is blood. It is in fact, a sausage made by stuffing pig or cow’s intestines with various ingredients such as rice, vegetables, glass noodles, animal blood, ground meat, and spices. The ingredients that are included depend on who makes it. Sundae is a highly popular street food that can be found at street stalls and grocery stores and is often sold alongside steamed liver and lung, and a pack of salt eat the snacks with.
If you can get past the idea of blood and organ meat then you may find that sundae is actually a really delicious and savory food to eat, especially as a late-night snack or meal. Pro-tip try dipping it in spicy rice-cake sauce. Additionally, some restaurants sell a soup made with sundae called sundae-guk.
미역국Miyeok-guk (Seaweed Soup)
This soup is savory, and many find it’s clear broth refreshing. However, it can be difficult for people to eat if they don’t enjoy or can’t tolerate the taste and texture of seaweed. If you’ve ever touched a wet piece of seaweed or kelp on the beach or in the ocean, then you’ve probably realized that seaweed has a sliminess to it. That sliminess remains even after you’ve cooked it, to the disgust or displeasure of many. Furthermore, seafood tends to come with a “fishy” taste that I’ve found many people don’t like. As someone who loves seafood, I don’t even notice such a taste, but for those who do, miyeok-guk may not be for them.
If you don’t mind the sliminess or fishiness of seaweed, then you may enjoy miyeok-guk. The broth is often made with beef meat or shellfish, goes really well with rice, and is nutritious as it has a lot of calcium and iodine. The dish is traditionally eaten on birthdays and by pregnant as well as nursing mothers. It is also a very common dish eaten at various meats such a breakfast, or as a side dish.
짬뽕Jjam-ppong (Spicy Seafood Noodle Soup)
This Chinese origin dish is very popular among Korean and is usually sold in restaurants that specialize in making jjamppong and jjangmyeon (black bean noodles). The dish is composed of a spicy red chili broth made of seafood or pork, as onions, squid, Korean zucchini, pork meat, carraots, mussels cabbages, and wheat noodles. If you like seafood and pork, and don’t mind any of the vegetables, then the thing to look out for when eating this dish, is the spice. The type of spices used in creating the dish depends of the chef/restaurant and sometimes it can be too much to handle for those with low spice thresholds.
Word of advice, if you go to a restaurant that offers a dish that is a combination of jjam-ppong and naengmyeon (cold noodle soup) – or in other words “cold jjam-ppong” be very careful. I tried it once, and despite there being significant amounts of ice in my soup, that “cold jjam-ppong” was easily spicier than any jjam-ppong I have ever had in my life.
죽Juk (Korean Porridge)
This is one of my favorite Korean dishes as I grew up eating as similar dish whenever I or someone in my family got sick. There is no set ingredients for Korean porridge as there are a wide variety of the dish, some that don’t use rice, which is the most common base ingredient. Similar to when I ate it growing up, rice porridge is a dish that is made by boiling rice with enough time and water that the rice starts to become congealed – making it more soup-like. Depending on how its made it can have salt and spices added to it, a variety of vegetables and meats, as well as other ingredients. While this type of dish is not by any means unique to Korea, Koreans certainly add their own twist to it often adding roasted seaweed, sesame, kimchi, and other Korean toppings. The dish is often eaten when one is sick or is having a hard time eating. This is because the dish is easy to eat and digest. While rice has become a common food around the world, juk, on the other isn’t as popular and thus those with palates more accustomed to Western foods may not find the texture of rice porridge too favorable.
Fortunately for Korean juk, rice isn’t the only option! As mentioned before Korean juk comes in a variety of forms. For example, juk can be made from pumpkins, red beans, black sesame, and other grains. Some of these, like pumpkin and red bean, are sweetened to make them into desserts!
육계장Yukgae-jjang (Spicy Beef & Vegetable Soup)
Once again, this dish is mostly a problem if you don’t handle spice well. Apparently, Korean tend to find that their spicy foods are generally a bit spicier than many Westerners are used to. Outside of that its savory and hearty! This soup consists of a spicy broth that includes shredded beef, and a variety of vegetables and other ingredients including, but not limited to: scallions, onion, bean sprouts, taro stems, bracken fern, garlic, chili oil, and sweet potato noodles. The meat and variety of vegetables provide a nutritious and delicious meal. If you can handle the taste and textures of all the ingredients, then you’ll find yourself with a relatively cheap and satisfying meal!
Fair warning, while I don’t mean to insult the spice tolerance of some of you out there, Korean food is a bit spicier then many Western foods. Furthermore, Koreans love to serve and eat foods piping hot which actually makes spicy foods much harder to handle. As someone who has grown up eating foods far spicier than most of what Korea has to offer, even the lower level Korean spices become hard to handle when served hot. I can handle spice, but not heat.
순두부찌개Soon-dubu-jjigae (Spicy Soft Tofu Stew)
Another spicy Korean soup that is served up piping hot, but once that I am growing fonder of. This is a stew that is usually spicy and has the key ingredient of soft tofu. If you read soft tofu and immediately imagined fried tofu or tofu that you could easily pick up by stabbing it with a chopstick, then you have the wrong idea of what it is. Soft tofu is very delicate and easy to cut – thus making it easy to eat and gentle on the palate. Imagine something with a similar consistency of flan or soft jello.
While soft tofu is usually the highlight of the stew, depending on the type of stew you order, other ingredients can highlight the dish. Many that serve spicy soft tofu stew restaurants offer stews made with seafood, intestines, kimchi, fish, beef, and more. Usually restaurants will also give side dishes such as rice, fried pollack, and other Korean sides that go well with your stew. Another common side is raw eggs and no, you don’t eat them raw! Your stew will be made fresh so when the server brings it to you it will be in a stone bowl that keeps it boiling for a few minutes. You can put the eggs in while it boils and mix it in for added flavor and delicious bits of egg in your soup.
Pro-tip: you can mix some of your soup with the rice or vice versa, for added flavor and to fill your belly. Also, some restaurants might offer a non-spicy version of soft tofu stew, but I’m not sure if it tastes that great. My mom tried it once because spicy food is hard for her to handle, but she didn’t like it.
묵 Muk (Jelly)
I believe the word Muk refers to multiple things but in this case, it refers to Korean jelly that is prepared and typically served as solid blocks and is usually eaten as a side dish or put into a soup. There are three primary kinds of Korean jelly – Dotori, Memil, and Nokdu/cheongpo – or Acorn, buckwheat, and mung bean. Muk is a soild jelly consistency, however, it is often difficult to pick up with chopsticks (and sometimes even forks) due to the softness of the jelly and smooth texture. Muk is generally pretty bland by itself, but it’s usually served with soy sauce mixed with sesame, scallions, and chili powder for more flavor. Some restaurants will serve muk in soups, salads, and other dishes.
Usually the hardest parts of eating muk are the bland taste and difficulty transferring it from your plate to your mouth. Additionally, if the taste of mung bean and acorn may be strange or unfamiliar to many Westerners.