Favorite Korean Dishes

This quarter, we have been discussing our favorite dishes with our IELP students! No matter where we are from, we all have a dish that reminds us of our family and culture. This week, we are highlighting Korean dishes and sharing our student’s favorites. To learn more, continue reading below:

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Kimchi (Fermented Vegetables, 김치)

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Kimchi is a delicious mix of salted and fermented vegetables. It can be served as both a side and main dish, and there are a number of variations depending on the region, family, or personal preference. There are records of fermented vegetable dishes dating back to 37 BCE, and there was even a poem written about fermented radishes in the 13th century. Although kimchi has been a traditional dish in Korea for centuries, kimchi is now becoming more common in the United States. You can find kimchi in American health food stores, and it is lauded for it’s nutritional benefits.

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Bibimbap (Mixed Rice, 비빔밥)

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Bibimbap, literally translated as “mixed rice,” is a bowl of warm rice topped with vegetables, chili pepper paste, soy sauce, or fermented soybean paste. A raw or fried egg and sliced beef are common additions. The name “bibimbap” was adopted in the 20th century, although there are records to the dish dating back to the 16th century. The dish was traditionally served on the eve of the lunar new year, and was also a common dish for farmers during harvest season because it is an easy dish to make for a large number of people. The dish is also heavy with symbolism, with the colors representing different parts of Korea and human organs.

Bulgogi (“Fire Meat,” 불고기)

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Bulgogi, literally “fire meat,” is thin, marinated slices of beef or pork grilled on a barbecue or skillet. The dish originated in North Korea, but is very popular in South Korea. Today, you can find bulgogi in South Korea anywhere from a fancy restaurant to a ready-made dish at the grocery store. During the Joseon Dynasty, the dish was prepared for the wealthy and nobility. Today, you can find bulgogi-flavored hamburgers at fast-food restaurants in South Korea. McDonald’s in Korea even sold a bulgogi burger (pictured below) before it was removed due to a possible food-contamination case.

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Japchae (Stir-Fried Glass Noodles and Vegetables, 잡채)

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Japchae is a sweet and savory dish with a type of cellophane noodles, assorted vegetables, meat and mushrooms, and seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil. Although it was once a royal dish, it is now a popular celebration dish served on weddings, birthdays, and holidays. According to historical records, the dish was first made in the 17th century for King Gwanghaegun’s palace banquet. The king liked the dish so much that he promoted the chef to a high-ranking position, and japchae became a fixture of Korean royal court cuisine.

Matang (Candied Sweet Potato, 마탕)

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Matang is chunks of fried sweet potato coated in hot brown syrup. It is sweet and crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and topped with black sesame seeds. Matang is a popular kid’s snack in Korea, and you can find it as a side in Korean restaurants. There are records of matang originating in China, but it is still a very popular snack in Korea.

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After exploring traditional Korean dishes, we reached out to Seattle locals and asked them if they have favorite Korean restaurants in Seattle. A lot of the best restaurants are a little outside of Seattle, so we suggest making a day trip to Lynnwood if you’re interested in eating at Ka Won. If you want to explore Korean food, or want to have a taste of home, check out these places:

  1. Ka Won, Lynnwood
  2. Trove, Downtown Seattle
  3. Chan, Downtown Seattle
  4. Bok a Bok Fried Chicken, South-West Seattle

Thank you to our Korean students for inspiring us to explore Korean dishes! This post only covers a small portion of traditional Korean dishes. We encourage you to explore different cultures, foods, and restaurants in Seattle, and find your own favorite Korean dishes!

Photo Credits: foodrepublic.com, Chowhound, Pinterest, How to Feed a Loon, Facebook.com, Kimchimari, Maangchi, Wikipedia.

Favorite Japanese Dishes

Our IELP students come from all over the world, and our STEP 3 session has a large percentage of Japanese participants. Although I have tried basic types of (American=ized) sushi, edamame, and poke bowls, I wanted to learn more about the traditional cuisine. On our field trip to Seattle Center last Tuesday, I asked the students to share some of their favorites, and did some research to find out more about these dishes and their origins.

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Monjayaki

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Sakura Yamashita describes her favorite dish she calls “Monja” as a “hot plate mixed with vegetable and meat.”

Monjayaki is very popular in the Kantō region, and is one of Tokyo’s most famous dishes. Although often compared to okonomayaki, a similar dish made in the Kansai region, it is a lot wetter and cooks flat on one side, whereas okonomiyaki is drier, firmer and thicker. The ingredients also differ. Monja is created by frying the dry ingredients (usually some variation of cabbage, noodles, cod roe, mochi, and flour) in a circle, and filling said circle with a liquid batter after a few minutes. The result? A delicious savory pancake with the consistency of melted cheese!

Tonkatsu

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“I’m from Fukuoka so I like Tonkatsu” -Kazuhiro Fujiyama

Often simply called “katsu” in the States, this classic Japanese dish uses pork fillet or loin that is dipped in salt, pepper, flour, and beaten egg before being deep fried in a coat of “panko” or bread crumbs. It is usually served with cabbage or tsukemono (Japanese preserved vegetables), rice, and miso soup. In Korea, tonkatsu is known as don-gaseu (돈가스) or don-kkaseu (돈까스), which derived from a transliteration of the Japanese word. There are many variations of this dish, and tonkatsu is also popular as a sandwich filling (katsu sando) or served on Japanese curry (katsu karē).

Yamanashi Fruit

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Moemi Okamura explains that “peaces and grapes are the most famous in Yamanashi.”

Japan’s Yamanashi prefecture is dubbed the “kingdom of fruit,” and rightfully so! The reason lies in Yamanashi’s weather– low annual precipitation and extreme differences in heat and cold help to create sweet, juicy fruit year round. Not only is Yamanashi the biggest producer of peaches and grapes in Japan, but there are fruit picking facilities year-round boasting multiple varieties of cherries, plums, pears, strawberries, blueberries, and apples. People from all around the world flock to Yamanashi to admire their expansive orchards and to pick fresh, delicious produce.

Unagi

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 “My mom buys the eel in the supermarket but will make it at home.” -Chisa Tomono

Unagi is a cult summertime favorite among Japanese, but can cost up to 30 American dollars served in a restaurant. For this reason, many have incentive to make this delicacy at home. This calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron-rich treat is known to help combat the scorching summer heat. One student adds that July 25th is the designated “unagi day!” Intrigued, I did some research and discovered that the name of the period for eating Unagi is called ‘Doyo-no Ushi-no hi’. “Doyo” is an 18 day period between summer and autumn, mid July to early August, and is the hottest time of the year in Japan. “Ushi no hi” can be directly translated to Ox day, originating from the traditional Japanese calendar that uses the Chinese Zodiac system. Legend has it that a struggling eel restaurant owner during the Edo period began advertising unagi on the day of Ox, because both Ushi (Ox in Japanese) and Unagi begin with the letter ‘u’. This play on words worked well as a promotion, and eventually developed into a Japanese folklore that if you eat unagi on the day of ox, you will regain power!

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Obviously, this blog post does not scratch the surface of Japan’s rich culinary heritage. Other favorites frequently mentioned include sushi, nikujaga (boiled meat and potato), nattō (fermented soybeans), shabu-shabu (meat and vegetable hot pot), udon (thick wheat flour noodle), soba (thin buckwheat flour noodle), and wagashi (sweet snack often served with tea). However, I hope that this post could provide some insight into traditional Japanese cuisine and inspire you to try something new!