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:
Kimchi (Fermented Vegetables, 김치)
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.
Bibimbap (Mixed Rice, 비빔밥)
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)
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.
Japchae (Stir-Fried Glass Noodles and Vegetables, 잡채)
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)
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.
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:
- Ka Won, Lynnwood
- Trove, Downtown Seattle
- Chan, Downtown Seattle
- 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.