We all love food, it’s a universal language; but more importantly, we love Korean food. It’s delicious, full of flavor, and embedded with thousands of years of culture! There are so many interesting things about Korean food that I have learned over the years, and now I would like to share them with you.
1. There are hundreds of different types of kimchi.
One of the most popular dishes from Korea, it may surprise some that there is more than just one type of kimchi. So many varieties, so much deliciousness and so much fun to make! If you are intersted in learning more about kimchi, click here.
2. Rice was used to pay taxes.
Rice has always been fundamental in Korean cooking and Korean life in general since it’s cultivation. The value of rice became so high that it was once used as currency and to pay taxes during the Three Kingdoms Period (it is called Three Kingdoms Period, but there was actually four) in Silla. Rice was seen as luxury dish and the farmers who produced it couldn’t eat it.
3. You can find some of the same foods from the royal cuisine in temple food
Some of the menu items found while enjoying the royal cuisine can be found when eating temple food. This is because as the kitchen maids got too old to work at the palace, they would retire to work in the temples as nuns, and a lot of the same foods transferred over.
4. Korea is one of the world’s largest consumers of garlic.
I have yet to have a Korean dish that did not have garlic in it. It is in soups, served raw with grilling meats, in marinades, and even in some drinks! Data shows that Korea has averaged 7.6 kilgrams per capita from 2011 to 2017 (the highest year being 8.9 in 2013). Amazing, right?
5. The number of banchan given during meals was equal to the diner’s status.
In historical times, the number of banchan (side dishes) given during a meal use to be based on your status! Anywhere from four to twelve different sides were a part of the meal—sometimes kings would have 100 varieties! Can you imagine how big the table must have been? Learn more about the small and tasty dishes that come with your meal here.
6. Koreans use metal chopsticks.
There are some very interesting facts about Korean chopsticks, such as the fact that they are metal. Another unique attribute of Korean chopsticks is that the come in different shapes of round, square, and flat. Learn about why Koreans use metal chopsticks here!
7. The type of banchan you’ll receive depends on the meat or noodles dish being served, as well as the season.
Besides being a symbol of status, there is another fun fact about our favorite part of Korean meals: Did you know that the banchan you receive depends on the meat or noodle dish you order as well as the season? No wonder my favorite meals didn’t have the same dishes in the winter as they did in the summer!
8. The most popular sauce in Korea is gochujang.
I’m sure this comes as no surprise that the number one sauce is gochujang. The red pepper paste can be used with soups, most meats, vegetables, and rice dishes, like bibimbap!
9. Koreans don’t have a Western approach to dessert.
In the western world, we see dessert as sweet treats like cakes, pies, ice cream, and other fun, sugary foods. In Korea, however, that's not the case. Before western food began to influence the culinary scene in Korea, dessert was more along the lines of fresh cut fruit, teas, and some times old, traditional cookies or rice cakes that were more for special occasions. This is still true, with Western desserts being more prevalent when going out to cafes and such, while dessert at home is still pretty traditional.
10. You can find exact displays of menu items displayed outside of restaurants.
This is the most interesting to me! I love that when I’m walking around the mall, that restaurants will have display cases filled with plastic replicas of every menu item. It’s the best thing ever when I’m unsure of what I want to eat, while also being the worst thing ever for my wallet because it all looks so good! Even more amazing than the realistic look of these displays is that the food comes out looking exactly as you saw it.
And there you have it, some interesting Korean food facts to share with your friends! How many of these did you know about? Are there any other facts that we missed?
Share them in the comments!