Past to Present: Joseon Era Foods

By Stephanie Lemus

The Joseon Dynasty was one of the most influential time periods in Korea. Science and art pushed forward and many advancements came out of this era. Though, they weren't the only things to come out of this era. Many staples of Korean cuisine were also being developed at this time. They led to the dishes we now know and love today.

Royal cuisine wasn’t like your average everyday food, it was the best of the best. Meals included side dishes such as mandu, noodles, rice cakes, porridge, soups, and pickled vegetables. Meals were elaborate if you were at the top, there was a specific way you would place dishes and the amount you would get depended on your rank. The king would get twelve dishes and nobility would get around nine. Though, if you want to have a small taste of what it was like here’s a few moderately easy dishes you can try.

  • Neobiani (너비아니): Sliced Grill Meat

Neobiani is an old form of bulgogi, the main difference being that neobiani is made from sirloin instead of flank steak. The meat is also seasoned with honey, but it has soy sauce. It’s sweet, chewy, and just the right amount of savory. One bite definitely will leave you hungry for more.

  • Japchae (잡채): Stir-Fried Vegetables  

Modern japchae is called glass noodle stir-fry in English but noodles weren’t introduced to Korea until 1886. The Joseon Dynasty lasted from 1392 to 1897. During this era, japchae was made of only stir-fried vegetables like mushrooms, cucumbers, and radishes. Nevertheless, japchae was a luxury at the time and served only to those with the highest power. Luckily now, you can find this luxury at most street food markets and Korean restaurants.

  • Goldongban (골동반): Rice with Side Dishes 

Rice was a very important part of every meal for the king. Two types had to be served for and one of the types that were occasionally served was called goldongban. The name means a mix of different things and that’s what it was. Rice mixed with an assortment of different side dishes like vegetables, gochujang, and meat. This dish still lives on today but it’s more commonly known as bibimbap. There’s a reason it’s lasted for so long: the combinations create an explosion of crisp, delicious flavors.

  • Sikhye (식혜): Sweet Rice Drink

Once considered a royal dessert, you now can get it at any H-mart or Korean grocery store. The recipe hasn’t changed much but it is readily available now. Sikhye is made from rice, pine nut, and barley malt. What makes it sikhye is the fact that it has rice grains in it if it didn’t then it would be considered gamju (감주). The rice grains makes the texture similar to arroz con leche. It’s a little sweet but the taste is deeper due to the barley.

The Joseon Era was full of foods like the famous full twelve-course king meal and a variety of different kimchi, salads, and soups. What is was your favorite from the list above? Anything you want to add? Tell us below.

Written by Stephanie Lemus

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