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Friday, 3 April 2015

WOW KOREA! (PART-IV)

In the last three posts of the Wow Korea! series,I shared with you some interesting facts and trivia about Korea which I bet you didn't know and later I went on to write about Korea's finest cultural heritage sites approved by UNESCO that for a tourist could prove to be useful for sight-seeing purposes or add to our knowledge about Korea's civilization and culture. And just last week I lapped it up with the colorful festivals of Korea! (Click here to read - Part-I, Part-II, Part-III)


Now if you read this quote below...you would get a cue about the topic of this week's post!

Food is not rational,Food is culture, habit, craving and identity. ~ Jonathan Safran Foer

If food is your best friend,then as a traveler you will always be in the company of good food wherever you go! The unique spices,flavor and aroma of each country blends with the senses and draws you towards them...as though saying,"Come on you gotta try me once or this journey of yours would be incomplete"! And if you are a true foodie...then there's nothing you can do to resist but give into many of these delicious delights!

As a Wow Korea Supporter of 2015,in this week's e-tour of Korea I am on a journey to discover the cravings for the soul...good,food and just food! And since I am e-stationed in Korea,I dig up some of the finest cuisines,desserts and street foods that Korea has to offer!

Though I may not have had a chance to try out some of these exotic dishes...but the images looked irresistibly tempting and preparations seemed so elaborate and exquisite,that my mouth started watering! Imagine...I am here typing it for you while some of you who are in Korea at the moment or plan to visit sometime soon could actually enjoy some of these delectable cuisines if only you happen to be reading my post at this moment! :)

(Oh and by the way this list is customized and personalized catering to my taste buds since I do not take red meat or pork.Thus I shall mainly be focusing on chicken and sea food based cuisines that Korea has to offer!)

So then let's get started with this sumptuous post with ten such dishes,street foods and desserts...

1. Kimchi-This dish naturally comes first on my list because it is Korea's national dish! Often described as spicy and sour by those who have tasted it,this dish is prepared with fermented vegetables like napa cabbage, cucumber,Korean radish with seasonings like brine,scallions, ginger, garlic,fish sauce, shrimp sauce and chilly pepper.In a traditional preparation,Kimchi is generally allowed to ferment in jars for months and is categorized by main ingredients,regions and seasons!Did you know, there are 187 varieties of Kimchi alone that is documented by the Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul!As for the health benefits-Kimchi made it to the list of top five "World's Healthiest Foods" by a health magazine for being rich in vitamins,aiding digestion and even possibly reducing cancer growth.By the way...did you know,there's also a Kimchi stew? You could try that out too!

2. Yangnyeom Tongdak (Seasoned Fried Chicken)-This dish is touted as Korea's answer to America's KFC and better still many even calling it Korean Fried Chicken! Naturally, any dish that attempts a KFC gets my attention! The preparation of Yangnyeom Tongdak differs from America's KFC as it is fried twice which makes it more crunchier and less oily.Instead of crags and crusty nubs that are used as seasonings in America's Kentucky Fried Chicken,the Korean style chicken uses spices,sugar and salt before and after being fried.Enjoyed as a fast-food,meal or even an after meal snack,Korea's KFC is served with pickled radishes,beer and soju(Korea's most popular alcoholic beverage) at restaurants and bars in Korea.


3. Samgyetang-The description of this dish is hidden in the name itself! [In]"sam" means ginseng, "gye" is chicken and "tang" is soup. This is Korea's Ginseng Chicken soup! The Koreans believe in "fighting heat with heat", thus this piping hot aromatic glutinous soup consisting of whole stuffed chicken which is garnished with garlic, rice, scallion, spices, jujube and ginseng is enjoyed during hot summer days.In fact, there are many specialty restaurants in Korea that serve nothing but Samgyetang!Served as a side dish along with a complimentary bottle of insamju (ginseng wine) in restaurants,this dish has gained local popularity because their recipes are often kept as a secret! This chicken soup is widely popular and especially enjoyed during the three days of the lunar calendar namely,Chobok,Jungbok and Malbok because they are the three hottest days of Korea. It is also believed that the Samgyetang soup if had three times during this period is even beneficial for health.


4. Agujjim/ Agwijjim-Translated in English as braised spicy angler(fish),this seafood dish is flavored with chilly powder,chilly paste,pepper powder, doenjang (bean paste),ganjang (soy sauce),fine garlic, scallions, kongnamul(soybean sprouts) and other such ingredients that lend it a hot and spicy taste.The angler fish is white, firm, meaty and filling,thus it is also known as the "beef of the sea".This bright reddish color dish of anglerfish is braised on a bed of dropwort tart and crunchy bean sprouts and is usually enjoyed with Soju.The Agujjim which has a rich taste and an edible chewy texture is also good source of Protein!


5.Haemul Pajeon-"Haemul" means seafood whereas "Pajeon" means Pa is pan-fried battered food and jeon is green/spring onions.This crunchy and filling Korean seafood pancake is laced with squid, shrimp,mussels,oysters,clams,cuttlefish and miscellaneous varieties of seafood that make the Haemul Pajeon.It is an all time favorite snack and much loved appetizer by all Koreans that is commonly shared on the table with family and friends.In fact on a recent trip to the States,the first lady of Korea,Kim Yoon-ok engaged in a ‘culinary diplomacy’ when she cooked the Haemul Pajeon for the American veterans of the Korean war and their families in New York.


6.Japchae- Japchae in literal term means "a mixture of vegetables".A food invented in the early 17th century of the Joseon Dynasty by King Gwanghaegun's chef in order to please His Majesty's palate when he was hosting a grand party at his palace has traveled many centuries and gone on to become one of the most popular Korean dishes both inside and outside of Korea.Japchae is a dish made from dangmyeon (sweet potato noodles) and stir fried in sesame oil with an assortment of thinly sliced seasonal vegetables like carrots, spinach,onion and mushrooms so that they retain all their flavor. It is seasoned with soy sauce and sweetened sugar with a garnishing of slivers of chilly and sesame seeds can be enjoyed hot as well as cold.Though it is considered as both a side and main dish,the Japchae is served on a bed of rice and is prepared during special occasions and in Korean parties as well. Interestingly,originally the japchae was made without noodles but today they are an important element of the dish!


7. Tteok (Rice Cake)-These cakes that are made by steaming powdered rice with beans and pounding boiled rice into different shapes are often mixed with other grains, nuts, herbs and fruits such as red bean,soya bean,mugwort,jujube and chestnut.Tteok are not only eaten as a part of a meal but are also served during special family or festive occasions such as birthdays,wedding receptions,traditional holidays or even at memorial services.The Tteok or the Korean rice cakes were (and even today) assigned different symbolic meanings in the times gone by and were had according to those meanings.For instance-Baekseolgi (white steamed rice cakes) were had on the first birthday of a child that symbolized longevity then Patsirutteok (steamed red bean and rice cake) was had at the start of a new business where in the color red signified keeping evil forces at bay. New Year's Day is celebrated with  tteokguk - that consists of a broth with rice flakes and on Chuseok, the 15th day of the eight Lunar month, it is with Songpyeon-half moon shaped rice cakes stuffed with chestnut, soyabean/sesame mixture and honey. 


8.Tteokbokki/Ddeokbokki-The centuries old Tteokbokki that has been a part of the Korean royal court cuisine since the Joseon dynasty is in such great demand among the Korean people today that from a street food culture it is seen to be a thriving market with big business potential.And this has given rise to a chain of food franchise,food courts, outlets,brands and restaurants since 2009. Today efforts are also on by the Korean government to globalize this dish!This popular street-food snack that's prepared from steamed and sliced rice cakes (tteok),fish cakes(oden) and spring onions in a sweet and spicy red chilly sauce even has a complete town in Seoul just dedicated to it! So the next time you are walking on the streets of Seoul,don't forget to ask a street vendor for a Tteokbokki!


9. Hotteok/Hoeddeok -The hotteok is a Korean pancake that's prepared with a dough of wheat flour,milk, sugar water, yeast and a filling of a sweet mixture containing honey, brown sugar, walnuts and cinnamon that is fried in  a lightly oiled pan until the filling has melted into a syrup. This popular street food and sweet meat of Korea that is generally enjoyed during the winter season is believed to have originated from Chinese merchants who immigrated to Korea during the late 19th century. However the Korean Hotteok varies greatly from their Chinese counterparts.While the Chinese pancakes contain spicy meat fillings whereas the Korean pancakes have sweet fillings to cater to their taste buds.


10.Kkultarae-Did you know that Kkultarae,a royal Korean snack is spun out of honey and maltose kneaded together to make this 16,000 strands of this dragon beard candy! And these thin,white yarns of glossy silk are then filled with a mixture consisting of chocolates,almonds,walnuts pine nuts, peanuts,black beans and black sesame seeds that are rolled into them.Did you also know that a box of 10 kkultaraes costs a whopping 5,000 Won!It is widely believed that after gaining popularity in China,this unique dessert was in fact imported into Korea in the late 90's.It is indeed quite fascinating to watch this candy being made because come to think of it,this is in itself a work of art! 


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So,here were ten such yummy and mouth-watering Korean dishes,street foods and desserts that I discovered in randomness and I'm sure there's so much more! 

Here's some food glossary that you as a tourist in Korea ought to know...take a look!
(Psst...even I am learning them,who knows tomorrow I might be visiting Korea too!)

Banchan - side dishes
Bokbunjaju - raspberry wine
Bulgogi - grilled marinated beef
Cha - tea
Dak - chicken
Ganjang - soy sauce
Gejang - shelled crabs salted in soy sauce
Guk - soup
Hanjeongsik - a full-course Korean meal with an array of savory side dishes
Hobakjuk - pumpkin porridge
Naengmyeon - cold noodles, typically made of buckwheat
Ramyeon - Ramen noodles
Sikhye - sweet rice punch
Topokki - stir-fried rice cake
Twigim - fried dishes

When you are globe-trotting,there's never a dearth of good food because the confluence of different cultures lend their own unique flavor to their cuisines as well! And here's Korea for you! I do hope you enjoyed this post on my virtual food tourism of Korea!
Regards,
Sonaal

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