An Introduction to Korean Cooking

Korean cuisines offer a beautiful harmony of flavors and colors with equally healthy nutrition. It also represents the flexibility of Korean culture that welcomes collaborating with multiple. Their cuisine is an embodiment of engaging, connecting and developing wonders. 

From their fiery fermented Kimchi to the creamy Samgyetang soup and the ever-famous stir-fried noodles Japchae, there are several Korean delights to savor and enlighten your days. 

Owing to healthy ingredients and mastered culinary arts, many non-natives regularly eat Korean cuisines. However, spending at restaurants regularly to satisfy your taste buds is not always easy. 

Owing to healthy ingredients and mastered culinary arts, many non-natives regularly eat Korean cuisines. However, spending at restaurants regularly to satisfy your taste buds is not always easy. It costs time and money. Therefore, we highly recommend trying to make these delights yourself. Here is a complete guide on the introduction of Korean cooking at home in your very own kitchens! 

Korean Cooking 101: Things Every Beginner Should Know

You need to know Korean food culture to master the culinary skills of Korean cooking. From information on dish types to Korean kitchen essentials, we have enlisted everything you need to know on how to cook korean!

The Basics 

Korean cuisines utilize a wide range of culinary skills. We recommend starting with easy dishes. 

Korean meals, in general, always have a rice bowl. It is like the backbone of almost Korean food and culture. On some occasions, noodles can replace rice. However, for most of the part, Koreans consume a bowl of rice. You may look for some substitutes with a low carbohydrate content. 

Koreans always have a side dish with their main cuisines. Meats in Korean cuisines also marinate for a long time. It makes them tender.

As Koreans have perfected the art of preserving food over thousands of years, many side dishes are pickled, salted, or fermented. They are also spicy. Kimchi, Korea’s famous spicy cabbage, alone has over a hundred varieties of different vegetables, including some non-spicy types. Serve the Korean stews and soups hot (almost boiling) while keeping the side dishes at room temperature.

Serve your main dishes in the middle of a family table to enjoy the real Korean cuisine essence and experience. Use stainless steel chopsticks instead of forks and spoons. 

Side Dishes

Korean food has always been different from other Asian traditions. Its myriad of side dishes with the main course makes it stand out. The number of these side dishes can range anywhere from 2 to 12. As a beginner, we recommend trying the easiest ones before you hop onto main cuisines. If you regularly eat at Korean restaurants or food stalls, you would know that these side dishes are palatable combinations of vegetables and seafood prepared harmoniously with spices. Unlike western traditions, Korean delicacies are all served together in a tray, so there are no different course timings! 

The Little Things

Korean cuisines take the essence of little things to the core. All healthy ingredients like vegetables, meat, and poultry are in bite-sized pieces. It eliminates the need for a knife. It also makes eating with chopsticks a lot easier. Once you get adept with chopsticks, you will also be able to cut meat or grilled fish that is too large. However, till then, it is best to avoid such cases. 

Some Korean Culinary History

Korean kitchens have been affected widely by their geography, the climate of humid summers and cold winters, proximity to neighbors like China and Japan, and 1910 to 1945 Japanese occupation. Trading ties also had an impact as several new ingredients got introduced. It was during this time that several recipes developed harmoniously, like Kimchi.

Korean Kitchen Essentials: Spices and Ingredients

Although the Korean cuisines are diverse, the following are common spices and ingredients found in almost every Korean kitchen. We highly recommend getting these before you set out on trying any Korean recipe!

Essential Ingredients — Dried

  • Korean Chili Powder or Hot Pepper Flakes. Made with dried red chilies of Korea, this powder is used in multiple Korean cuisines. We recommend fine chili powder for making gochujang and coarse one for other Korean delights.
  • Sesame seeds(Roasted). Koreans use these seeds to garnish a dish. It adds warmth with a crunchy texture. Sprinkle it on your vegetable side dishes and dipping sauces. 
  • Ground Black Pepper: As Korean delights have tender meats, ground black pepper helps marinating. It also lets you get rid of the meat smell. 
  • Salt. Salt is essential in any cooking. Hence, make sure you have it in your store before you start! 
  • Sugar. Many people do not realize how Koreans use sugar in many of their cuisines. They balance out flavors to bring forth a harmonious delight. Sauces like soy sauce or gochujang are too salty and spicy: adding sugar or anything sweet gives a perfect blend. There are three types of sugar in Korea — white, yellow, and dark brown. We recommend liquid forms like corn or rice syrup. You may also use raw sugar as it’s the least processed.

Essential Ingredients — Liquids

  • Sesame oil. Sesame oil is an essential liquid ingredient of Korean kitchens. From side dishes to main cuisines like BBQ and dipping sauces, sesame seeds adorn your delight with a savory flavor and aroma.
  • Rice or Corn syrup. To give your delicious palatable Korean delights a sweet flavor and a shiny look, make sure you have rice or corn syrup. You may also use honey, malt syrup, or 100% pure maple syrups as substitutes depending on the recipe.
  • Korean Fish Sauce. This sauce helps accelerate fermentation processes. Therefore, you might need it for dishes like Kimchi
  • Soy sauce. When we say your Korean pantry lacks without it, we mean it.

Essential Ingredients — Grains and Noodles 

  • Short Grain White Rice. Not just any rice: you need short-grain white rice that are a typical species from Korea. The grains stick to each other once cooked with a slightly sweet taste and shiny look. You may go for Japanese Sushi rice as an alternative. 
  • Sweet potato noodles. You will need sweet potato noodles for Korean Japchae. These are highly nutritious as they are made of sweet potato starch. Usually, their packets come in large dried bundles that are hard to separate. Look out for pre-cut ones if available. 

Essential Ingredients — Vegetables 

Last but not least: Korean cuisines have multiple vegetables. The following are some vegetables that you must have in your pantry for Korean cooking! 

  • Chinese cabbage
  • Perilla leaves 
  • Garlic 
  • Ginger
  • Green onion or scallions
  • Daikon radish or White radish

Essential Ingredients — Paste

  • Chili or Hot Pepper Paste. With Gochujang being a very famous Korean condiment, this paste is essential without a saying. You will need it for soups, stews, side dishes, and marination. Go for ones with a subtle sweet taste. You can also make it yourself with Korean chili powder, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. 
  • Soybean Paste. You will need it for soups and stews. Many enjoy it as a dipping sauce as well as side dishes. 
  • Spicy Dipping Sauce. This sauce accompanies grilled Korean BBQ often. You require onions, sesame oil, chili paste, and soybean paste to make it at home. You may make a fancier version of it for dipping sauce or get one from a local store nearby.
  • Korean Black Bean Paste Sauce. If you are a fan of Jjajangbap or Jajangmyeon, make sure you have this sauce. You can also get black bean powder as an alternative if you like your dishes a bit dry. You need to cook the black bean paste before using it. It has a bitter taste otherwise.

The Takeaway

With our in-depth introduction to Korean cooking, make sure you try out with the most basic cuisines first. Level up your way eventually as you master the culinary skills and recipes of Korea. Treat your tastebuds without worrying about a budget now!

Do check the major aesthetics of a Korean Cuisine, and the myriad of recipes we offer for korean dishes.