What comes to your mind first when traveling in unfamiliar places overseas? A historic church? A mystic temple? Grandiose Mother Nature? New people? Relaxation?

There is a Korean proverb that says, “Even Mount Geumgang can be appreciated only on a full stomach”, equivalent of the English proverb “A loaf of bread is better than the song of many birds”.

This means a traveler must eat well and be healthy however fabulous the trip may be. If you’ve tasted cheese and wine in France, sushi in Japan and rice noodles in Vietnam. You could then have intimate and profound understanding of each country’s culture, history, people and the atmosphere.

49% of foreigners who visited Korea cited ‘Korean food tasting’ as the reason for coming to Korea, and as much as 50% of foreigners who developed emotional bond with Korea said ‘Korean food’ comes to their mind first when thinking of Korea.

According to a survey conducted by Friendly Korea Community, which is run by the cyber diplomatic organization VANK where foreigners who love Korea and Koreans build friendship, Korean food was also cited as Korea’s greatest appeal by 40% of respondents.

As such, Korean food is not just a mere tourism resource and an export item but is Korea’s greatest tourism resource with the biggest charm for the world to enjoy. Now, why don’t we embark on an exciting journey of Korean food, which will help you understand Korea’s history, culture and people better?

Distinguishing features of Hansik(Korean Food)
Korean food is well known to the world as food that is decorative, delicious and, above all, healthy. The first feature of Korean food – Medicine and food share the same origin. There is a long-held belief by Koreans that ‘Medicine’ and ‘Food’ share the same origin. This is a traditional belief in great medicinal values of food when consumed carefully by physical constitution and health status, which places health above all others. As Korean food began to be received as healthy food, there is a growing number of hospitals in the U.S. that serve Korean food to patients.

The second feature of Korean food – Balanced food ingredients. The secret of Korean food in preventing nutritional imbalance and obesity lies in the ingredient mixing ratio. Meat and vegetables used in the traditional Korean food are 2 to 8 ratio-wise.

The third feature of Korean food – In harmony with the Nature. Koreans think that food can connect people with the Nature. Therefore, Korean food is distinctive in that it is cooked to preserve the taste of each ingredient that comes from the Nature.

Namul(Seasoned greens), Korea’s favorite side dish, are made by simply mixing fresh vegetables with dressing or parboiling greens to be seasoned afterwards. In this way, flavor of each ingredient can be preserved to offer taste of the Nature as much as possible.

The fourth feature of Korean food – Food embracing Yin-Yang and the five elements of Eastern philosophy. Consuming food was not just for taking nutrition for Koreans since early times. Korea has fostered a unique culture of food, which reflects the theory of Yin-Yang and the five elements that serves as a corner stone of Eastern philosophy.

The theory divides all things in the universe into Yin and Yang. In Korea, plants taking roots in the ground are categorized as ‘Yin’ while plants bearing fruits above the ground, animals and fish fall into the category of ‘Yang’. Moreover, the five elements are earth, water, wood, metal and fire according to a theory that says all things in the universe are made up of these elements in balance. This is why various researchers at home and abroad study Korean food with huge interests since it encompasses health, balance, harmony with the Nature and Eastern philosophy.

Representative Korean food 1 – Bibimbap or ‘mixed rice’ in its literal meaning. One of representative Korean food that embodies the theory of Yin-Yang and the five elements the best would obviously be Bibimbap. Ingredients of Bibimbap are rice, Korean hot pepper paste, seasoned greens using dropwort, bean sprouts and brackens as well as minced raw beef and eggs, which have a perfect balance of Yin and Yang. Bibimbap is also decorated using five colors symbolizing the five elements with yellow in the center while blue in the east, white in the west, red in the south and black in the north. Bibimbap was chosen as the world’s best in-flight meal in 1996 and 1998, receiving ITCA Mecury Award.

Representative Korean food 2 – Kimchi
Kimchi has as many varieties as French cheese and is a dish representing Korea. Its varieties well exceed 100 in number. Kimchi is unique in that it goes through fermentation after seasoning its main ingredients, mostly vegetables such as napa cabbages, cucumbers and radishes, with spices including salt, garlic, leeks, ginger, red pepper and salted fish. Kimchi goes well with other ingredients and thus is used much in other dishes such as Kimchi stew, Kimchi Gimbap or dried seaweed rolls, Kimchi fried rice and other steamed dishes. 
[Subtitle: Kimchi stew, Kimchi Gimbap or dried seaweed rolls, Kimchi fired rice and other steamed dishes]
[Codex of CAC that sets global standards in food acknowledged Kimchi as having satisfied the global standard on July 5, 2001.]
[The American health-related monthly magazine 'Health Magazine' included Kimchi in the top five healthy foods the world over.]
[CNBC NEW reported in April of 2010 that lactobacilli found in Kimchi proved to be effective in treating atopic dermatitis.]

Representative Korean food 3 – Bulgogi or marinated Korean BBQ
Bulgogi is also known as Korean BBQ in the world, which is as famous as Kimchi and Bibimbap. Bulgogi is often grilled at the table. The unique way of enjoying Bulgogi by wrapping the meat with greens is cited as the most interesting experience of tasting Korean food for foreigners. There are diverse Bulgogi varieties in Korea by region and background.

Tasting Korean food

The cyber diplomatic mission VANK has been promoting not only the history and culture of the Republic of Korea but also its food culture to the world. In a campaign aiming to globalize Korean food, VANK has been introducing diverse Korean food and local specialties to foreigners so that foreigners could find Korean food agreeable and palatable.

If you want to present Korean food to the world and have real taste of Korean food, then please refer to the website of the cyber diplomatic mission VANK


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