Korean cuisine is the traditional food of Korea and for millions of Koreans overseas. From the complex rituals of the Korean royal court cuisine to the food of the inland cities like Seoul and the port cities of Incheon and Busan, the cuisine is varied, fascinating, and becoming internationally popular.
Korean cuisine is exotic; it derives its flavors and tastes from various combinations of sesame oil, soybean paste, soy sauce, salt, garlic, ginger and, most importantly, chili pepper, which gives it its distinctive spicy taste. In fact, Korea is the largest consumer of garlic, beating out Italy. The types of food vary seasonally and relies much on pickled vegetables which are preserved throughout the year.
As had by most Koreans, it is based largely on rice, vegetables, fish, and tofu. Typical Korean meals are named for the number of side dishes (banchan) that accompany the ubiquitous rice, soup, and kimchi (fermented vegetable). Banchan dishes are intended to be finished at each meal, so it is small in proportion and replenished as they are consumed. The types and number of banchans may vary by restaurants but the servings are always ample.
The prominent feature of a Korean table setting is that all dishes are served at the same time and table arrangements can vary depending on the main dish served. All meals are normally eaten with a set of chopsticks and a spoon. The presentation of a Korean meal is almost as important as the taste.
A typical table setting consists of:
- A personal bowl of rice, placed in either stainless steel or ceramic based bowl, usually with a cover to keep the rice warm
- A small, personal bowl of hot soup (depending on the meal)
- A personal set of chopsticks for eating the side dishes
- A spoon for rice and soup
- Various small bowls of shared bite-sized side dishes (banchan)
- A main dish (meat/stew/soup/seafood)