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KOREA

breakfast and lunch, but generally speaking, every meal is centered on plain boiled rice (pap), soup (bouillon-like kuk or a more hearty t’ang), and pickled vegetables (kim- chi). Side dishes (panch’an) extend this core, and their number depends on the occasion. Three to five side dishes are the norm in contemporary households.

greens (namul, pokku

dishes, complemented by grilled dishes (kui or sanjo

Stews (tchigae, tchim, cho˘n’gol) and soused or sautéed ˘m) constitute the majority of side

˘k)

˘lo˘ngt’ang), and mixed rice (pibimbap) are served in a sim- ilar fashion, with small portions of greens and pickles on the side.

made of seafood, beef, pork, or chicken. Stews tend to acquire the position of a semi-main dish, as does pulgogi, turning into a center of the meal accompanied by a bowl of rice, smaller panch’an, and dipping sauces. Big-bowl dishes such as fried rice (pokku˘mbap), beef soup with rice

(so

Rice boiled or steamed with beans, other grains, or vegetables may be served instead of plain boiled rice. A variety of wheat and buckwheat noodles (kuksu) also fre- quently appear on the Korean table. Noodles are usually served in soupy liquids, while stuffed dumplings (mandu) can be either steamed, panfried, or simmered in soups (manduguk). Noodles and dumplings are popular lunch dishes. Flavored rice porridges (chuk) are less common- place than rice, noodles, and dumplings, but still retain a notable place in Korean cuisine.

Chili pepper, sesame (seed and oil), garlic, and spring onions, along with soy sauce (kanjang), soybean paste (toenjang), and red bean paste (koch’ujang) constitute what might be called a Korean “flavoring principle.” The com- bination of all or a selection of these ingredients gives Korean dishes their characteristic taste. Ginger, semi- sweet rice wine (ch’o˘ngju), and honey or sugar are the other crucial components of the Korean flavor.

Kimchi

Pickled vegetables, generally referred to by the name of kimchi, are the most basic, indispensable element of every Korean meal. Neither a feast nor a most meager fare would be complete without it. For centuries kimchi was the sole side dish to accompany the staple of Korea’s poor, whether it was barley, millet, or, for the fortunate few, rice. It was also a fundamental meal component in affluent households. Three kinds of kimchi were always served, regardless of how many side dishes were to ap- pear on the table. To a contemporary Korean, rice and kimchi are the defining elements of a minimal acceptable meal. Yet, it is kimchi, not rice, that is regarded as the symbol of Korean culture.

There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi. Every re- gion, village, and even family used to cherish its own spe- cial recipe, applying slightly different preparation methods and using slightly different ingredients. Napa cabbage (Brassica chinensis or Brassica pekinensis) made into paech’u kimchi is the most common type, followed by

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FOOD AND CULTURE

The Table Setting

With a few exceptions, all components of the meal are on the table at one time. A set of a spoon and metal chop- sticks is used while eating. Rice, soup, and other liquids are eaten with the former, side dishes with the latter. Soup and rice are served in individual bowls, but side dishes are often shared by more than one diner. Nowa- days, bowls are usually made of stoneware, steel, or plas- tic, but for special occasions white porcelain tableware is used. In the past, the upper classes dined from brass bowls in the winter and porcelain ones during the hot summer months. A silver set of chopsticks and a spoon was con- sidered most elegant. Less affluent sections of the popu- lation generally dined from earthenware, using wooden chopsticks and spoons. According to Korean etiquette, it is considered inelegant to lift bowls from the table. They stay on the table during the entire meal, unlike in the rest of East Asia, where it is customary to lift bowls up to the mouth while eating.

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radishes (Raphanus sativus) made into kkaktugi kimchi. Ba- sically, vegetables are placed for several hours in brine, washed with fresh water, and drained. Then, flavorings such as ginger, chili pepper, spring onions, garlic, and raw or fermented seafood are added, and the mixture is packed into pickling crocks and allowed to age.

Since the 1960s, when factory-made kimchi appeared on the market for the first time, the number of urban families who continue to make their own kimchi has grad- ually diminished. With the rising consumption of meat and seafood, and the popularization of Western-style food, the quantity of kimchi consumed by Koreans has declined as well. An average Korean consumes approxi- mately forty pounds of kimchi on a yearly basis.

Yet, kimchi is still considered to be the most impor- tant element of the Korean meal and quintessentially Ko- rean by Koreans and foreigners alike. Despite this cultural symbolism, kimchi has evolved relatively recently to the form we know today. The so-called “white kim- chi”(paek kimchi), which is still popular in the early twenty-first century, resembles most closely the original version.

The addition of chili pepper came about in the mid- eighteenth century and gave kimchi its characteristic red color and pungent taste. Fermented seafood (cho˘tkal), which has been included in the pickling from the late nineteenth century onward, not only enriched the taste of kimchi, but also increased its regional diversity. While at the end of the seventeenth century only eleven types of kimchi were classified, the regional variety of cho˘tkal (some regions use shellfish, others anchovies or other kinds of fish) contributed to the development of several hundred varieties of kimchi. The type of vegetables that are pickled also changed. Gourd melon, cucumber, and eggplant have been used since ancient times; today napa cabbage and radish are the most common varieties. 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