Savoring Food from the Land of Ginseng

All kinds of local and most foreign food are available in major Indonesian cities, especially in Jakarta. This includes Korean food, and restaurants serving this food are usually located in areas with a large Korean population, such as Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, and in Lippo Village, Tangerang.

Korean restaurants can also be found in malls, where people of all backgrounds can taste this delicious food from the land of ginseng, as Korea is popularly known here.

So, what is specific about Korean food? It includes food for kings that is complicated to prepare as well as traditional and modern culinary. These days, a lot of Korean dishes are well known in many parts of the world, such as kimchi, galbi, bulgogi, hoe, makchang and gobchang. Kimchi is pickled mustard greens and is more often than not served as an accompaniment to a meal.

Photo by Vicky Ng on Unsplash

The staples of Korean food are rice, noodles and tofu. Koreans also love to eat meat and vegetables (banchan) accompanied by soup. Korean food usually contains sesame oil, doenjang, soy sauce, salt, garlic, ginger and chili sauce (gochujang). The Koreans are the world’s largest consumers of garlic, and eat much more of it than the Chinese, Thais, Japanese, Spanish, Italians and Greeks.

Korean food differs according to the season. In winter, Koreans consume kimchi and various vegetables that are covered with salt and preserved in large earthenware bowls.

Meanwhile, traditional food that used to be served in the palace during the Joseon dynasty takes hours to prepare as it has to possess a harmony and a contrasting character between hot and cold, spicy and mild, hard and soft, solid and liquid as well as a balance in the colors.

Koreans eat their meal sitting cross legged on cushions at low tables. They use chopsticks and long spoons, both of which are called sujeo. Unlike chopstick users from other countries, the Koreans started using spoons in the fifth century.

When eating, unlike the Chinese or the Japanese, Koreans may not lift the soup or rice bowls from the table, and they eat using the spoons. Banchan, which is served in small bowls, is consumed with chopsticks. In public places, such as restaurants, Koreans drink water or barley tea. Another popular drink is soju, which is alcohol made from fermented rice or wheat or potatoes.

Of course, when eating a Korean meal, non-Koreans do not have to follow their eating customs rigidly. Some restaurants serve Korean food Western style, and some even sell fast food. In Muslim areas pork is not on the menu and beef is served instead. A very popular Korean dish is bibimbap, which is rice mixed with various vegetables, beef, egg and gochujang.

Another dish is yukhoe bibimbap, which is raw beef and raw egg bibimbap. There is another kind of bibimbap that is served on a hot stone griddle.

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