Savoring Food from the Land of Ginseng

Koreans have many kinds of noodles. One of them is naengmyeon, which is a specific noodle of Pyeongyang that is consumed during summer. The noodles are mostly the thin type and served with beef, gravy, various spices, vegetables and boiled egg. This kind of naengmyeon is called mul naengmyeon or watery naengmyeon to differentiate from bibim naengmyeon, which has no gravy but is mixed with spicy gochujang and is cooked on sticks like satay. Meanwhile, mulhoe naengmyeon is seafood naengmyeon.

Ramyeon are Korean noodles that are slightly different from Japanese ramen. Ramyeon can also mean instant noodles sold in packets. It is usually cooked in spicy gravy with vegetables, meat or kimchi.

Meanwhile, the most popular soups or food with gravy are budae jjigae, doenjang jjigae, cheonggukjang jjigae, gamjatang, haejangguk, janchi guksu, jeongol, kimchi jjigae, samgyetang and seolleongtang.

Samgyetang is unique as this soup is made from a whole chicken stuffed with ginseng, hedysarum, sweet rice, jojoba, garlic and gingko nuts. It is served in summer. Also unique is kimchi jjigae, which is soup containing kimchi, pork or beef. It is often served piping hot for lunch on a hot stone griddle.

Koreans also love meat. So in restaurants, including traditional ones, meat is grilled on the table and accompanied by various banchan. The meat is then cut into small pieces and wrapped in leaves with rice, slices of garlic and ssamjang, which is a mixture of gochujang and doenjang.

One of the popular grilled meat dishes is bulgogi, which literally means fire meat. This is made from beef that is grilled with sweet soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, onion and black pepper. Other meat used is pork (dwaeji-bulgogi), chicken or squid (ojingeo-bulgogi).

Galbi is spiced pork or beef ribs grilled with charcoal. It is cut thinner than bulgogi and is often referred to as the Korean barbecue. A chicken version is also available (dakgalbi) and jokbal, which is pork leg, and is served with a salty sauce.

Hoe is raw seafood that is dipped in hot chili sauce (gochujang) or savory soy sauce containing wasabi and served with salad leaves. The most favorite sannakji is live octopus, which is eaten raw and is still moving when served.

Makchang is grilled pork innards served like samgyeopsal and galbi. This dish is typical of Daegu and Gyeongsang provinces, while gobchang is the same as makchang, but the innards are from piglet or calf. Enjoy your Korean dinner! (Burhan Abe)

The Jakarta Post, October 28, 2009

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