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Kimchi and Korea

International Flavors: Asia and the Middle East


Questions taken from the introduction to The Korean Table by Taekyung Chung and Debra Samuels and Koreatown an article from Saveur magazine #46. Reader copies are located in the library office

  1. What is Kimchi?

Kimchi is a blanket term for Korean fermented vegetables. Not technically pickles because the vegetables often start off in a brine. There are two main types of kimchi, winter and summer. Winter kimchi can be made from a lot of different types of vegetables and ferment for varying lengths of time. Summer kimchi is lighter in taste and uses less red pepper paste; it also uses very little fermentation and can be ready overnight,


  1. What is tteokkbokki?

The author in The Korean Table called it the ultimate snack, but it is really a chewy rice cake stick simmered in a bath of sweet and spicy red sauce.


  1. What is the difference between Korean miso and Japanese miso? What is the Korean term for miso?

The Korean word for miso is doenjang. The main difference between Japanese miso and Korean miso is that it has a stronger flavor than the Japanese miso which is a combination of red and white miso. Korean miso is also made with a slightly different fermentation process and added ingredients that give it this distinct flavor.

  1. What are namul?

Namul is one of the at least five side dishs at most meals in Korea. It is savory vegetables not to be confused with Kimchi which is fermented vegetables.

  1. What are pan chan?

Pan Chan is another way to say/spell Banchan which is the Korean name for the side dishes that are served with every meal but to call them sides is a bit of misnomer because they are a central role in a Korean meal. Pan Chan normally comes out before the rest of the meal and literally means “side dishes to serve with rice”

  1. What would you consider to be Korea’s national dish?

With its popularity in Korean homes and with what the Saveur magazine author said I would say that Bi Bim Bap is the national dish. Bi Bim Bap is “mixed rice” or an assortment of rice mixed with vegetables, meat or seafood.

  1. What are the roots or origins of bibimbap?

Bi Bim Bap was a way for Korean people to use up left over bits of Pan Chan so that they had no waste and also a second meal in times when there may have been food shortages.

  1. Identify one similarity and one difference between American barbecue and Korean Barbecue.

Both American and Korean BBQ are done on a grill and are generally marinated before it is grilled. Granted in America you will see meat that is just tossed on the grill or it might also have a spice rub on it. In both countries BBQ help bring people together and creates a light hearted atmosphere with the people enjoying the BBQ.

The difference is what would be served with BBQ here in America as opposed to what is served with Korean BBQ. The Koreans would serve Pan Chan and other items would be put on the grill as well. These items could be grilled garlic, jalapenos, or even lettuce leaves stuffed with rice.

  1. Why are Korean jap chae noodles a good representation of Korean cuisine?

Because the combined aspects of the Chinese influence in the form of noodles and traditional values of the Korean people; Jap Chae is also one of the dish you would see a festival as in Korea noodles represent a long and happy life.


  1. True or false the wok is the most important piece of equipment in Korean cuisine? Briefly defend your answer.

False: the reason why I say this is because I would argue that the clay fermentation pots or even grills are more important than the wok. Think about Kimchi which is made in fermentation pots and how important Kimchi is to Korean cuisine and while some dishes are made in a wok EVERY meal is served with Kimchi.


  1. Why do you think Korea is considered “the least known great Asian cuisine in America”? (1 paragraph)

To be perfectly honest I don’t think Korean cuisine is the least known great Asian cuisine because Korean food is not unknown to me or a lot of my friends. I’ll be the first to say that it might not be as well know in the rest of the US because of first the laws letting only 20,000 Korean immigrants into the US each year, and second because Korean restaurants don’t want or don’t care to attract non Korean’s to them. The first time I went to a Korean restaurant I was the only American in the place and the wait staff hardly speaks English but this didn’t deter me from enjoying the food.  Maybe it is the type of food that is being served in a Korean restaurant that doesn’t appeal to typical American diners. This is not Chinese or Japanese food, both of which have taken off recently here in America, and I think that might not be to some peoples liking. I think more than the food it could be that we as Americans still hold a resentment to the Koreans because of the war and how devastating it was for both side. Regardless of the reason I think that as word of how great Korean cuisine is spreads we will see more and more Korean restaurants popping up all over the place.


  1. Why is Bibimbap a good representation of Korean culture and cuisine? Be specific and supply 3 points. Be prepared to discuss during the lecture component of the course.

Bibimbap is a great representation of Korean cuisine because it is a mixture of all the Ban/Pan Chan that is left over from the meal before or maybe even the current meal.

As the ingredients for Bibimbap are different in each town it can be a dish that represents just that part of Korea. The ingredients might be different because of what that area can produce that another area can’t

Another great reason why it represents Korean Culture so well is because Bibimbap is one of the most versatile dishes the Korean people have. This dish can have vegetables, meat, seafood, and almost always has a raw egg in it. As I said before this dish is so versatile that each and every part of Korea is going to make it a little bit differently, this makes it truly a dish of the Korean people.


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