Friday, June 03, 2011

What is Korean Food?

The Korean is very serious and totally irrational about Korean food. He does not want any of the so-called "globalization" of Korean food that Korean government is pushing nowadays, because it will inevitably lead to vile bastardization of the food. (Like bibimbap with guacamole, for example.)

The objection to this view is consistent, and actually makes a lot of sense. It goes: "What can be defined as 'Korean food'? Kimchi is such a big deal in Korean food, but the current form of kimchi did not happen in Korea until the 16th century. What about kalguksu, which did not exist in Korea until the Americans brought in flour after World War II? Is that Korean food? If there can be no meaningful cutoff point as to what counts as Korean food, how can you say anything about 'bastardization'?"

To address this point, it is important to figure out the answer to the first question: Just what counts as "Korean food"? The Korean's favorite Korean food blog is 악식가의 미식일기, and Mr. Hwang Gyo-Ik who writes the blog has the best answer that the Korean has seen so far. It is a bit long, but Mr. Hwang's insight is hugely valuable if you consider yourself a food person. Below is the translation.

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To Globalize Korean Food

Globalization of Korean food is the topic du jour in the restaurant business. The government is also actively developing policies for the globalization of Korean food. The first lady reportedly is taking an advisory role to this project. The government also established the "tteokbokki lab" to "improve" tteokbokki, which apparently is the prime candidate for globalization among Korean food. Surely it is expecting that Korean food would play a role in improving the value of Korea's national brand.

Any Korean would welcome the government's effort to enhance the national image by inviting the world to enjoy our food culture. As for myself who had been making a living around Korea's food culture for 20 years,  I am feeling thankful that the government is actively promoting policies in an area that was considered lower compared to other culture.

But there is a need to account for the definition and scope of just what is the Korean food that the government plans to globalize, and clarify the objects for globalization. This is because after having attended a number of events related to Korean food's globalization, I am experiencing a great deal of confusion -- the kind of confusion that is caused when shinseonro, the symbol of Joseon Dynasty's royal cuisine, and tteokbokki, the people's food developed in the 1960s, were placed side by side.

Shinseonro. The Korean has never once eaten this.
(The OP does not have any pictures; all pictures are the Korean's additions.)

(More after the jump.)

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at

Is all food consumed by Koreans Korean food?

Korea Advanced Food Research Institute and Yonsei University, which had been commissioned by the government to issue a research report titled "Visions and strategies of Korean food's globalization and Korean food's marketing model," define "Korean food" as following:

"The food that: (1) is created by utilizing the food ingredients that had been traditionally used in Korea and similar ingredients, (2) is created by cooking with Korea's own methods or similar methods; (3) has Korean people's historical and cultural characteristics, and; (4) is invented, developed and inherited in accordance with Korean people's living environment."

This may be an excellent scholarly definition. But the problem is that if one applied this definition to each dish that today's Korean people eat, there is no food that is not Korean food. "Food ingredient" means the meat and plants that can be obtained in nature that do not cause death or illness after consuming. In other words, "the food ingredients that had been traditionally used in Korea and similar ingredients" might as well mean "all food ingredients." If one points out that caviar is not a Korean food ingredient, for example, we could retort that Koreans have traditionally used similar ingredients, i.e. fish roe.

The same goes for "created by cooking with Korea's own methods or similar methods." Cooking methods include cutting, pickling, boiling, blanching, roasting, steaming, reducing, simmering, fermenting, etc. Looking at the world's food cultures, these cooking methods are globally similar. It would be fair to say that for thousands of years since humans discovered the use of tools and fire, people of the world have been cooking in approximately similar manners.

The last requirements, "has Korean people's historical and cultural characteristics" and "is invented, developed and inherited in accordance with Korean people's living environment," show that Korean food has a spiritual/cultural component to it. In fact, this spiritual/cultural element may play the most important role in defining Korean food. An example of the historical/cultural characteristic could be the "clash of flavors" exemplified by the mixture of rice and several side dishes or a wrap involving meat and vegetables. It could be the "manners" in which the meal begins only after the elders pick up their spoon; it could also be "table culture" in which a group of people sit around and enjoy the food together. But the limit of this approach is that Korean people's historical/cultural characteristics are varied, dualistic and often clashing in a confusing manner.

Then, just what is Korean food? Is Korean food something that can feature the whole world's ingredient, the whole world's cooking methods, and at once the genteel table setting of a Joseon Dynasty nobleman and a rowdy festival of roasted pork grilled on the table? In fact, this confusion is not confined to myself. For the last year, I had been asking everyone who is involved in Korea's food culture -- "What is Korean food?" A hundred people gave a hundred different answers. Actually, a hundred people gave forty different answers -- about 60 percent of the people thought out loud for a bit, then could not settle on an answer. Among the answers, the most common was "fermented food." Other answers included: "food with rice and side dishes"; "food with rituals"; "food with merriment"; "instantly cooked food" (addressing table top barbecue); "healthy food", etc.

What do you think Korean food is? We all eat Korean food three times a day, but defining the idea is tremendously difficult. Three times a day -- this is actually the precise reason why the defining the scope of Korean food is so difficult. The spectrum of Korean food is just that broad. It is an undefinable chaos.

This confusion arises from treating Korean food as some type of cooked dish. The researchers for traditional Korean food usually consider Joseon Dynasty's dishes as Korean food; they re-create the dishes and study the variation and improvement of such dishes. So they give a show of shinseonro [TK: hot pot], gujeolpan [TK: special plate setting with various vegetables], domijjim [TK: steamed red snapper] and tell the people, "This is Korean food." But they are the kinds of food that are rarely eaten by Koreans, either at home or at a restaurant. All Koreans do with such dishes is to look at (not eat!) them at an event like "traditional food exhibition," and think to themselves, "So this is what traditional Korean food looks like."

Gujeolpan. Never tried this either.

Such confusion is the same for foreign tourists. I often hear from foreign visitors that they discovered there were very few places where they could try the dishes featured in Daejanggeum [TK: Korean drama about the royal cook during the Joseon Dynasty] only after actually visiting Korea. On the other hand, doubt may arise as to the common Korean food of today that did not exist in the Joseon era, such as samgyeopsal [TK: roasted pork belly], gimbap [TK: rice/seaweed roll], gamjatang [TK: spicy pork and potato soup], budaejjigae [TK: spicy stew with kimchi and spam].

The only unchanging axiom is: "Everything changes." Food is not an exception. As new ingredients get introduced, as cooking tools change, as lifestyles change, as appetites change, as the climate changes, food changes also. It is incorrect to think that today's French cuisine, or Japanese sushi, or Thai rice noodles were the same form and flavor hundred, two hundred, three hundred years ago. It is silly to think that Korean food of the 21st century must be the same as Joseon's food.

So let us revert to the first question: what is Korean food? In fact, humans -- Korean or not -- are generally satisfied as long as the food is tasty, nutritious and not dangerous. In other words, there is no reason why the food consumed by Korean people has to be "Korean" food, nor is there any reason for foreigners to eat such food while telling themselves, "This is Korean food." If Italian olive oil is healthier than Korean pea oil, Koreans will choose the olive oil. If American dry-aged steak is tastier than Korean bulgogi, Koreans will cook the steak even if they are given Korean beef. The choice, cooking and consumption of food ingredients is more often determined by human instincts rather than Korean people's national identity.

How to secure the identity of Korean food

Then why bother with defining Korean food and set the scope? Why not eat and enjoy any ingredient, any cooking method, with any historical/cultural characteristic, as long as the food is delicious, nutritious and not dangerous?

Usually to define and set a scope for something is in order to utilize that something for a purpose. That is, it is to utilize Korean food beyond the purposes of eating and enjoying; it is about creating a cultural product to export. It is a type of branding strategy -- establish the dishes that have a Korean identity, have such dished to be consumed by non-Koreans, and in the process lead them to understand and like Korea such that they will further consume Korean products, not simply Korean food.

Therefore, the first order of business to globalize Korean food is to establish the dishes that hold Korean identity. But we already noted that this is a confusing process, and that the confusion arises from the mistaken idea that food does not change. Then just what is the dish that holds Korean identity?

For globalization of Korean food, we often examine other cuisines that we consider globalized, such as French, Italian or Japanese. We usually encounter these "globalized" food in a restaurant. In a space in which we could feel the national image of each country, we eat their food and ponder about how to present Korean food. So we think about the restaurant's interior, the presentation style of the food and the flavor. Of course, this level of thought is necessary. But this method of research clouds us from the core question. The rightful beginning of this inquiry should be figuring out the identity of each country's food -- why is French cuisine French? Why is Italian food Italian? Why is Japanese food Japanese? Answering these questions would naturally bring the answer to the question about Korean food's identity.

Then let us try to reason how the identity of such cuisines are established. Take French food, for example. Where does the French food's identity --  recognized to be French food by not only the French people but also everyone in the world -- originate? Cooking methods? Presentation style? Eating methods? Restaurant interior? These are but the supplementary factors that aid the identity establishment. The most important core that forms the identity is the food ingredient of France which constitutes the food. We call something French food because the food is made with the wheat that grew in France, the cow that fed on the wheat, the cheese and butter made with the cow's milk, the olive oil and wine made by olives and grapes grown in Southern France, various herbs commonly grown in France, etc. Even if a France-produced ingredient is not used, we would at least require the ingredients that taste similar to French ingredients -- the "French-style ingredients" -- in order to consider something French cuisine. To explain how French cuisine tastes, a French chef would begin with the foodstuff produced out of France. The same applies to Italian food, Japanese food, etc.

This is how Korean food identity issue should be resolved as well. In other words, the core of the identity that makes a food a Korean food is the food ingredient that is only available in Korea or tastes the best when produced in Korea.

But I cannot shake the feeling that our efforts to globalize Korean food is quite far removed the identity of Korean food. We consider a chef who used to cook Western food in a foreign hotel chain could globalize Korean food, and we try to re-create Joseon's food and publicize the recipe to foreigners. We even consider a fried chicken franchise to be a pioneer of the globalization of Korean food. All these things are the runs into dead ends while searching for the identity of Korean food.

Collecting the information about and the value of Korea's food ingredient comes first

As a food columnist, I have been covering Korea's farming and fishing products, the local cuisine, restaurant food, etc. It has been many more than a few times when I felt disappointed -- nay, despaired -- that the people in the food business are totally ignorant about the farming and fishing products of Korea. The young chefs study abroad the learn about the Western ingredients and cooking methods, but not even Korean restaurant chefs care much about what foodstuff our land produces, how different they are depending on the locale, how different they taste depending on the season.

It is a huge mistake to think that they can simply go to the market and pick out something fresh and delicious. The foodstuff readily available at markets frequented by most chefs carry less than one-tenth of the food ingredients available in Korea, because the ingredients that do not attract mass consumption do not reach the markets of the cities. Among the plants that grow in Korea, more than 1,000 types are edible. Their flavor and nutritional values frequently exceeds the herbs used in Western cuisine. How many of them are we using in Korean food?

In this kind of environment, in some cases a foreign country would figure out the value of Korea's food ingredients before Koreans do, and sweep away the best kinds or transplant them and make their own. The best, in-season stocks of ark clam [피조개], pike eel [갯장어], razor clam [키조개], hiziki [톳] produced from the South Sea are exported entirely to Japan, because Korea does not actively use them as ingredients. The Japanese long have known the value of the chopi tree fruit, which Koreans barely use as spices for freshwater eel soup [추어탕] -- they have imported the fruits, processed them and sold them to the world, as well as taking the saplings to grow the trees in a larger scale. [TK: 초피 is already starting to be known in English as "Japanese pepper tree," although no chopi ever grew in Japan before they were transplanted.]

Razor clam [키조개] from Boryeong [보령]

As Korean food is becoming more popular in Japan, Japan's food businesspeople are sweeping the production centers of Korea's food ingredients. I have advised such a Japanese company. To give an example, the company already had detailed knowledge of the characteristics of red pepper grown in different regions, the difference in aroma and flavor depending on the crushing method and the granular size, and even the way to make fake sun-dried peppers [태양초] and how to tell them apart. I have heard reports that a Japanese supermarket company is in the process of creating a website with the complete set of information about every Korean food ingredient, which does not yet exist in Korea.

The value of Korea's foodstuff clearly reveals itself when compared against other similar foodstuff produced in different countries. For example, the whole world loves crabs. If we could understand the precise flavor of Korean blue crab [꽃게] and how it compares to other crabs, its value could be greater than Hong Kong's mud crab which is being marketed to gastronomes worldwide. Korean blue crab has a unique sweet flavor and strong aroma that sets it apart from mud crab, king crab, snow crab, etc. -- it can very well be a world-class crab. Same with Korean beef [한우], which develops great umami after aging without the need for excessive marbling unlike the Japanese wagyu. With improvements in butchering, aging and cooking methods, it can also be world-class. Same with the red pepper that beautifully combines sweetness and spiciness; wild herbs like wild garlic shoots [산마늘] that complements the meat with its aromatic and tangy flavor; Korean citron [유자] with a unique blend of sweetness and intense sourness; sand lance fish sauce [까나리 액젓] with deeper savoriness than Southeast Asian fish sauces; the "single-day" sun-dried salt [당일 천일염] of the Shinan region that could rival the Guerande salt. There are countless "the food ingredients that are only available in Korea or taste the best when produced in Korea."

The information about such food ingredients do exist in the files of the central government, local government, producers' association, university, research institutes, etc. But they are not systematically organized in a way that can be utilized by the food industry. Even if an aspiring chef wanted to buy the chopi fruit and utilize it in Korean food, there is no place that gives the information about the characteristics of the fruit, difference between chopi and the similar fruit from sancho tree, the seasons for chopi fruit depending on the region and the difference in quality depending on the season, processing methods and the difference in flavor based such methods, sample cuisines, keeping methods, the producers' contact information, pricing and location, etc. The chef would surf the Internet countless hours, make a number of phone calls, and then give up.

To emphasize once more: food changes. Korean food eaten by Korean people today is very different from the food of Joseon a century ago. The major crops grown in Korean Peninsula changed, and so did the fish caught in her coasts. The heating and cooking devices in the kitchen changed, and so did the plates and dishes that present the food. More than anything else, our life style changed as we progressed from agricultural society to an industrial one, and our appetite changed as we were introduced to foreign cuisine. Looking at our food from Joseon's perspective only causes confusion in finding our tradition and identity. Joseon had Joseon cuisine; in the 21st century Korea, there is Korean cuisine. In order to find the identity amid the changing Korean cuisine, we have no choice but to focus on "the food ingredients that are only available in Korea or taste the best when produced in Korea." Everything else, such as style development or standardization of recipes, must come after figuring out the value of Korea's foodstuff, and making that information available.

뜻하지 않은 한식 세계화 논란 [악식가의 미식일기]

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. Generally speaking, artifact concepts like "game" or "furniture" or, in this case, "Korean food," is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to define.

  2. @Michael: indeed. And not to mention that the topic of so-called "authenticity" in food, culture, language, customs can become props for politicizing and nationalism. Which explains how globalization has produced a nationalist backlash of sorts with all those "Made in (insert your country)" pride, esp. without recognizing if that tag is without merit.

  3. I wrote about this a little in my "who owns a culture" series last year.

    Ultimately, to a particular Korean, Korean food is what a Korean ate when s/he was growing up. That's what got fixed in his/her mind as Korean food. To some food promoters, it is whatever food makes them feel a certain way that is in accord with their preconceptions about Korea's standing in the world, when they see foreigners eat it.

    To old people, it's way different than to young people.

    Is spaghetti with too much cream sauce Korean food? What about Isaac Toast - toast on white bread with shredded cabbage and radish on it, and corn mixed into the fried egg, the likes of which I haven't seen outside Korea, but which are all over the place in Korea?

    or maybe, as Judge Potter Stewart might say, "I know it when I see it"

    I generally lean toward broader definitions over narrower definitions, but it gets messy when, as in the case of waffle cafes, Koreans in Korea seem to take a liking, or even a preference, to foreign-type foods prepared in an idiosyncratically Korean way (see Kraze Burger, Isaac Toast, all the waffle cafes, and arguably chicken bbq for examples)

  4. I'm only aiming for a single point out of the very well constructed post you made. The bastardization of food is inevitable, people of different cultures will inevitably change things to suite their own preferences. You can take Korean pizza as an example, I'm sure Italians are not so much pleased by it, or even taco pizza - which is something that leaves both Mexicans and us in the Hispanic community still scratching our heads about here in America.

    Ultimately it will be the recipients who decide how they like it despite how or who promotes it.

  5. Hmm, interesting points but I disagree with your definition of X Country's Food. For example, most people would consider a cappuccino Italian but coffee beans don't grow in Italy and can't really be considered an Italian ingredient. I would say cooking method (and to a lesser degree, presentation) are much more important than the supplementary position you've relegated them to. The classification of food does indeed require a limit on the ingredients, but limiting them geographically is, in my opinion, short-sighted. You mentioned the export of seafood to Japan. Obviously the Japanese food made with ingredients harvested from Korea is still Japanese. Likewise, potato used in Polish cooking is Polish and "chips" are English but the potato plant is not native to either of these countries. The treatment of the ingredients with sauces/spices and the cooking method makes a big difference. (Ceviche vs sashimi?)

    I might be taking that one point of yours too seriously though. (I love food.)

    I'd also like to point out you're sounding a little "My Country is Better Than Yours" there. It's like milk, everyone think's theirs is the best. I've tasted pork from a lot of places and they are all delicious, regardless of the hemisphere they came from. Also this is completely insignificant but bugged me a little, but I would compare the "Korean blue crabs" with other "blue crab" species. King and Snow crabs aren't relevant and they wouldn't be replacing nor replaced with blue crabs in the same application.

  6. That was some of the best food writing I had read in a long, long time. Thanks for introducing me to that blog.

  7. Reminded me of a gag from an old kids show on Nickelodeon called "Drake and Josh"

    OK, so Josh's foreign girlfriend came to visit.

    Josh wants to make her food from her country as a surprise.

    Drake: "I think Yooka wants to experience more American things, like sushi and Mexican food."

  8. Hmm. Actually, I heard that Kalguksu was first made in Goryeo with wheat flour imported from China, from the "Goryeo dogyeong" (hangul:고려도경, hanja:高麗圖經)?

  9. Natives and foreigners of a country may consider different things to define that nation's cuisine. Foreigners' ideas about the what distinguishes it are not as likely to be informed by the cuisine's history, but rather by the differences they see from their own own food.

    We didn't have pizza, pasta or pesto in Britain until the recipies were imported from Italy, but now you can find them all on almost any high-street in England. Everyone may recognise pizza, pasta and pesto as distinctive examples of Italian cuisine, but what we choose to do with them outside from Italy sometimes isn't Italian at all.

    Show an Italian a pizza featuring pesto in the topping, a pasta recipe with chicken or a carbonara made with cream and they are likely either to recoil in horror or to react with the same bemusement that you should expect if you reveal that millions of people think that garlic bread is Italian too.

    People around the world have discovered that the pizza and pesto are fantasitc things, but we haven't let Italian sensibilities prevent us from combining the two, or from experimenting with every pizza topping from cheddar cheese to bulgogi.

    What has your kitchen got that mine hasn't? Many foreigners looking at a Korean kitchen/menu will spot some unfamiliar things pretty quickly. The raw ingredients, the combination of ingredients, the cooking methods or all of these may stand out. For Korean food I think it's the raw ingredients that most make it special.

    Korean chilli powder, chilli paste, fermented soy paste and sesame seeds/oil are all different to the equivalents from neighbouring countries, as are the ways they are employed together with ginger, garlic and spring onions (green onions) to create unquestionably Korean dishes.

    When Koreans use their intimate knowledge and deep appreciation of these essential ingredients to experiment by combining them with new components to create new dishes, to my mind they are still creating very Korean food, whether or not their become favourites like kalguksu or gamjatang.

    I hope the bid to see the globalisation of Korean food is successful, because there is so much wonderful food that millions of people around the world are currently missing out on, but if it is, you can bed your bottom dollar that once the rest of the world gets its hands on the Korean cook book, things as bizzare as the pesto pizza are going to start happening to Korean recipes. Who knows, maybe these new creations will make it back to Korea and simply speed up the experimentation that's happening there anyway so that Korean people can enjoy their own food in ever new and varied ways.

  10. Another factor to filter in is the definition of "tastes the best" and "only produced in". If gochujang starts being produced in Chicago (please God, let it be so), is it less Korean? What if prices/competition becomes such that most gochujang becomes made in China? (Unlikely due to national identity issues, but theoretically possible.) Also, tastes the best to who? Tteokboki here in the States is a different beast than what I ate in Daejeon, which was a little different than what I ate in Seoul. The rice cake size and consistency, the sauce sweet/spice ratio, what extras were added (onion vs. scallion vs. mystery veg vs. cabbage vs. ramen noodles). And that is a very, very simple street food dish.

    There are "cultural palates" - different groups *tend* to prefer certain dishes sweeter, spicier, bitterer, with rice instead of beans. Do tomatoes belong in chowder? Does green tea frosting belong on donuts? What "makes" bibimbap? It can't just be the concept of mixing stuff with rice. Is it the perilously delicious combo of gochujang and sesame oil? Gochujang *without* certain ingredients not usually used? Without *any* ingredients usually used? Would I get a pass for including sweet potatoes in mine on occasion?

    I'd say a more important factor is a sense of national identity attached to food. Brioche are French because there's national identity wrapped up in it; it's recognized by the French and pretty much everyone else as being French. It's like language. "Dog" is an English word because pretty much everyone agrees it is. If no English speaker used it, it would become an artifact, and those are interesting and worth trying out, but not part of the living language. Similarly, I'd say *living* Korean food is that which Koreans and non-Koreans associate with Korea/Korean identity, and is eaten, even if it's fairly rarely. I'd leave some room open for academic quibbling - a lot of us associate foods because of marketing and not actual research.

  11. This article was *so* interesting. Thank you for translating and posting it! It sounds like Korea could benefit from a slow-foods movement--and actually I think I read somewhere that the concept has established a presence in Korea(or is in the process of doing so).

    There is tourist money to be captured in jumping on that particular bandwagon, and maybe a slow foods organization could start compiling and spreading the information the author talks about? Could be good for everyone.

  12. noe,

    Stop with your logic. When it comes to Korean food, the Korean is crazy, irrational, and utterly unamenable to reason.


    The Korean did not write this article -- it was a translation. It is hard to take seriously the people who don't bother to read something carefully.


    The Korean was thinking you would like Mr. Hwang. He is true to his words -- he focuses a great deal on ingredients. Mr. Hwang's NaverCast series are really great.

    Nickname unavailable,

    고려도경 talks about knife-cut noodles made with buckwheat, but the present form of 칼국수 did not exist until after 1940s when Americans brought in wheat flour.

  13. The thing that boggles my mind about all of this... is not the globalization of Korean food. I don't really care one way or another. The thing that really boggles my mind is that the government has the time and money to do this. The world is in a worldwide recession and this is the stuff that the government is investing in? Does this not seem strange to anyone? I'm not sure whether to call this a waste of time and tax dollars or a monument to the Korean genius that they have their country so well managed that they have time to take on endeavors such as this...

  14. Yum. <3

    And very damn good read.

  15. I'm from Puerto Rico and I'm dying to try Korean food but there are not any Korean restaurants here :(

  16. i suppose it's the formulae of manipulation with traditional seasonings that makes a cuisine, as that's what creates the basis of familiar flavors which "make up" a cuisine.

    I mean, you can use Wagyu (which might be Australian or Japanese) or American/Argentinian/Brazilian beef, but if you marinate it with Korean soy sauce, Korean sesame oil, sugar, scallions, garlic, sliced pears, perhaps some ginger, the resulting dish is "Korean," whether you serve it raw as yukhwe, or cooked on a grill as bulgogi or kalbi (depending on the cut)

    Of course, you can't substitute with Chinese soy, or Indian sesame oil (although, hmmm... some SE Asian fish sauces can be used as the flavors are similar), but I do feel that it really is the seasonings that make the dish. Those age-old cultural products gives the flavor to the dish, and is the soul of a "national" cuisine (French butter & cheese & wine & flour make French food).

    The way it's customarily served [panchan surrounding rice, then a main (might be a soup or jjigae stew), perhaps a secondary or a tertiary main] also makes the meal a "Korean" affair.

  17. I say Koreans take an American approach to food. If we eat it it is ours. :)

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  19. Thanks a lot for the translation. It's an interesting read.
    I need to point out, that picture is not a razor clam (I believe it's a mistranslation). Razor clams are normally long and fairly thin and are light brown. I wonder why the article author is talking about promoting 유자 when there's already been successful spread of it under the Japanese name yuzu.

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  21. What is the difference between yuzu and yuja? And do the Korean ones taste superior by any sort of objective measure?

    I haven't tried them side-by-side and haven't found any information online about the difference.

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. "Read the article. I haven't tried Japanese yuzu, either, so can't compare. It's not necessarily about superiority, but the characteristics that make Korea yuja different."

    I'm just wondering what that difference is. I don't understand why you're telling me to read the article; I did.

    The author discusses Korean crabs, Korean fish sauce, Korean salt, and Hanwoo. However, with each of these he gives a point of comparison. He compares them to mud crabs, Southeast Asian fish sauce, Guerande salt and Wagyu, respectively. It is strange that he didn't even mention yuzu.

    "Because Korean yuja tastes different from Japanese yuzu even if they are similar fruits."

    I've yet to find information on differences. Since, seemingly, no information can be produced, the author may very well be wrong.

    The world audience isn't going to care about Korean yuja unless it can be demonstrated that it has significant unique qualities. The author may be acting out of national interest, but others won't listen to that. Wines, for instance, gain a lot of their popularity not based on the country they're from, but rather their qualities. (Or, at the very least, qualities that the country/region has proven itself to have).

    Another example is the perilla leaf. That exists in Korea, Japan and elsewhere in Asia. Koreans have 깻잎, Japanese have shiso etc. However, they are demonstratively different and thus should be given recognition as such.

    What makes yuja different from yuzu?

  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. Thanks for your reply. Could you please link me to some information in Korean?

    One question that wasn't answered in the article or your quotes is the difference between the Korean and Japanese fruit. I push this question because I want to know (as someone with a professional and educational background in food, it's important to find out these subtleties).

    Please keep an open mind and realize the author could also be appealing to nationalism rather than actual taste.

  26. Please keep an open mind and realize the author could also be appealing to nationalism rather than actual taste.

    That's an understandable reaction, but the author Hwang Gyo-Ik is in fact the least nationalistic Korean food critic I have ever read.

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  28. Thumbs up TK for illuminating translation of Hwang-Gyo-Ik’s article, “What is Korean Food?” Many are amateurs of Korean traditional cooking and varieties of Korean food. We only truly know Kimchi as the staple ingredient and appetizer that is served with all Korean meals. It was Korean Americans like Roy Choi and his taco truck which captured global media attention and launched Korean foods’ popularity that Korean food since then has cheese on noodles, guacamole on tteobeoki and rosemary on pork belly.
    Truth is when we are eating whatever is labelled Korean food at restaurants, Korean street food stalls and packaged fastfood and noodles, our brains do not go into a deep analysis or what “historical and cultural characteristics” are involved. We just sample Korean food out of curiousity most times and if we happen to find some delicious dishes, we just expand our repertoire of dishes. For the Korean government which is carrying out a national branding of the nation, they need to define accurately what really constitutes Korean food. No serious discourse arises on the identity of the food whether it is sufficiently Korean or not when it comes to enjoying a hot steaming Korean beef raddish stew, a crunchy cucumber cold kimchi, a bulgogi (BBQ) sandwich etc.


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