My husband and I have been part of a Korean American faith community for the past seven and a half years. One aspect of religious life for Korean Americans is the idea of a shared meal. In honor of the many friends we have made (and the women who cook for more than 200 people each week), here are some of my favorite Korean dishes:
1. Tteokbokki: Rice Cakes in Hot Sauce
Tteokbokki has become a type of soul food for me as I’ve worked and lived alongside Korean Americans. The dish is fairly simple consisting of cylinder shaped rice cooks cooked in a hot red sauce. The bland mushiness of the rice cakes paired with the kick of the sauce creates a warm dish that is perfect on a cold winter’s day.
2. Kalbi: Korean BBQ
If you have never been to a Korean BBQ restaurant run, don’t walk, until you find one! There is nothing in this world like freshly grilled Kalbi. Kalbi is tender beef with a touch of sweetness that has been cut extremely thin to grill quickly. The best way to eat Kalbi is around a large table with plenty of family and friends to enjoy!
3. Bibimbap: Mixed Meal
For many Westerners, their first experience with Korean food is a nice big bowl of Bibimbap. Aptly translated “Mixed Meal”, bibimbap consists of rice, mixed vegetables, chili pepper and sliced beef placed separately in a large bowl. The meal is complete when a fried egg is placed on top, a little red pepper paste is added, and then all is mixed. I imagine this to be a leftover meal of sorts in Korean homes. It screams of comfort food.
4. Mu Guk: Korean Radish Soup
Mu Guk is a mild tasting soup that consists of a water broth, Korean radishes (called mu), sliced beef and scallions. The broth also contains a small amount of soy sauce, garlic and sesame oil (a staple oil in Korean cooking). I’ve eaten this mild soup on cold winter days and hot summer afternoons. It can either fill you with warmth or sweat the toxins out as it is served extremely hot in temperature!
5. Jajangmyeon: Noodles in Black Bean Sauce
Jajangmyeon and I had a love/hate relationship for many years. If you can get over the initial look of this dish then what awaits is culinary delight. Thick Jajangmyeon noodles create a base for the dish. Black bean sauce is then paired with pork, a variety of vegetables and a little sugar to create a thick paste that tops the noodles.
6. Miyuk Guk: Seawood Soup
Last, but not least, is my personal favorite. Miyuk Guk is a broth-based soup that is loaded with cooked seaweed and beef (or seafood). Since seaweed is filled with iron the soup is given to post-partum mothers to help replenish the iron lost while giving birth. It is also traditionally consumed on birthdays.
My list of foods could go on and on as I have a deep love affair with Korean food. Now I leave you to go and taste for yourself the wonderful tastes and flavors that Korean food has to offer! 잘 먹겠습니다 (Bon appetit!)!