Cuisine of Korea

International Cuisine, Korea


Andrew’s Essential Fiery Food Facts that a Pyro-Gourmaniac needs to Know

Part 11

Fiery Cuisines Part 8 Korea…


North and South Korea form a peninsula which has a land border with China to the north and a total 4908km of coastline on the Sea of Japan, Yellow Sea, Korean Bay and Korea Straight. About two thirds of the country is made up of mountainous and hilly terrain although there are wide coastal plains in the south and west, large streams and rivers.

Between the mountains lie lowlands which were formed by river valleys and sea terraces and as these only constitute approximately 20 percent of the peninsula, most lowland areas are cultivated.

Due to its position,  Korea has many different climate zones although in general it can be described as having a temperate monsoonal climate ranging from hot and humid in the summer to bitterly cold in the winter.

The first inhabitants migrated from North Asia and are thought to have been nomadic Mongol tribes who had settled there during the Neolithic Age.

Originally hunter gatherers they soon settled into small farming communities in the few decent lowland areas where crop cultivation was possible. Evidence shows that by 3500BC millet was being grown and shortly thereafter various types of beans including soybeans were being cultivated.

The influence of neighbouring China is clearly shown by the introduction of rice c2700BC which was particularly suitable for growing in the more southerly parts of the country. The introduction of iron around 500BC was another important factor in the development of Korean cuisine not only by way of cooking utensils; in particular the wok, but also its use in farming equipment which enabled the small communities to better cultivate their limited farmland. The Chinese also introduced domesticated animals such as cattle, pigs and poultry, cabbage and of course, the use of chopsticks.

As one might not know, Europeans also had a huge, indirect influence on Korean cuisine. Without their conquests in the 1600s, it is quite likely that the Chilli which is native to the America’s, wouldn’t have been assimilated so completely into Korean cooking. Portuguese introduction of chilli to Korea in the 17th century. By the 18th century, chillies were already being widely used in the preparation of Korean cuisine. Since the 18th Century chillies have played an intrinsic part of everyday Korean cuisine.

The other major influence on Korean cooking was the weather and terrain. As mentioned above, the very cold winters and heavy labour required to cultivate the land encouraged the eating of hearty meals. Even breakfasts were robust affairs often consisting of a large bowl of soup with tripe of beef ribs – a fine start to what was to be a labour intensive day.

With such a large coastline and many rivers and streams, it is not surprising that fish and seafood (both fresh and dried) have always been staples in many parts of the country. From the earliest times, the preserving of foods for winter use, mainly by drying or salting, has played an important role in their diets – a tradition which is still upheld today.

Rice and noodles are still staples however Korean cooking does differ enormously from neighbouring Chinese and Japanese cooking in that it makes use of strong and sometimes very pungent flavourings. Having said that, everyday food is not necessarily spicy hot as, in general, chillies are often used by means of condiments which can be added by diners to suit their own tastes. The rice generally eaten in Korea is a sticky rice which can be obtained by soaking the uncooked rice for 30 minutes prior to cooking.

Koreans have perfected the art of preserving food over thousands of years, so many of the side dishes are pickled, salted, or fermented and many are spicy. Kimchi, Korea’s famous spicy cabbage, has over a hundred varieties with different vegetables, including some non-spicy types. Traditional households still own large earthenware preserving pots filled with pickled vegetables or soybean and chilli pastes and dried fish, in particular cuttlefish, are eaten by most of the populace.

As with many other Asian countries, all the dishes for a meal (apart from the soup) are served at the same time. The average family would serve three or four dishes plus rice however, on special occasions as many as 12 dishes are served. These settings are referred to as “chop” so if they are serving 6 dishes it would be known as 6-chop. The side dishes and main dish or dishes, which can be meat, seafood, or tofu are all be served family-style in the middle of the table. Sometimes a large stew will replace the main dish and will be served family-style at the table. Food is served on a low table and is eaten with metal chopsticks or a spoon for the soup.

The most common spices and sauces used in Korean cuisine are: sesame oil, chili pepper paste (kochujang), chili pepper flakes (kochukaru), soybean paste (daenjang), soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and scallions. As a result, much of Korean cuisine is intensely flavored, savory, and bold.The Koreans have a wide range of cooking methods including steaming, stir-frying, grilling, barbecuing and stewing. Everything, including meat and poultry, is cut into bite-sized pieces so there is no need for a knife. Koreans are also adept at using chopsticks so if the meat is too large or a whole grilled fish is served, it can be split with chopsticks. (Many Korean meat dishes are braised or marinated for a long time for a tender flesh). Korean food is traditionally eaten with stainless steel chopsticks and a long stainless steel spoon and is traditionally served at a low table with people sitting on the floor.


Indulge in some of my Favourite Fiery Korean recipes


Vegan Kimchi


1 large Wombok cabbage

1 cup Sea salt Flakes

5 cups of water

350gm Korean radish

3 Eshallots

3 large Mustard green leaves




1 tbls Glutinous Rice powder

(Mix it with 1/2 cup water, simmer over low heat until it

thickens to a thin paste and cool. Yields about 3 – 4 tablespoons.)

1/2 cup Red Chili Chilli flakes,

1/4 Korean pear, grated

1/2 cup Pumpkin puree

2 tbls Garlic Chopped

1 tsp Ginger grated

2 tbls Soy Sauce

2 tbls Salt

1 cup Dashima (dried kelp) broth   (Boil 1 large piece of dashima in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes     )


Cut the stem end of Wombok lengthwise in half only about 10cm. Then, slowly pull apart to separate into two pieces by hand. Do the same for each half to make quarters.

In a large bowl, dissolve 1/2 cup of salt in 5 cups of water. Thoroughly bathe each Wombok quarter in the saltwater one at a time

Using the other half cup of salt and starting from the outermost leaf, generously sprinkle salt over the thick white part of each leaf. Try to salt all the Wombok quarters with the 1/2 cup salt, but you can use a little more if needed. Repeat with the rest of the cabbage quarters. Set aside for about 6 – 8 hours, rotating the bottom ones to the top half way through.

Meanwhile, make the glutinous rice paste and the broth and cool. Prepare the other seasoning ingredients. Mix all the seasoning ingredients. Set aside while preparing the other ingredients until the red chilli flakes become pasty.

The Wombok should be ready to be washed when the white parts are bendable with a bit of resistance. Rinse thoroughly 3 times, especially between the white parts.

Drain well, cut side down.

Julienne the Radish. Roughly chop the Eshallots and the optional Mustard green. Transfer to a large bowl.

Combine with the seasoning mix. Mix well by hand. Taste a little bit. It should be a little too salty to eat as is. Let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the flavours to meld nicely.

Cut off the tough stem part from each Wombok quarter, leaving enough to hold the leaves together. Place one cabbage quarter in the bowl with the radish mix. Spread the Radish mix over each leaf, one to two tablespoons for large leaves. Divide stuffing into 4 parts and use one part for each Wombok quarter.

Fold the leaf part of the Wombok over toward the stem and nicely wrap with the outermost leaf before placing it, cut side up, in a jar or airtight container. Repeat with the remaining Wombok leaves. Once all the Wombok leaves are in the jar or airtight container, press down hard to remove air pockets. Rinse the bowl that contained the Radish mix with 1/4 cup of broth and pour over the kimchi.

Leave it out at room temperature for a full day or two, depending on how fast you want your kimchi to ripen. Then, store in the fridge. Although you can start eating it any time, kimchi needs about two weeks in the fridge to fully develop the flavours. It maintains great flavour and texture for several weeks




1 Wombok cabbage

2 tbls  Salt

1 tbls of sweet Rice flour

1/2 cup hot Chilli flakes

4 tbls Fish sauce

2 tbls Sugar

3 Eshallot

60 gm Onion

3 cloves of Garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp of Ginger, minced


Dissolve salt in 1 and 1/2 cups of water.

Chop up Wombok and soak in salt water for 3-4 hours or until soft. (Can take up to 6 hrs.)

To make the paste, add the sweet Rice flour and one cup of water to a pot.

Put over medium heat and continue to stir until thickened (about 5 mins).

Transfer paste to a large bowl and add the Chilli flakes, Fish sauce, and Sugar.

Mix well and let the paste cool.

Add Eshallot, Onions, Garlic, and Ginger to the paste and mix.

Once the Wombok is soft, remove from salt water and rinse thoroughly (I rinse 3x).

Massage paste into the cabbage and store in a jar.

Serve immediately if you like fresh kimchi. If you like it more fermented. wait until it fits your tastes.,



Gochujang style Hot Chilli paste




1 kg Barley malt powder


10 cups Sweet Rice flour

8 cups Rice syrup

4 cups of fermented soybean powder

1.6 kg Chilli powder the hotter the better

4 cups of Salt


Mix 8 litres of Water and 1 kg of Barley malt powder in a large bowl

Strain the mixture and put it in a large heavy bottomed pot.

Heat it up on the stove for about 20 minutes until it’s warm.

Remove it from the heat and add Sweet Rice flour. Mix well.

Let it sit for 2 hours. The liquid on the surface will look a lot clearer, and it will taste a little sweet.

Bring to a boil for about 2 hours over medium high heat, until it reduces by ⅓  Stir occasionally, so it doesn’t stick

Add the Rice syrup and mix well.

Remove from the heat and wait until it completely cools down.

Add Soya bean paste and mix well. Then add  Chilli powder and mix well. Lastly add Salt, and stir until there are no lumps in the paste.

Transfer it to an earthenware pot or glass jar and cover with mesh or cheesecloth before closing the lid.

It will take about 2-3 months to properly ferment. During that time it’s best to open the lid and let it sit in the sunlight during the daytime, and close it at night.


Korean Spice Rub

This spice rub is fantastic on grilled meats, it combines many ingredients you’d find in your favourite Korean barbecue dishes. I balanced the heat from the Chilli powder with the caramelized flavour of the dark brown sugar, and added plenty of garlic

1 Tbls Salt Flakes

1 Tbls Brown sugar

1 Tbls coarse Gnd Chilli powder

1 tsp Garlic powder

¼ tsp Gnd Ginger

¼ tsp Gnd Black Pepper

1/2 part toasted Sesame Seeds


Korean Barbecue Wet Rub



1/4 cup packed Brown Sugar

1 tsp Salt

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp dark Sesame oil

4 Garlic cloves, chopped


Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


Korean BBQ Sauce


1 cup Tomato Sauce

1 cup Rice Wine Vinegar

1/2 cup Soy Sauce

3 tbls Sugar

2 tbls Sesame Seeds

1 tbls hot Chilli paste

1/2 tsp Gnd Black Pepper

3 Eshallots, whites and greens, chopped

2 cloves Garlic, chopped

1  4cm piece Ginger, peeled and grated

1 tbls Sesame oil



Combine the Sauce, Vinegar, Soy Sauce, Sugar, Sesame Seeds, Chilli paste, Black Pepper, Eshallots, Garlic and Ginger in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until well mixed. Bring sauce to a simmer, turn the heat low and keep at a very low simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the Sesame oil. Use immediately, or refrigerate in a glass Bowl for up to 2 days


Galbi  Korean BBQ Short Ribs


800g Galbi meat (Korean BBQ short ribs)

7 Tbls Soy Sauce

3 ½ Tbls dark Brown Sugar

2 Tbls Rice Wine

2 Tbls grated Apple

2 Tbls grated Onion

1 ½ Tbls Garlic chopped

1/3 tsp Ginger Chopped

¼ tsp Gnd black Pepper

Soak the meat in cold water for 1 hour to get rid of the blood. Change the water a couple of times as it releases the blood and fat.

While waiting, mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.

One hour later, pat-dry the meat. Then put it into a sealable container. Pour out the sauce onto the meat and mix them thoroughly. season. Close the lid.

Marinade the meat for at least 3 to 4 hours in the fridge. Turn the meat over a couple of times during marination, so that the meat gets seasoned thoroughly. (Marinade overnight in the fridge to give extra tenderness and flavour. It does make a difference.)

Take out the meat from the fridge 15 to 30 mins prior to cooking.

Cook the meat on the BBQ and when both sides of the meat are cooked per your preference, serve and enjoy


Soondubu Stew


1 package extra Silken tofu

1 kg  Beef or Pork (rib eye, sirloin, Pork loin, or Pork belly)

1/3 cup thinly sliced kimchi

1 Eshallot, finely chopped

1 tsp Chilli flakes ,add more for a spicier stew

1 tsp Sesame Oil

1 tsp Garlic ,chopped

1/2 tsp Dried shrimp or salt

¼ tsp Black Pepper

1 cup water

2 to 3 tbls juice from kimchi

1 egg



Cut the meat and kimchi into small thin strips. Add the kimchi, meat, Chilli flakes, Garlic and Sesame oil to a small pot, and place it over medium heat.

Stir-fry until the meat is almost cooked and the kimchi is soft, 3 – 4 minutes.

Pour in the water and juice from the kimchi. Bring it to a boil, and continue to boil for 3 – 4 minutes. Skim off the scum.

Add the Silken tofu in big chunks. Stir in the Dried Shrimp or salt to taste (start with 1/4 tsp) and Black Pepper. Cook for 4 -5 minutes. Add the chopped Eshallots right before turning the heat off. If desired, crack an egg into the stew while it’s still boiling hot.




INGREDIENTS (6 to 8 servings)

250g Korean sweet potato starch noodles

100g rib eye fillet

120g   Carrots, peeled & julienned

110g baby Spinach –

1/4 small Red Capsicum julienned

110 gm large Brown onion thinly sliced

100g fresh shiitake mushroom , stems removed and thinly sliced

Spinach seasoning

1/4 tsp Sea Salt

1/2 tsp Garlic chopped

1 tsp Sesame oil

Beef marinade

1 Tbls Soy Sauce

1 tsp Mirin

1/2 tsp Garlic, chopped

1/4 tsp Gnd Black pepper

1 tsp Sesame Oil

Noodles & mushroom marinade – mix in a small bowl

4 Tbls Soy Sauce

1 Tbls Honey

1 Tbls brown Sugar

1 Tbls Sesame Oil

1/8 tsp Gnd Black Pepper

Finishing touch

1 Tbls sesame seeds

1 Tbls sesame oil

1 extra large egg ,egg white and yolk separated


Cooking oil – I used rice bran oil.

Sea salt

Boil the Spinach and the noodles


Prepare the rib eye fillet by gently wiping/soaking off the blood. Thinly slice it and put the strips into a medium bowl. Add the “beef marinade” and gently mix the sauce into the meat. Cover the bowl with Cling wrap and leave it on the bench for about 30 mins

Prepare the vegetables

Put the sliced Mushroom into a medium bowl and add 1 Tbls of “noodles & Mushroom marinade” mixture. Mix them well. Leave it on the bench until you cook it

Boil some water in a medium pot.

Blanch the Spinach in for 5 to 10 seconds and scoop it out.

Cool down the Spinach by running it under cold tap water. Squeeze the Spinach to remove any excess water and put it into a mixing bowl.  Add the Spinach seasoning and mix them evenly and lightly. Put it into a large mixing bowl where we will be adding all the other ingredients in later.

Boil some water in a large pot. Add the noodles and boil them for 7 mins. Drain the water. Rinse in cold water to cool down the noodles and let the water drain for 1 to 2 mins.

Cut the noodles between 15 to 20 cm Move the noodles into a mixing bowl and pour in the rest of the “noodles & mushroom marinade” mixture. Mix them well. Leave it on the bench until you cook it

Start cooking the prepared ingredients per below. Follow the order if you can. I cook them lighter colour to darker colour Non stick wok. Once each step is completed, move them into the large mixing bowl

Except for the first two ,Egg white and Egg yolk , where we will be mixing all ingredients in before serving.

Beat the Egg white with a fork. Add some cooking oil (1 tsp) and spread it well. Pour the Egg white mixture and cook both sides on low heat (1-2 mins). Put clean cutting board.

Beat the Egg yolk with a fork. add some cooking oil and spread it well. Pour the Egg yolk mixture and cook both sides on low heat (1-2 mins). Put on a clean cutting board.

Saute the Onion with a pinch of salt and stir fry it until it is cooked (1-2 mins) on low to medium heat

Saute the Carrots with a pinch of salt and stir fry until it is cooked (1-2 mins) on medium heat

Saute the Red Capsicum and pinch of salt and stir fry until it is cooked (1-2 mins) on low to medium heat

Add the marinated Mushroom (incl. the residue sauce from the bowl) and stir fry until it is cooked (1-2 mins) on low to medium heat.

Add the marinated meat  and stir fry until it is cooked (2-3 mins) on medium heat.

Add the marinated noodles and stir fry until it is cooked (2-3 mins) on low to medium heat.

Thinly slice the Egg white and Egg yolk like match sticks. Add them into the large mixing bowl as used above

Add the rest of the “finishing touch” ingredients – Sesame oil and Sesame seeds in the large mixing bowl and mix them gently and evenly with your hands. Enjoy


My Hell Fire Grilled Korean Chicken


1 kg boneless Chicken thigh


The Marinade

3 Tbls Chilli flakes

1 Tbls Sugar

3 Tbls Soy sauce

2 TBLS Rice wine

2 Tbls Korean red Chilli paste

2 Tbls Honey

3 Tbls pineapple juice

1 Tbls sesame oil

50 gm Onion, grated

2 Tbls Garlic chopped

1 Tbls Ginger grated

1/2 tsp Salt

pepper to taste


Rinse chicken pieces. Drain. Trim off excess fat. Cut each Chicken thigh in half crosswise. Cut open any thick parts.

Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix well.


Coat the Chicken with the marinade. Marinate for a few hours (preferably overnight) in the refrigerator

Preheat a lightly oiled BBQ over medium high heat. When hot, add the Chicken pieces. Cook until cooked through and slightly caramelized, about 4 to 6 minutes each side. Reduce the heat if the Chicken starts to burn.


Dubu Jorim Spicy Braised Tofu



400gm package tofu

1 Eshallot

180 gm  onion

80 gm Button Mushrooms

1 Red Habanero


Braising liquid

2 tbls red Chilli  flakes

1 tsp gochujang, Korean Red Chilli paste

3 tbls Soy sauce

1 tbls Corn syrup

1 tbls Garlic

1 cup Water


Other ingredients

2 tbls Sesame oil

40 gm Sesame seeds




Cut the tofu into 1 cm thick slices. You can further cut the slices in half crosswise if you like smaller slices.

Slice the Onion, Eshallot, Mushrooms and Chilli

Combine all of the braising liquid except the  sesame oil.

Spread the onion slices at the bottom of a small pot. Arrange the tofu on top, and then pour the braising liquid over.

Bring it to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the remaining vegetables, and drizzle the sesame oil)over. Continue to boil for 5 more minutes. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.