Cultural identity can be defined by different aspects of a culture, including but not limited to, language, food, and clothing styles. I will be focusing primarily on traditional Korean cuisine, why it is interesting and how this helps other people better understand Korean culture. I chose this topic, traditional Korean food because I think that it is one of the biggest contributing factors to making up the Korean culture as a whole. I also chose this topic because I love Korean food, and dishes like bulgogi beef, bibimbap, kimchi, etc., and wanted to learn more in-depth about the food culture. To this day traditional Korean food is popular amongst not only Koreans but also Western society. Usually, with time, traditional food grows out of style or isn’t consumed daily or even as often, but the food culture within Korea has remained fairly static and even grown to be popularized recently in the U.S. That is not to say that food culture hasn’t changed and has been influenced by more modernized, western type foods, but traditional food is still a huge part of their food culture.
Traditional Korean food is interesting because of its uniqueness, compared to other cultures’ foods. The types of food within the traditional cuisine are connected to Korea’s agriculture and its unique farming methods and terrain. Interestingly enough, to this day traditional farming methods are still used to make traditional Korean food. Another interesting fact about Korean food is the health benefits that traditional Korean meals contain. Since the diet is mostly vegetable-based, the body receives important nutrients and vitamins that help with a balanced meal. There is always a wide variety of vegetables provided with meals including, radishes, bean sprouts, and cabbages. All of which are unique to Korea’s agriculture. Vegetables also help with digestion due to their high fiber content. But not only that the fermentation, a unique cooking style in Korea, of vegetables, like cabbage and radish, provides the body with healthy bacteria that aid the digestion system in breaking down lactose. Also, unlike most other cultural cuisines, in Korean cuisine, all the courses are served at one time. This allows the person consuming to choose from different dishes throughout the entirety of the meal. In Western culture, dishes are brought out one at a time in stages, usually starting with an appetizer, then the main course, and finally the dessert. This is to avoid the dishes from getting cold, but within Korean society, this problem is tackled by having the consumer cook or grill their own food at the table when they are ready to eat. Korean food is also known for its freshness, in addition to being able to cook your food when you are ready to eat, the food is served raw and even sometimes still moving when it gets to the table, another unique characteristic of Korean food culture.
Since traditional Korean cuisine and eating are such a huge part of Korean culture it is important in understanding Korean society. “Korean cuisine is the customary cooking traditions and practices of the culinary arts of Korea. Korean cuisine has evolved through centuries of social and political change. Originating from ancient agricultural and nomadic traditions in Korea and southern Manchuria, Korean cuisine has evolved through a complex interaction of the natural environment and different cultural trends.” (Wikipedia, 2019) Traditional Korean food tells us a lot about Korean culture because of the originality of the types of food, the change in food, and the way that the food is prepared and served. Korean food ties into other huge cultural aspects, including family, respect, society, sharing, and health. Food brings people together; it is culturally appropriate that families gather around a table to share a meal but eating together also extends out to eat with coworkers or friends. Basic tradition is sharing a meal, that is one of the reasons that such huge meals are served, they are catered to be for a larger group of people to share. The sharing of food with family, friends, or coworkers and the culture of eating together also help us understand Korean culture. With traditional Korean food comes the traditional dining rules, which include, allowing elders to sit and eat before you do, not leaving the table until the elders do, blowing your nose at the table, not tipping, not eating your rice with chopsticks, etc. These dining traditions and values help us better understand that respect for elders and respect for tradition are important in Korean society. Also, Korean food is the health aspect that was talked about earlier, but since ancient times Koreans believed that food and medicine served the same purpose of improving the wellness of those that are sick. Traditional Korean food is at the very root of lots of different aspects of Korean culture and thus helps us understand it that much better. There are lots of interesting facts and uniqueness about traditional Korean food that is unlike any other cultural cuisine and that is why I chose this topic.
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