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Korean Food and Eating Habits

“Variety is the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavor”

Korean food uses a variety of spices that gives it all its flavor. Koreans in keeping with their rich culture and tradition believe in serving exotic food delicately flavored with numerous spices. A typical Korean meal consists of rice, soup, banchan (side dishes) and a main dish and is served at room temperature. Korean cuisine is rich in vitamins, and spices such as onions, garlic, red chilies, ginger, mustard, vinegar and soy sauce are used liberally. Koreans cook their food in sesame oil, which is not only healthy for the human body but also gives a distinct flavor to the dishes.

Like most of the East Asians, the staple food of Koreans is rice and is a part of their every meal. The typical Korean rice is small and the grains stick together. Another dish that is always a part of Korean meals is the Kimchi that can be eaten with rice, in soups or as a dish on its own. As many Koreans say, "A meal without Kimchi would be like trying to walk without legs.” There are over 200 varieties of Kimchi.

Kimchi, rich in vitamins is the most famous of all Korean dishes. It is primarily prepared from cabbage fermented and flavored with chillies, garlic and other spices. Other vegetables such as radish, cucumber and bean sprouts can be used for preparing Kimchi. Preparation of Kimchi has a history, style and a tradition of its own. During the autumn harvest festival, large piles of ingredients such as cabbage, carrot, radish, chillies and other spices are brought in. Women in groups wash, cut and spice cabbages, radishes and carrots and mix them with chilly pepper, ginger, and garlic along with other spices and store them underground in large earthenware pots. This process not only pickles the vegetables but also makes them hot, spicy and fermented. Come winter and this spicy Kimchi is ready to be eaten and enjoyed.

Korean dishes have now travelled everywhere and one can find restaurants serving Korean food all over the world. The seating arrangements in the Korean eating-places are traditional with low tables that can accommodate eight people. Koreans like their privacy and therefore one will find that the restaurants have private rooms with two tables in each room. You need to sit cross-legged facing each other, though some restaurants now also keep low chairs for the comfort of their guests. Cold wet towels are provided and the cutlery comprises of chopsticks, plates, glasses and bowls.

The main Korean meal is preceded with the variety of starters, which are nutritious and filling. After a course of sumptuous starters come side dishes with steamed rice. The ingredients of starters and the side dishes vary with the seasons. A typical Korean drink consists of cold boiled barley water that is consumed throughout the meal. Other traditional drinks are Shikkye made from sweet rice and Suejonggya prepared from cinnamon and persimmon. The traditional alcoholic drinks of Korea are Dong Ju and Makkoli prepared from sweet rice. Soju is the preferred drink for Koreans and it is believed that once you drink Soju with someone, they are considered a friend for life.

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