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Food 101: Going Crazy On Japanese & Korean Food Spread Part 2

Korean food grill meat

In addition to Japanese food, Korean dishes are the other foreign food that we at home would go crazy, especially with those that require grilling. In this blog post, we will review some of the common Korean food sold in restaurants in Malaysia and also provide you with a few handy Korean words to enhance your dining experience. Image source: Unsplash/Subagus Indra

Read these first:-

Korean Experience

Although the kids go crazy with Japanese and Korean food and probably can eat them the whole day, it is not common for us to have these meals as firstly it is difficult to get a good reviewed restaurant to go to and secondly, some of the places charge exorbitant for very small portions.

Sushi King is one good option for Japanese food and is something that we have been very familiar with since the beginning. However, in the last few years, their prices have been going up and the portions getting smaller and it is somehow not worth going to this chain. There are other cheaper options though.

Korean Food Bento Galbi Chicken Dosirak

Korean food is even rarer and we only went on special occasions and it is usually those restaurants that have BBQ or grilled pork or have value-for-money lunch bento sets. The place that we visited recently had bento sets but it was not cheap considering the price of almost RM24 for each set.

The family decided to order the one that came with chicken (Galbi Chicken Dosirak) which is a Korean dish that consists of grilled chicken marinated in a rich and savoury sauce, served with rice and various side dishes.

The word galbi means “rib” in Korean, but it can also refer to any meat that is cut into thin slices and grilled with a sauce. The sauce is usually made with soy sauce, garlic, sugar, sesame oil, and other seasonings. The chicken is grilled until tender and juicy, with a caramelized exterior.

The word dosirak means “lunch box” in Korean, and it refers to a packed meal that usually contains rice, meat, and side dishes. The side dishes can vary depending on personal preference, but they often include kimchi (fermented cabbage), salad, eggs, seaweed, and pickles. The dosirak is designed to be portable and convenient, as well as balanced and nutritious.

Common Korean Dishes

When it comes to grilled meat, one usually goes for Korean dishes with grilled or roasted meat in the centre of the dish and taken with noodles or rice and plenty of side dishes which may even include steamed long beans, Korean pancakes and fried anchovies.

Korean Kimchi Food

Kimchi

No Korean meal is complete without kimchi. Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish that consists of salted and fermented vegetables, usually napa cabbage or Korean radish, with various seasonings such as gochugaru (Korean chilli powder), garlic, ginger, and jeotgal (salted seafood). Kimchi is eaten as a side dish with almost every Korean meal and is also used in various soups and stews.

Kimchi has a long history that dates back to at least the Three Kingdoms period (57 BCE – 668 CE), when Koreans preserved vegetables with salt to survive the harsh winters. The first kimchi was not spicy nor made with cabbage but with radishes. The introduction of napa cabbage and garlic came later during the Goryeo period (918-1392), when Korea started trading with China.

The spicy red kimchi that we know today was only developed after chilli peppers were imported from the Americas in the 16th or 17th century. Kimchi is not only a delicious and versatile food, but also a healthy one. Kimchi is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and probiotics that can boost the immune system, aid digestion, and prevent infections. Kimchi is also recognized as a cultural heritage of Korea and a symbol of Korean identity.

Bulgogi Korean Food

Bulgogi – image source: Bare Feet In The Kitchen

Bulgogi

This popular Korean dish consists of thinly sliced marinated beef that is grilled to perfection. The marinade is a combination of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and sesame oil, which gives the meat a sweet and savoury taste. Served with a side of rice and some lettuce leaves for wrapping, bulgogi is a crowd-pleaser that will leave you wanting more.

According to some experts, bulgogi can offer some health benefits when consumed moderately. Some of these benefits are:-

  • Strengthen energy by providing essential functions, functions and proteins, and help blood vessel health
  • Improve anaemia by supplying iron and protein, which are needed for blood production
  • Prevent ageing by containing various B vitamins, which are effective for skin health
  • Provide satiety and maintain healthy bones and muscle mass by being high in protein
  • Be low in calories if portioned mindfully and cooked with less oil and sugar

Bulgogi means “fire meat” in Korean, and it refers to the cooking method and the spicy flavour of the dish. Bulgogi originated in the Goguryeo era (37 B.C. to 668 A.D.) when it was called maekjeok and consisted of beef skewers grilled over charcoal. It later evolved into neobiani, a dish of marinated and charbroiled beef that was popular among the Korean nobility.

Bulgogi became more widespread in the 20th century, especially after the Korean War when beef became more available and affordable. Today, bulgogi is one of the most well-known and beloved Korean dishes around the world.

Bibimbap Korean Food

Bibimbap – image source: The Spruce Eats

Bibimbap

Bibimbap is a Korean dish that means “mixed rice”. It consists of a bowl of warm white rice topped with various vegetables, meat, egg, and a spicy sauce called gochujang. The ingredients are mixed together before eating, creating a colourful and flavorful meal.

Some of the health benefits of bibimbap are as follows:-

  • It provides a balanced diet with carbohydrates, protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
  • It helps lower the glycemic index and prevent blood sugar spikes that can lead to weight gain and diabetes.
  • It boosts the immune system and prevents infections with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
  • It enhances digestion and detoxification with probiotics and enzymes from fermented vegetables and sauce.

There are different theories about the origin of bibimbap. Some say it was a dish served to the royal family in the 1400s, while others say it was a way of eating the leftover food from ancestral rites. The first written recipe for bibimbap appeared in the late 1800s, and the dish became popular in restaurants in the 1920s. Today, bibimbap is one of the most iconic and beloved Korean dishes around the world.

To eat bibimbap, you need a large spoon and chopsticks. You can add more gochujang sauce to adjust the spiciness according to your taste. You can also customize your bibimbap with different vegetables, meat, and eggs. Some common vegetables are spinach, bean sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, and cucumbers. Some common meats are beef, chicken, pork, or tofu. You can also use a raw or fried egg on top of the rice.

Tteokbokki Korean Food

Image source: Korean Bapsang

Tteokbokki

Tteokbokki is a Korean street food and features chewy rice cakes cooked in a spicy gochujang-based sauce, along with fish cakes, vegetables, and sometimes boiled eggs. The combination of the soft and chewy rice cakes with the fiery sauce creates a delightful contrast of textures and flavours. Tteokbokki is a comfort food that will warm your soul and leave you craving more.

There are several flavours and styles namely:-

  • Gungmul Tteokbokki – Extra soupy with a milder taste.
  • Gireum Tteokbokki – Stir-fried with chilli oil and minimal broth.
  • Gungjung Tteokbokki – A traditional version enjoyed by royal families.
  • Cheese Tteokbokki – Topped with melted cheese.
  • Rosé Tteokbokki – A fusion with creamy tomato sauce.
  • Cream Tteokbokki – Made with a cream sauce.
  • Jeukseok Tteokbokki – Instant version, often cooked at the table.
  • Rabokki – Includes ramyun noodles.
  • Jjajang Tteokbokki – Topped with black bean sauce.

Tteokbokki has a long history in Korea, dating back to the Joseon Dynasty, when it was a dish for the royal court. It was originally called tteok jjim, and it was braised with meat, eggs, and seasonings.

The colour and flavour of tteokbokki changed in the mid-1900s when gochujang was introduced. Tteokbokki is now one of the most common street foods in Korea, and it has many variations, such as curry, cream sauce, seafood, and cheese.

Korean Food Grill

This was something that we ordered considering that it came with plenty of grilled pork and side dishes on the menu known as Sam Gyeop Sal, a Korean dish that consists of grilled pork belly. Sam Gyeop Sal became popular in the 1960s when people needed a cheap and filling dish to go with soju, a Korean liquor. Sam Gyeop Sal is usually cooked on a special pan at the table, and eaten with lettuce, garlic, chilli peppers, kimchi, green onions, and dipping sauces. 

Common Korean Lingos

Now that you’re familiar with some of the common Korean dishes, let’s equip you with a few handy Korean words to enhance your dining experience:

  • Annyeonghaseyo – Hello
  • Ne – Yes
  • Geonbae – Cheers
  • Gamsahamnida – Thank you
  • Sumimasen – Excuse me
  • Dalgogi – Chicken
  • Dwaejigogi – Pork
  • Soegogi – Beef
  • Mul – Water
  • Maekju – Beer

Using these simple phrases will not only impress the waiters but also make your dining experience more enjoyable. So, the next time you visit a Korean restaurant in Malaysia, don’t hesitate to greet the staff with a friendly “Annyeonghaseyo” and show off your newfound Korean language skills.

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Final Say

We love exploring different cuisines, especially Japanese and Korean food. However, we haven’t had the chance to taste all the dishes on their menu yet, except for the ones that contain beef, which we don’t eat. One of the challenges we face is that some of the dishes are only labelled in Japanese or Korean, and we don’t understand what they are. We wish they would provide some English translations or descriptions, so we could order with more confidence and curiosity.

One of the trends that I have noticed recently is the increasing availability of ready-to-eat Japanese and Korean dishes in Malaysian supermarkets. These are not just the usual sushi or kimchi, but more exotic and spicy delicacies that are popular among the fans of these cuisines.

For instance, I was surprised to find Tteokbokki, a Korean dish of stir-fried rice cakes in a fiery sauce, in a military-style MRE pack at my local grocery store. All I had to do was heat it in boiling water and enjoy it with some boiled eggs and fish cakes. It was quite convenient and tasty, although not as authentic as the ones I had in Korean restaurants.

I think this is a sign of how Malaysian consumers are becoming more adventurous and curious about different cultures and flavours. Japanese and Korean dishes are not only delicious but also healthy and nutritious, as they use fresh ingredients and minimal oil. They also suit the Malaysian palate, as they are often spicy, sour, sweet, and savoury.

Some of the other dishes that I have seen in the supermarkets & online stores include Japchae (Korean glass noodles), Bibimbap (Korean mixed rice), Ramen (Japanese noodles), and Onigiri (Japanese rice balls). These are perfect for busy people who want to have a quick and satisfying meal at home without spending too much time or money.

Of course, nothing can beat the experience of having these dishes at a proper restaurant or a street stall, where you can enjoy the ambience and the service as well. But for those who want to try something new or have a craving for some Asian comfort food, these pre-packed meals are a good option to explore. They are also a great way to introduce these cuisines to your family and friends, who may not be familiar with them. Who knows, you might even inspire them to travel to Japan or Korea someday!

To be continued…

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