The cuisines of Korea and Japan are somewhat similar in style, beginning with the Chinese introduction of rice thousands of years ago. They are also completely different, starting with the delicate precision and freshness of Japan to the boldly spiced and fermented flavors of Korea. Both cuisines use mostly vegetable oil to pan-fry and deep fry foods. Where Japanese cooks use small amounts of oil to cook with, Koreans are much more liberal using larger amounts. Both will use oil to deep fry foods and sesame oil on occasion for specific dishes. Very little milk, butter, cream or cheese is consumed by either nation.
Korean cooking’s flavor profile is the combination of soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, and sesame (seed or oil). Chili pepper and ginger are used to provide variation. At its core, it is comfort food. Even though it emphasizes soy, rice, and pickles like its Japanese neighbors, recipes tend to be much heartier and more heavily flavored. Korean soy sauce is darker and richer and Koreans use chili peppers frequently and with a heavy hand. Because the country has such harsh winters, many vegetables are preserved to eat during the winter. The most famous being the fermented cabbage, kimchi, which is present at most every meal.
White rice, specifically the small grained variety, is the dominant staple and usually eaten at least twice a day. In Korea, rice is often ground into a flour to make make rice cakes called tteok. Both make wine and wine vinegar from rice as well. Wheat is another important staple in Korea where it is used to make Pajeon, its famous Korean vegetable pancake, and the sweet pancake called Hoeddeok.
Soybeans are used to make the soy sauce that flavors most dishes and marinades. Mung beans are also used widely in both cuisines. Boiled and fresh greens are used to make side dishes and salads. Big Daikon radishes and other root vegetables are used to make the pickled vegetables that accent every meal. Marinated beef cooked on either a table-top or outdoor grill surrounded by bowl after bowl of pickled vegetables is one of the highlights of Korean cooking.
Notable Dishes – Kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), Japchae (sweet potato glass noodles in sesame oil with beef, mushrooms, and other vegetables), Samgyeopsal (table-top Korean BBQ), Bibimbap (meat and vegetable rice bowl), Bulgogi (BBQ beef), Bulgalbi (BBQ pork belly), Dakgangjeong Bonchon (fried chicken), Haemul Pajeon (vegetable pancake with seafood), Sundubu Jjigae (soft tofu stew), Tteokbokki (spicy rice cake), Hoeddeok (sweet syrupy pancakes)