I learned to eat with chopsticks when I was four or five. My father used to pull out the wok every few months and make us Korean food: fried wontons, eggrolls, fried rice, stir fried vegetables, plenty of soy sauce. My brother, sisters and I would help make the wontons and egg rolls. I remember the feeling of the dough, soft like powdered baby's skin, and the slickness of the egg that we used to seal those little envelopes of yummy goodness.

That is literally the only positive memory I have of my father, him showing us how to use the egg as paste to seal the egg roll shut, how to drop them in without spattering oil, putting my little fingers into the correct position to pinch the chopsticks, then lift and eat. I still use chopsticks whenever I eat Asian food; it feels cheap somehow to use western utensils with that particular food.

My father served as a DJ in the Korean War, then worked at a radio station and a tv station for a few years after he got home. This all happened before I was born. He never shared any details with me about life before I was around, or about anything else, really. All I saw was a pair of army issue boots in the back of his closet, stumbled upon in the middle of hide-and-seek. My sisters shared their vague memories of going with him to the radio station and him playing their favorite song for them, "Top of the World" by the Carpenters.

He lives 1100 miles away from me now. He doesn't know my address, doesn't know that I love writing poetry, doesn't know that I keep the commandment to "Honor thy father and thy mother" by becoming a good person in spite of him.

Some Basic Korean menu terms

Any of these might be paired with other ingredients to create familiar Korean menu selections:
  • soon du bu (soft tofu), so soon dubu jjigye is a popular soft tofu stew.
  • hweh dub bap is raw fish over rice.
  • gop chang (tripe) gui is roast intestine.
  • saengsun (fish) jun is bits of fish dipped in egg and fried up.
  • dwenjang (Korean miso) jjigye is miso stew.
  • meeyok (seaweed) guk is seaweed soup.
  • ahl (roe) tang is fish roe soup.
  • ohjinguh (squid)
  • kimchee (enough PR on this one)
  • jaeyuk (pork) jaeyuk bbokeum is a hot stir-fried pork dish.

Adapted from a posting by Michael Yu on the International board at Chowhound.com

Korean food has some similarities to the cuisine of other Asian countries, but some differences as well. Of course, rice is a staple, although Koreans tend to use medium grain rice, as opposed to the stickier short grain rice favored by the Chinese (this is probably why Koreans generally use a spoon for rice, and the Chinese use chopsticks). The Korean diet also includes an absurd amount of their local invention, kimchi (gimchi/kimchee), a kind of spicy, pickled cabbage. Aside from these two staples, Korean food generally includes a lot of vegetables, and is seasoned primarily with garlic and red chili, although ginger and ginseng are also used. Various kinds of barbequed meat, seafood and soups are also popular.

As well as their own unique cuisine, Koreans have also developed Koreanized versions of Japanese and Chinese dishes.

I will give here a list and brief description of all the Korean dishes that I've tried (and remember), and will eventually start creating nodes for as many as possible. The list will be weak in the seafood department, because I don't eat it:

Real Korean Foods

Koreanized Chinese Foods

  • Jjajang myeon (noodles with black bean sauce)
  • Tang soo yook (sweet-and-sour pork)
  • Japchae (rice noodles)
  • Bokkeumbap (fried rice)
  • Mandoo (dumplings)
  • Koreanized Japanese Foods

  • Sashimi (raw fish)
  • Oodong (thick noodle soup. Japanese: udon)
  • Saengson Chobap (a kind of sushi)
  • Yubu Chobap (sushi rice wrapped in fried tofu. Japanese: inarizushi)
  • Donkass (pork cutlet. Japanese: tonkatsu)

    Obviously, this list is far from complete. If anyone adds a node for a Korean food not on the list, /msg me and I'll add it to the list.

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