For many people who grew up eating Korean food, certain dishes evoke strong memories. It's not uncommon to hear Koreans say "Oh it would be killer to eat kimchi jigae right now" on a cold rainy day or "We only need kimbap to make this perfect" when on a hike. Nearly every occasion, weather conditions, etc can evoke the longing for some particular dish. Layered on top of this is that many foods are formally tied to holidays and life events. Of course, Koreans eat many of these foods year-round but we thought it would be fun to share some of the occasions and food pairings that are closely associated for many Koreans:
- Hiking and kimbap - Delicious and portable, kimbap is a typical food for Koreans to bring on a day hike through the many mountains in Korea. Many Koreans have fond recollections of our moms packing kimbap into our lunch boxes when we went on outdoor field trips.
- Celebrations and bulgogi/ galbi - Historically, Koreans did not eat much red meat because of the lack of flat grazing land for cattle. Hence, meat-centric dishes like bulgogi and galbi were saved for special occasions and celebrations. Now, South Koreans eat much more meat because of greater wealth and the availability of imported meat but meat-heavy dishes still are a treat.
- Cold weather and jigae - Korea experiences all four seasons (the latitude of Seoul is not too different from that of Boston actually) and all types of cold weather trigger longings for simmering kimchi jigae, daeng-jang jigae, and soon-dubu jigae. Instant ramen (Shin ramen is the national favorite)
- After school and dduk-bokki - Throughout Korea, you'll find small snack restaurants located close to schools. When school gets out, these places are mobbed by hungry children looking to spend their allowance on a snack. Their favorite? Dduk-bokki.
- Birthdays and mi-yuk-gook - Mi-yuk-gook is a seaweed soup made with meat broth. It's a great reflection of Korean cooking in many ways because it combines land and sea and uses meat sparingly. Seaweed is a great source of iodine and iron, and it's a traditional food for Koreans to eat on their birthdays as well as for women who just gave birth. We don't have mi-yuk-gook on the menu currently but perhaps we will feature them as a special in the future
- New Year's Day and rice cakes - New Year's Day (usually celebrated on the lunar calendar in Korea) brings a wide array of rice cakes from sweet pastry-like concoctions to savory soups. In Korea, grandmothers like to tell their grandchildren that they will not really become one year older if they do not finish their rice cake soup! (In Korea as in some other East Asian countries, people count themselves one year older with each passing New Year's Day).