Korea’s Different Food Types

Did you know that Korea’s cuisine are divided into several types, each with their own influences?

Buddhist Cuisine

Since Buddhism was introduced into Korea, Buddhist traditions have strongly influenced Korean cuisine. Korean temple cuisine originated in Buddhist temples of Korea. What types of food originate at the temples? A bowl of cooked glutinous rice (called chalbap), fried dessert (called yakgwa), and fried and puffed rice snack (called yumilgwa ) were served at the Buddhist altars during the Silla period (57 BC – 935 AD). During the Goryeo Dynasty, wraps made with lettuce together with yaksik, and yakgwa spread to China and other countries. Since the Joseon Dynasty, Buddhist cuisine has been established in Korea according to regions and temples.

Royal Court Cuisine

The cuisine of the monarchy is closely related to Korean temple cuisine. Then, when the royal court maids who were assigned to the royal kitchen became old, they had to leave the royal palace. Many entered Buddhist temples to become nuns. Hence, culinary techniques and recipes of the royal courts were integrated into Buddhist cuisine.

Vegetarian Cuisine

Even vegetarian cuisines are linked to Buddhist traditions from the Goryeo dynasty onwards. There are now many vegetarian restaurants in Korea which were historically local restaurants that are unknown to tourists. Most have buffets, with cold food, and vegetarian kimchi and tofu being the main features. Bibimbap is a common vegan dish. Menus change with seasons. The Korean tea ceremony, suitable for all vegetarians and vegans, began with Buddhist influences.

Ceremonial Food

Food is included in Korean family ceremonies, mainly based on the Confucian culture. The four family ceremonies – coming-of-age ceremony, wedding, funeral, and ancestral rite – are considered especially important and elaborately developed, influencing Korean life today. Ceremonial food has developed with variation across different regions. Ritual foods, for example, arranged by rows on the dinner table include rice, liquor, soup, vinegar and soy sauce (1st row); noodles, skewered meat, vegetable and fish dishes, and rice cake (2nd row); three types of hot soup, meat and vegetable dishes (3rd row); dried snacks, kimchi, and sweet rice drink (4th row); and variety of fruit (5th row).

Street Food

In South Korea, food may be purchased from street carts during the day, customers eating standing or have their food wrapped to take home. At night, streets are filled with small tents that sell inexpensive foods, drinks, and alcoholic beverages. Seasonal foods include hotteok, and bungeoppang, which are enjoyed in autumn and winter. Gimbap and tteokbokki are also very popular street food.

Merging Modern and Tradition in UW

Look out for us in the University district when you crave Korean food. Our selections have stood the test of time and come to you still with its traditions and historical significance.