Korea, located in Northeast Asia, has an agricultural history that has continued to exist for more than 5,000 years despite its close proximity to China. For centuries, Koreans have eaten the products of the sea, the field, and the mountains because of the features of the Korean peninsula. The particular climate of the Korean peninsula makes Korean food more abundant and varied. Three parts of the Korean peninsula (east, west, and south) are surrounded by the sea. The climate is bitterly cold in winter, and very hot and humid in summer.
K-diet and K-food are two different concepts. The concept of K-diet is used to represent the traditional Korean food culture, cooking methods, dietary habits and patterns, whereas K-food are the food constituents of K-diet. K-food and K-diet are often described as Korean cuisine, Korean diet, or as traditional Korean food.
The development of Preservation Technology in Korea was prompted by the desire to preserve food resources. For example, in China, frying and pickling were the prevalent methods for reducing water content and to protect against microbial spoilage of food. Whereas the limited production of cooking oils in Korea has led to the development of the fermentation process for food preservation, which utilizes effective microorganisms against microbial spoilage.
While milk was the main ingredient in fermented products, in countries with strong livestock industries such as cheese and yogurt, the main ingredients in Korean fermented foods were grains and vegetables. This was due to their settled lifestyle and focus on agriculture.
Korean food has developed from the necessity of preserving foods during the hot summer and long harsh winters in the Korean peninsula characterized by rocky ocean fronts on the east, south, and west, and by rugged mountains on the north. In this environment, salted beans, fish, and vegetables were preserved by fermentation process.
Historically, Koreans have made various jang (fermented soy products) including kanjang (soy sauce), doenjang (soybean paste) and gochujang (red pepper paste), and diverse types of kimchi (fermented spicy cabbage ) with other vegetables. These unique fermentation techniques are examples of authentic Korean food.
Korea’s traditional meal (bapsang) is generally made up of four constituents.
The most basic seasoning used to make the food savory is kanjang (fermented soy sauce), doenjang (fermented soybean paste), vinegar, gochujang, and jeotkal (fermented fish sauce from anchovies, shrimp, etc).
Jeotkal can be eaten as a side dish itself and is more often used as a seasoning .
In Korea, people drink soongnyung (similar to tea made from left over scotched rice) to finish off a meal.
By using these four fundamental foods, Korean people have been developing their own unique meals (bapsang) by choosing one or more elements in each category.