7 Things K-dramas have taught me about food – The Soul Kitchen

7 Things K-dramas have taught me about food

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I started watching K-dramas sometime mid-last year and instantly fell in love with the feisty heroines, sensitive males who sport pinks and oranges with élan, beautiful cinematography of Jeju Island and nearby seaside villages, and warm hospitable culture very similar to ours. But what I dig the most in K-dramas is their food and the whole shebang.

Food is a big thing in the Indian custom, we make such a hue and cry over it. But when I watched a few K-dramas, I realised their passion for or rather obsession of food, and in the process I learned a thing or two.

Story behind their foods

They create such interesting stories behind their foods that you can’t help but fall in love with their cuisine. I mean there are times when I salivate looking at their beautiful meat montages and wonder why I can’t start eating meat.

A mother preparing a hangover soup for her daughter the next morning or giving her barley tea as it’s good for stomach, a friend making porridge for another sick friend, a tomboy gulping down a lot of food whenever she is presented with an opportunity or an aemoni leaving her tteokbokki shop and the secret recipe to her granddaughter’s friend as the young boy cares for the old woman when her own granddaughter is in no position to do so are such heart-warming scenes.

Consuming seaweed soup on their birthday, isn’t it a healthy way to start a new year? That’s what I am going to do – start my birthday on a healthy note.

Breakfast SHOULD NOT be missed at any cost

I believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and so it gives me immense pleasure to see Koreans believe in this principle too. They wake up early, and the mother is always seen cooking in the kitchen, and she prepares such an elaborate breakfast too. Rice and soup are usually had with a bunch of side dishes called banchan. From galbi (grilled short ribs) to scallion paejong (spring onion savoury pancakes) and bibimbap (steamed white rice served with a host of veggies and/or meat like kimchi, eggs, pork etc. with flavours like gochujang), dakjuk (different types of porridges), kimchi jjigae and other egg preparations.

To see such a lavish and healthy spread first thing in the morning sure perks up the day, and gives you nutrition for a heavy workday ahead.

Family that eats together stays together

I love the concept of low sitting, where the entire family gets together around a low table and consume their food.

In Let’s Eat, three neighbours bond over their passion for food, and try to eat together as much as possible. As they don’t stay with their own family, it was heart-warming to see strangers coming together to share food as a surrogate family.

The same way in 1988, what was unique was how neighbours made extra food so that they could share it with others. Whether it was rice, kimchi or expensive meat, they made it a point to send it to others. It reminded me of my childhood, where my mother and our neighbours exchanged foods with one another. A little late, but I have started doing it with my neighbours too; we exchange pickles, snacks, foods, etc. You get to eat such a variety of food that way and makes you feel attached to the community.

Homecooked is the in-thing

While working people eat out a lot, homecooked food is still preferred when an opportunity presents itself. They have an array of side dishes like kimchi (made of spicy cabbage or raddish strip) already in the fridge, mostly sent over by their mother, hence making a kimchi rice or ramyum is not a big deal for them. And what I appreciate is their men are so hands-on in the kitchen.  

Wholesomeness of their meals

The foundation of Korean food is rice, meat and vegetables. Though they eat a lot of noodles too nowadays, but they always complement it with oodles of other healthy food like vegetables, mung sprouts, tofu, fish, meat, etc. Whether it’s adding an egg over their ramyun, eating kimchi (fermented side dish) or wrapping their meat in cabbage, they take their food groups seriously.

While being a vegetarian, I cannot include meat in my diet, but seeing their food pairing, I have started including more colours in my salad now. Also, I have noticed, they are not a big fan of milk products, except for milk in their lattes, I don’t see them using much of it.

Deriving pleasure in simple foods

This is one thing that I have learnt from K-dramas that no food is simple enough to not be enjoyed. While they enjoy their fine dining, they are equally comfortable with eating simple foods. From a steamed sweet potato to eating corn cobs under the stars, these are every day foods that they relish as snacks instead of store bought processed foods. Believe me, I now eat steamed or roasted sweet potatoes at least thrice a week as my evening snack. It’s a rich source of fiber and promotes gut health.

Street foods are culinary delights

Korean street foods absolutely busted my myth that Korean foods are bland. If you look at tteokbokki, their stir-fried spicy rice cakes or dakbal (spicy Korean version of chicken feet), you will realise how much spice Koreans can handle. There enjoy fried foods like yangnyeom tongdak (fried chicken) or corn dogs, I mean which country doesn’t have deep fried foods in their street food menu, but on the other hand, they have healthier foods like beondegi (steamed or boiled silkworm pupae insects), bungeoppang (baked pastry with a filling of red bean and shaped like a fish), or raw baby octopus enjoyed with a generous drizzle of sesame oil.

Just writing this blog post has made my mouth water. Now, I can’t make these lovely Korean dishes, but I can at least roast sweet potatoes and make tofu out of soy bean milk. So that’s what I am going to do more often now.

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