Before coming to Korea, I did not know about hansik. I had never had Korean food, and thought there was a lot of rice and vegetables but not meat. I was very surprised and glad to see that hansik was so diverse.
When the teacher demonstrated how to cook galbee-jjim at the Together with HANSIK program, I got the impression that it was somewhat different from that of France.
In France, when we cook meat, we either put it in the oven, or pan with a bit of butter or olive oil. During this class, we boiled the meat in a pot of water, which was very different and new.
I was also very surprised that the cooking took so much time. For example, the meat had to be soaked in water for hours, and the mushrooms for an hour. I realized it takes a long time to cook Korean dishes.
The spices used in the dishes were very different from those in France. We do not find the same radishes in France, and jujube, ginkgo nuts or rice wine are unobtainable.
In France, people do not really eat spicy foods. We usually like to put a bit of pepper in our dishes to accentuate the flavor, but not more. Therefore, dishes would be less spicy.
After cooking two different recipes of galbee-jjim—traditional method and applied method—participants were able to taste their dishes with rice and kimchi prepared by the organizers.
The food was amazing. It was just spicy enough, not too much. It was very flavored, healthy, and the sauce was absolutely amazing. I had never tasted this dish before, so it was a great experience and the food was very delicious.
Of the two different recipes of galbee-jjim, I preferred the spicy applied galbee-jjim. I usually do not like it when a dish is too spicy as I am not used to the flavor. However, this dish was just a little bit spicy and was very distinct in its flavors. The seasoning sauce was amazing – it was a mix of different spices that went perfectly together.
Having spent a few months in Korea, now I know that hansik means Korean food. I think it is really good. The first thing I think about when hearing the word hansik is obviously kimchi. I think that it is very specific to Korea and no other country has a dish like kimchi.
I love that hansik is so healthy and diverse. There are always lots of vegetables included and soups. Thus I like bibimbap, mandu-guk, bulgogi, gimbap, and many more.
I also think of the culture around food that is very important: the sharing culture. Most of the dishes are made to be shared with the rest of the table—there is a high sense of community. This is very different from the culinary cultures in Europe. Moreover, the food is meant to be very healthy most of the time, which I think is great.
* Kimberly Lohmer is a contributing writer.