Korean cuisine reflects a diverse, traditional and ancient culture. Much of what Koreans eat today resembles what their ancestors ate centuries ago. Most meals include meat, fish and rice flavoured with local herbs and spices. Korean food brings together a harmony of five tastes -- hot, bitter, sweet, sour and salty. Spices are believed to sustain health as well as adding flavour. A Korean meal also is a balance between flavours and colours. Pickled foods balance out the spiciness or richness of dishes. Korean staples include kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish, as well as Korean barbecue called bulgogi. Most households still produce their own soybean paste and soy sauce, two flavouring staples of the Korean diet.
Most Korean dishes incorporate garlic. Koreans use garlic in meat dishes, vegetable preparations and sauces. Garlic is almost always minced and added to savoury foods. Kimchi, the pickled cabbage side dish often used as a topping, contains garlic, and cooks commonly add garlic to soy sauce for a richer flavour.
Korean cuisine, like many other Asian cuisines, employs green onions as a savoury ingredient in meals like stir-fry dishes. Green onions also serve as a colourful garnish for many Korean meals.
Red pepper was introduced to Korea during the 17th century, according to "Discovering Korean Cuisine." Koreans use the crimson spice in a number of forms, including paste, powdered and fresh. Red chilli paste commonly adds a deep, spicy taste to vegetable dishes, meats and sauces. Korean chilli paste combines red pepper, garlic, salt and sometimes fish sauce, according to "Discovering Korean Cuisine." Fiery peppers counterbalance sweet rice and milder foods. Rep pepper powder makes kimchi spicy. The total chilli production in South Korea totals 200,000 tons, making the nation the fifth largest producer of peppers in the world, according to Motherlindas.com.
Koreans add ground black pepper to a number of dishes. Soups and sauces contain plenty of ground black pepper. Pepper is added to condiments and many savoury stir-fries. Koreans use black pepper for bulgogi, or a marinade for beef, according to Epicurious.com.
Many Korean dishes include ginger, a flavourful, spicy root. Ginger is added to many sauces, stir-fries and kimchi. A simple Korean dipping sauce includes soybean paste, crushed garlic, grated ginger, red pepper sauce, salad oil and water. The sauce is used for meats and vegetables.