Culinary dishes from East Asian nations have always been regarded as some of the healthiest options available. Especially when we talk about Japanese and Korean who are known to incorporate some of the healthiest and cleanest ingredients in their food.
In fact, according to a National Geographic Report in 2018, both Japan and Korea are listed on the top countries with the longest lifespans of its population.
In addition to a healthy diet, both the Japanese and Koreans consider food as an integral part of their culture, and it extends to the way they prepare the dishes as well. Some of their rituals revolving around food are discrete while some are more commonly known by the general publics.
In this article we’ll be outlining the general differences and approaches between Japanese food and Korean food. We’ll also briefly talk about the fundamental principles and cultural history behind them to truly appreciate their cuisine like the locals do.
The Japanese has a long history of incorporating complex rituals and formalities into their food practices. They have an emphasis on the importance of enjoying the art and origins of the food, and not merely just by tasting them.
For example, it is customary for the Japanese to speak up to the people they’re dining with or to the chef and staff before eating as a token of appreciation for their food.
In addition to intricate rituals, the Japanese also incorporate the use of soy sauce in many of their dishes. Soy sauce, or Shoyu in Japanese, holds a significant role in all kinds of cooking.
The application of soy sauce can increase the food’s aroma, and more importantly its flavor. It adds an element of sweetness, acidity and bitterness to the food that helps to prolong the taste in the mouth.
Another iconic cuisine is sushi, which traces back to as early as 8th century Japan. The usage of soy sauce also extends to the eating experience of sushi. Guests should avoid dipping the entire sushi in soy sauce as it will break down the rice. Only the fish or seafood should be dipped.
It is also customary to eat sushi with your hands. Proper restaurants will provide you a hot towel (oshibori) for guests to wash their hands before and after eating. Also, as a side dish the Japanese often serves sea vegetables known as Wakame in a salad or in miso soup together with tofu and scallions.
Together with the main dish, they complete the overall Japanese culinary experience.
The Korean culinary experience involves less complex rituals than the Japanese, but still has their own unique styles. A national Korean dish known as Kimchi, involves the process of fermentation to create enzymes that are beneficial for digestion, as well as a wide range of probiotics, beta-carotene and vitamin C. These translate to a fresh and healthy culinary experience.
The use of fermented cuisine is prevalent in other Korean dishes as well. Every Korean dish will have a collective side dish known as a Banchan that is shared together. It consists of cooked rice, soup, Kimchi and a serving of veggies that are infused with spices and herbs that are rich in nutrients and antioxidants.
Another example would be Saengchae, which is a type of Korean salad that is mix of uncooked vegetables spices and chicken that is matched together with the secondary main meal like meat or noodles.
In addition to fermented dishes, the Koreans also love to make use of their specially made pastes. The Gochujang paste for example, is pepper-based and adds just a bit of spice with a hint of sweets mixed in. Or if you prefer a more savory, bold taste perhaps you can try the Doenjang which is made of soybean and salt to enhance the flavor of soup, vegetables and rice.
Overall, both Japanese and Koran cuisines offer some of the healthier culinary options out there. They truly have a unique approach to preparing the cuisine by integrating their culture, rituals as well as the overall well-being of their guests with the nutritionally packed offerings.