A land of peaks, seas and fields
Korea is a land covered by mountains, an isolated peninsula that allows the country to hold onto its culture and traditions. Korea produces a wide variety of local (hyangto) foods, with aach province boasting a great number of local specialties. Koreans travel far and wide to try local delicacies. Favourites from the regions are brought back to their hometowns. In order to get authentic flavours, it is best to go to the source where it is specialized.
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Seoul itself doesn’t produce much in the way of agriculture, but it uses ingredients from all over the country to produce delicious dishes. As the capital of the Chosen Dynasty for over 500 years, Seoul still maintains many of the culinary traditions of the era; including its fondness for mild dishes that are neither spicy nor salty. Home to royalty and aristocrats, Seoulites were quite strict about its culinary rules and emphasis was placed on presentation. Main Dishes: Sinseollo (royal casserole), gujeopan (nine-sectioned plated), seollongtang (beef soup), yukgaejang (spicy beef soup), galbijjim(raised meat short ribs).
With its many mountains and high plains, Gangwon-do produces a lot of corn, buckwheat, and potatoes and many Gangwon-do dishes therefore include these ingredients. Seafood including the East Sea haspollack, squid, and seaweed are often used in its regional cuisine. Main Dishes: Makguksu (buckwheat noodle), gamjajeon (potato pancake), ojingeo sundae (blood sausage stuffed with squid), myengnanjeot (seasoned pollack roe).
One of Korea’s main farming regions, Chungcheongdo harvests large quantities of rice, barley, sweet potatoes, radishes, cabbage, cotton and ramie. Along the west coast it also features a lot of seafood. Chungcheong-do residents have traditionally enjoyed soybean paste. In winter, they like healthier soups like thick soybean paste soup (cheongggukjang.) Locals tend to go light on spices to let the natural flavors shine instead. Main Dishes: Kalguksu (kinfe-cut noodle soup), kongnamul bap (rice cooked with sprout), cheonggukjangjjigae (fermented soybean stew).
Jeolla-do province produces the most famous of Korea’s local cuisines. It utilizes a wide variety of grains, seafood, and wild vegetables unlike other regions. In Jeonju, Gwangju, and Haenam, wealthy noble families have handed down family recipes for generations. The agriculture in this region is considered the best in the country. The bean sprouts of Jeonju are particularly noted for their flavor. Jeolla-do cuisine is famous for its generosity: dishes tend to be elaborate as restaurants fill the tables with innumerable dishes. Main Dishes: Jeonjubibimbap (mixed rice Jeonju), konamulgukbap (soybean sprout soup with rice), hongeo hoe (fermented skate).
Gyeongsang-do has fisheries to its south and east, so it is rich in seafood. Its rich farmland lies on the banks of the Nakdonggnag River. Gyeongsnag-do dishes tend to be salty and spicy. Residents like to salt fresh fish and boil fish stews. Main Dishes: Daegutnag (cod stew), haemulpajeon (seafood pancake), jogaejjim (steamed seashells).
Jeju is a beautiful island located in the southern part of Korea. It produces hardly any rice, but makes up for it with beans, barley, millet and sweet potatoes. Jeju is famous for its mandarin oranges and abalone. Its dishes use a lot of fish and seaweed, which is not surprising since Jeju is an island. The locals use doenjang to season dishes and enjoy fish stews and porridge. Jeju-do residents utilize their native industry and simplicity in their dishes by not using much seasoning. Main Dishes: Jeonbokjuk (abalone porridge), okdomjuk (tilefish poffidge), okdomgui (grilled tilefish), Black Pork BBQ.