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Exciting Changes in Food Culture

The flux of modern Korean cuisine

The recent emergence of Korean cuisine cultivates from cooking shows and restaurants that have turned Korean cooks into full-blown celebrities. Overseas young chefs and Korean native chefs are starting to open their own concept restaurants that are appearing daily here in Korea. These chefs emphasize proper sourcing, authenticity, creativity, and taste of the ingredients rather than just the basics. In addition, the chefs have to create a cuisine that the native Korean diners will enjoy.

Korea's unique terrain of sea and mountains allows an immense variety of ingredients. Nowadays, Korean traditional cooking techniques such as marinating and fermenting merge with western cooking techniques to create a diverse range of cuisines.

The new restaurants and cafes are cosmopolitan yet local. Young Koreans are building organic farms outside of the city such as in the Jeolla-do and Bundang areas around Seoul. Rooftop gardens are rising in popularity because diners want to enjoy the freshest ingredients available.

In addition, there is a trend where diners drive hours to rediscover traditional rustic Korean cuisine. Influential food bloggers are gaining celebrity status as they champion new eateries and demote poor ones. The Korean culinary scene is now in a flux where food and taste is the focus.

Ginseng

Ginseng is known in Korean folklore as a panacea. This curative root is revered and treasured for its healing properties. In Korea, food and medicine are intertwined so this root is often used in tonics, teas, alcohols and food.

The root is believed to reduce fatigue, increase stamina, improve mental awareness and detoxify the body. Recent scientific evidence shows that ginseng has positive effects on the circulatory system, metabolism, the nervous system and digestive system. It has also shown to have a defensive effect on radiation.

The root adds a distinct, earthy flavour to the foods and drinks it is used in. Koreans prefer ginseng that is harvested after six years. The most highly sought after ginseng roots are grown on mountains. Red ginseng is one of the most common of the roots in Korea. This root is processed through a special steam processing which extracts the medicinal benefits and preserves them for a longer time.

Koreans believe that food is medicine so this miraculous root is used in famous foods like a chicken and ginseng soup called Samgyetang. Ginseng is also used to make fortified alcohols, tonics, candies and teas.

Temple Cuisine

Food that purifies body and mind

Korean Buddhist Temple cuisine is mindful food traditional eaten by monks. The monks recognize the effort that goes into the creation of everything. They make an effort not to waste even an individual grain of rice. The main precept behind temple cuisine is compassion for all beings. The food one eats should not cause harm to any being nor should it be wasteful.

Temple cuisine is a simple diet that is based on vegetables and excludes animal products, including fish. The focus is on foods that are believed to give energy and mindfulness. Temple cuisine avoids foods that are thought to be profane such as the five pungent vegetables, ‘O-shin-chae.’ O-shin-chae vegetables are onions, garlic, chives, green onions, and leeks. However, the use of chilies is allowed and it is used to give accent to dishes.

Temple cuisine focuses on fresh, preserved and fermented foods. Buddhist kimchis and fermented pastes are fermented without using any animal products or seafood and yet they are nutritious. The process for cooking this way is used in order to keep the food as natural as possibly while fortifying it to make it healthier. Many of the fresh vegetables and roots are gathered from the mountains.

Korean temple cuisine is not considered just monks’ food anymore. It is easy to find temple cuisine restaurants throughout the country. During a "Temple Stay Experiences" people can experience how to make their mind serene and calm. Through the food people believe they can purify their mind and body.