While han shik (Korean Cuisine),often varies from region to region, there are a handful ingredients that are staple components in just about every dish. In fact, a number of Korean dishes, particularly banchan (side dishes), use very similar ingredients and the only difference is the way that they are prepared. Below is a list of the most essential staple ingredients for a Korean kitchen.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Ssal (Short grain rice)
Known to some as “sushi rice,” this sticky rice is a staple in Korean cuisine and is eaten with just about every meal of the day. To Koreans it is far more than a grain, it’s a symbol of life and representation of prosperity. In the past, one’s wealth in was determined by how much rice they had stored. Even today, the Korean expression for “Did you eat rice?” is used in the same way as the English greeting, “How are you?”
Ganjang (Soy sauce)
Both salty and sweet, soy sauce adds a unique flavor to Korean cuisine. Although there are countless varieties of the condiment, jinganjang is one of the more common, and is often used to season vegetables, seafood, and various dishes such as fried tofu and bibimbap.
Doenjang (Fermented soy bean paste)
Doenjang is a type of fermented bean paste made entirely of soybean and brine that boasts salty and earthy flavor profiles. It has been used as a condiment in Korean cooking for more than a thousand years, and is added as a main ingredient in Korean classics such as doenjang jiggae (soybean paste stew), a dish that often accompanies Korean BBQ.
Gochujang (Hot pepper paste)
Often considered the cornerstone of Korean cooking, gochujang is a savory, spicy and pungent fermented Korean condiment made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt. It literally can go on just about anything, from rice dishes to stews and even French fries. It adds a pleasant sweet heat that Koreans simply cannot live without.
Gochugaru (Hot pepper flakes)
Yet another essential ingredient in Korean cuisine is gochugaru, a coarsely ground red pepper that has a texture that falls somewhere between flakes and powder. Traditionally, gochugaru is made from sun-dried chili peppers, and versions that are prepared in this manner are still considered to have the best flavor. Hot, sweet and perfectly smoky, gochugaru is a must-have ingredient for various sauces and Korea’s beloved kimchi.
Chamkireum (Toasted sesame oil)
Chamkireum, toasted sesame oil, is dark red-brown in color and has a strong nutty flavor that, if used in large quantities, can be overpowering. Because of this, it is usually drizzled over soups, salads, porridge, side dishes and even desserts to add extra flavor.
Ssamjang (Spicy dipping sauce)
This savory sauce is made using soybean paste, chili paste, garlic, onion and sesame oil and is most often served with ssam, Korean-style BBQ wrapped in leafy greens. It has been a part of Korean cuisine since the Three Kingdoms era (57 BC – 668 AD). Eating ssam with namul was a tradition on Jeongwal Daeboreum, one of the four major Korean traditional holidays, when it was believed that opening one’s mouth wide and eating a big wrap brought luck into the household.
Garlic, one of the world’s healthiest foods, is also one the most essential ingredients in Korean cooking. Most recipes call for minced garlic as part of the seasoning, but whole garlic cloves are often used to make Korean broths, soups or stews. Koreans also enjoy pickled garlic as a side dish and grilled garlic with Korean BBQ and table cooking.
Aekjeot (Fish sauce)
Good aekjeot, or fish sauce, is savory, salty, slightly sweet and full of umami, a brothy or meaty flavor. It helps to bring out the flavors in dishes such as kimchi, as well as various soups and banchan.
Bokkeunkkae (Toasted sesame seeds)
Toasted sesame seeds add a bright, nutty taste to Korean dishes, particularly namul, or vegetable-based side dishes. As they are chewed, they release even more flavor, providing for a delightful culinary experience.
Marun Myeolchi (Dried anchovy)
Small dried anchovies are often used as an ingredient, along with soy sauce, sugar and hot pepper paste to make braised or stir-fried Korean side dishes such as myeolchibokkeum. Larger myeolchi, on the other hand, are used when making stock for soups like sundubu jjigae.
Wang sogeum (Salt)
Salt is an important ingredient in just about every kind of cuisine, but is especially essential in Korean dishes. Gulgeun sogeum, or wang sogeum is a kind of Korean sea salt or Korean brining salt that has a larger grain size and lower sodium content compared to common kosher salt. It is used primarily for salting napa cabbage when making kimchi. Additionally, because it is only minimally processed, it serves to help developing the flavors of fermented dishes.
While not technically an ingredient, no Korean kitchen would be complete without a box of disposable plastic gloves. Korean food is generally labor-intensive and must be made by hand. Whether seasoning fern bracken for namul, or rubbing salt onto cabbage to make kimchi, the hands are simply the most effective tools – spoons, spatulas and chopsticks simply cannot compare. In fact, “son mat” (meaning “the taste of one’s hands”) is a common term used in Korean cooking that refers to a chef’s own unique style of cooking.
It can also be used figuratively. After all, the best cooks don’t become the best through formal training or expensive kitchen tools, but by the love and passion they bring to their food.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.