Best Healthy Korean Dishes
About Korean Cuisine
What makes Korean food considered healthy is the proportionally high consumption of vegetables, moderate to high consumption of legumes and fish, and low consumption of red meat. While Koreans are known for sophisticated beef dishes like bulgogi (grilled marinated beef), they’re also big consumers of heart-healthy seafood.
A well-planned traditional Korean meal include flavors that are sweet, sour, bitter, hot and salty. It may even include ingredients in green, white, red, black and yellow, representing the five basic elements of the yin-yang principle: wood, metal, fire, water and earth. ‘The idea of getting a variety of foods, and not too much of any, makes intuitive sense,’ says nutrition expert Prof. Kathryn Sucher.
Korean meals are typically served with rice (bap) broth soup (guk), kimchi and many side dishes (banchan) with every meal. The banchan are mostly vegetables seasoned with various fermented soy products, medicinal herbs, and sesame or perilla oil. Traditionally, Koreans tended to use fermenting, boiling, blanching, seasoning, and pickling. The fermentation of foods provides health benefits, enriches the food flavors and preserves the food for longer periods.
Soul Story Top 5 Healthy Korean Food Picks
The most popular dish is Kimchi (김치)
Dating to the Silla Dynasty (around 2,000 years ago), kimchi is a national dish in Korea and is among the leading food trends worldwide. Kimchi goes through a fermentation process inside tightly sealed containers ranging from days to months. During this process, the taste, texture, and nutritional quality of kimchi drastically changes and improves; hence, the escalating popularity of the napa cabbage as a ‘superfood’. More and more people outside Asia are starting to realize that apart from kimchi’s distinctive flavor, the spicy dish has a long list of health benefits as well.
For instance, kimchi is particularly beneficial for healthy skin as it contains numerous antioxidants which prevent the biological damage of tissues and DNA. The presence of phenols and flavonoids in kimchi guard the body against oxidative damage and free radicals.
Is one of the most popular and nutritiously rich dishes in Korean cuisine. Served with steamed white rice (a healthy alternative is having brown rice), with a bed of cooked and raw vegetables. The most common cooked vegetables used are spinach, bean sprouts and mushrooms. The zucchini and carrots can be thinly sliced and served raw. An egg on top will be served sunny side up. For non-vegetarians, thinly sliced rib-eye or sirloin beef (bulgogi) can be served after being marinated and cooked. The finishing touch is to add a spoon of sesame oil and red chili paste (gochuchang). The gochuchang is prepared by mixing the paste with a bit of rice vinegar and a sweetener. Most restaurants will use sugar but a healthy alternative is to use honey or crushed fruits to sweeten.
Ox Bone Soup ‘Seolleongtang’ (설렁탕)
This delicious soup is served simply with brown rice and kimchi. At most, the broth will contain noodles, finely chopped scallions, and a few strips of meat. Since seolleongtang is bone broth, it is chock-full of nourishing nutrients including collagen, protein, amino acids, calcium and so much more. These not only promote good health but amazing skin, hair and nails.
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Steamed pork belly is known as bossam and the enjoyment of this dish is that the pork is sliced into squares slightly larger than a bite. They are then wrapped with fresh green leaves of lettuce, perilla, or kimchi and dipped in sauce. There are two traditional options: made with chili paste (ssamjang), soybean paste (doenjang), or a salty pink sauce made of tiny pickled shrimp (saeujeot). It’s the wrapping of fresh greens without rice that makes this dish healthier.
Pork skins are high in protein, containing around 17g per 100g. There are no carbohydrates, making pork skins a low-glycemic food, with little impact on blood sugar. Also an excellent source of collagen for anti-aging.
Is a seasonal dish in Korea but served year round in tropical climates such as Southeast Asia. Buckwheat noodles are served in a lightly seasoned cold broth, topped with tangy meat, or kimchi or radish, cucumber and boiled egg. Additional seasoning including vinegar and Korean mustard (gyeoja) can be added.
The joys of traveling is to learn about new cultures and part of the adventure is trying the different foods.
I believe that cuisine is the most important link between nature and culture. ~ Alex Atala
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Sources: Science Direct and Eating Well
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