If you’re looking to bring some Korean flare to the kitchen, here are some basics and recipes for Korean cooking to get you started.
Rice is more than a staple for Korean food. It’s become a symbol of life and represents prosperity. For thousands of years, someone’s wealth was determined by the amount of rice someone had stored in their home.
Korea can be a difficult place to grow rice. There are 4 distinct seasons. The winter is long and cold. The mountains cover 70% of the land in Korea. These challenges and other limitations have caused Koreans to work effectively and diligently mastering time management.
Koreans eat several types of rice, and here are just a few types.
Types of Rice
White rice wins the best in taste. However, it is the worst when it comes to nutritional value. It’s milled, meaning its husk, germ, and bran are removed during milling, leaving just the starch. Outside the excessive milling, there are still some B-vitamins in white rice. However, B-vitamins are water-soluble, so they are washed out during cooking.
Unlike white rice, this rice has the germ and the bran still attached. Some brown rice even still has the husk. There’s a higher nutritional value in brown rice and it takes a little longer to cook. It also takes longer to digest. The taste can take some getting used to. White and brown rice are often combined by Koreans to bring together better taste and texture.
Half-Milled Brown Rice
This type of rice is between brown and white rice. It’s gone through the milling process, and some portion of the germ and bran remain intact. Half milled rice balances taste and nutritional value.
Sweet rice is short grain. It’s the stickiest rice consumed by Koreans. It’s the rice used in making desserts and cakes. It has a high glycemic index, so you might want to avoid eating this rice if you have high blood sugar.
This short-grain rice. It combines two types of rice: brown rice and black short-grain rice. These two types of rice are grown in the same field. This rice was created in California, all from Japanese seeds. This rice offers a nutty and sweet flavor when cooked. It’s typically mixed with white rice.
Black rice was originally harvested in China and had a nickname as being “forbidden rice.” This was because it was used for emperors only. It offers a nutty and fragrant flavor, so it goes with several sweet and savory cuisines. It’s loaded with iron and fiber.
Multi-Grain Rice or Mixed Grain Rice
This rice is just what it says. There are legumes and other types of grains. There are many varieties depending on the number of grains added. Oat, barley, millet, lentil, sorghum, and more are the most common ones you’ll find in this mixture.
Mixed grains should be soaked prior to cooking to ensure even cooking.
Is Korean Cooking Healthy?
Many people wonder if Korean eating is healthier than other cuisines. Simply put, it’s possible to find Korean dishes that are healthier, but some dishes aren’t as healthy as others.
While it may be hard to find healthy Korean dishes, Korean food can be healthier than some Asian cuisine. Korean cuisines use less oil than most Chinese dishes, so you’ll be consuming less fat with Korean dishes.
Korean Cooking Essentials
If you’ve only had Korean food at restaurants, it might be intimidating to think about making it at home. But, if you know how to sear meat and sauté vegetables, all you need is a few ingredients and you are part way there. All you need is some rice wine vinegar, gochujang, soy sauce, fermented chili paste, sesame oil, and some kimchee. There’s a good chance you already have some of the cooking utensils needed!
But, to make sure you have everything you need, there are a few things that you should have to make the best Korean food. Here are some of the top picks you might want to get.
Rice is a Korean staple food. You can never have enough rice. Rice cookers make the process of cooking rice so much easier. You can cook the rice and leave it in the cooker to stay warm until you’re ready to eat it. You want one that’s at least 4 cups so you can cook enough rice for the whole family.
These are great because they have a larger cooking surface compared to woks, which is great to get a good sear on your meat. It’s great for tossing as well as opposed to braising pans.
Korean Stone Bowls
There are many stews and soups which are served in earthenware bowls that hold a lot of heat. These are great to have if you plan on cooking stews and soups for the family and these can be bought just about anywhere online for a relatively reasonable price.
Korean Rice Cookers
If you’ve ever tried to time cooking rice to be done when everything else is, you know how frustrating this can be. You over cook the rice or under cook it. These days, many homes have rice cookers. It turns off when the rice is done meaning the days of burning rice are over. No more undercooking rice or messing it up. There are even different types of rice cookers you can learn about here.
Benefits of a Rice Cooker
Cooks Riced Automatically
Fussing over rice is a thing of the past. Rice cookers take all the work out of cooking rice in a saucepan. You can cook up some of your favorite rice in rice cookers with a set it and forget it option. Measure your rice out, put the right amount of water in it, put the lid on, turn it on, and let it do its job. The rice cooker will turn off when the rice is done.
Rice is Kept Warm
You can find some rice cookers with a ‘keep warm’ option. This will allow your rice to stay warm after it’s done cooking while the rest of your meal finishes up. It won’t overcook your rice either, which is beneficial.
Cleanup is Easy
Most rice cookers have components in them that can be placed in the dishwasher for easier cleanup. Some might not have these components, so you will have to wash them by hand. Just be sure you don’t get the wire in the sink, as this can ruin the rice cooker.
What to Look for in a Rice Cooker
Figuring out what rice cooker to buy is all about the features that you want your rice cooker to have. It’s about how much money you want to pay as well. Some other factors to consider when purchasing a rice cooker are:
- Types of uses
- Ease of use
- Brand reputation
When it comes down to it, it’s all about personal preference. Make sure you pick one that will do the job you want it to do.
Korean Rice Recipes
There are thousands of delicious Korean recipes that you can find to bring some flare to your kitchen. Here are just a few to get you started. The whole family will love these, and you’ll be the talk of the community.
Korean Beef Bowl
- ¼ c packed brown sugar
- ¼ c reduced sodium soy sauce
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- ¼ tsp sesame seeds
- 2 green onions sliced thinly
- In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, sesame oil, and ginger.
- In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook while stirring constantly. Stir about 1 minute until fragrant. Add in ground beef and cook until brown. This takes about 3-5 minutes. Make sure to crumble the beef and drain any excess fat.
- Stir in the soy sauce along with green onions until combined. Allow to simmer until heated, about 2 minutes.
- Serve immediately and garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.
Gyeran Bap (Korean Rice with Egg)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1-2 c cooked medium-grain rice
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
- Roasted sesame seeds or furikake
- Fresh scallions
- Dried seaweed sheets
- In a small nonstick pan, add oil and heat over medium heat. Crack your egg in the pan. Cover with a lid that fits properly and cook for 3 minutes. If a white part begins to form over the yolk take the lid off. If you don’t mind your yolk being more cooked, leave the lid on. Turn the heat off and remove the lid. If your yolk is at the right temperature, remove from the stove.
- It’s time to assemble your Gyeran Bap. Place your cooked rice into a shallow dish and drizzle sesame oil and soy sauce over the top. Drizzle it over the top of the egg too. Garnish with furikake and sesame seeds. Crush some of the seaweed over it. You can add more sesame oil over the top and more soy sauce as well.
Seaweed Rice Balls
- 3 seaweed sheets
- 2 c short-medium grained rice
- ½ tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- Sesame seeds
- Cut your seaweed sheets into smaller pieces or put them in a food processor until they are shredded.
- Mix the rice, soy sauce, shredded seaweed, and sesame oil in a medium bowl until well incorporated.
- With plastic gloves on, add some oil so that rice doesn’t stick. Put 2 tbsp of rice into your palm and squeeze until the rice begins to stick. Shape it into a ball. Repeat until you have balled all rice.
Korean Fried Rice
- 3 tbsp canola or other neutral oil
- 2 peeled potatoes cut into ¼ in dice
- 2 shiitake mushrooms dried, reconstituted, and cut into ¼ in pieces
- 1 small onion chopped into ¼ in pieces
- 1 medium zucchini diced into ¼ in pieces
- 2 green onions cut into ½ in pieces
- Kosher salt or fine-grain salt
- 3 cups brown or cooked white rice
- 4 tbsp soy scallion dipping sauce
- Place a heavy bottom skillet or a wok over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp oil to the pan when hot.
- Add in the potatoes and the carrots and stir-fry for about 2 minutes.
- Add in the mushrooms, green onions, zucchini, and onions. Sprinkle vegetables with salt and pepper. Stir them for about 3 minutes. Transfer them to a large bowl.
- Add 2 remaining tbsp of oil to the pan and place over medium-high heat. After about 1 minute, add the rice and season using salt and pepper. Stir the rice to coat all grains and stir-fry for 4 minutes.
- Add in vegetables and toss to combine. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Transfer to serving bowls and enjoy!
Kimchi Fried Rice
- 3 tbsp butter, unsalted
- ½ small onion, diced
- 1 cup chopped kimchi
- 2 tbsp kimchi juice
- ½ c small-dice Spam, or leftover cooked meat
- 2 c cooked and cooled rice
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- Salt to taste
- Slivered or crumbled nori
- Sesame seeds
- In a nonstick pan or cast-iron skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add in the onions. Cook and stir until onions begin to sizzle, which will take about 2 minutes. Add in the kimchi and kimchi juice. Stir until it reaches a boil and add in the Spam and cook until it’s nearly dried out, which is about 5 minutes.
- Break up your rice in a pan with a spatula. Stir around to incorporate and turn the heat to medium. Cook and stir until the rice has about absorbed the sauce and is hot. This will take about 5 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce and the sesame oil. Taste and add in as much soy sauce as you want to taste. The same goes for the kimchi juice and sesame oil. Turn the heat down some and let the rice continue to cook to let it brown while the eggs cook.
- In a nonstick pan over medium heat, add vegetable oil. When it’s hot, add eggs and season with salt. Fry the eggs to your desired doneness. Serve the rice topped with your eggs, nori, and sesame seeds.