South Korea is a place of great talent, creativity, wisdom and beauty. Koreans have one of the lowest obesity rates in the OECD and a greater life expectancy than in the USA. Their meals are delicately proportioned, infused with ample spices, cooked at home; and throughout their turbulent history, Koreans have developed a remarkable array of superfoods.
Here are the essentials:
This iconic dish is a reddish fermented cabbage seasoned with garlic, salt, vinegar, chili peppers, and other spices. It is loaded with vitamins A, B, and C, and healthy bacteria for digestion. Some claim it can prevent yeast infections and the growth of cancer.
Kimchi is part of every Korean meal, either as a side with rice or in soups. They even put it on burgers or pancakes.
Find it in your nearest Asian supermarket, and try scrambling it with eggs, diced tomatoes, and mushrooms.
This sweet, tender garlic has been fermented at high temperatures and a constant humidity for over a month. Some claim that black garlic lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of cancer. Others cite evidence of it improving blood circulation and increasing antioxidant levels in the body.
The Koreans first used black garlic as an ingredient for cooking in the 21st century, but the delicacy wasn’t secure in Western culinary circles until around 2010.
It remains elusive, but you can send for it through a dedicated website. Try roasting it with cauliflower, rapeseed oil, butter and parsley.
This bean paste is made by boiling beans, grinding them into pulp, drying clumps in a warm room, hanging them in the sun for a few months, soaking them in water for another few months, then salting and fermenting them. The resulting protein rich paste is packed with vitamins and minerals, plant hormones and isoflavonoids that have been found to lower blood pressure, strengthen the liver and assist with the treatment of cancer.
Doenjang is largely unknown outside the Korean population, but it does seem to be available on Amazon. Use it to grill fish, or add it to a stew of zucchini, tofu and red peppers.
Namul are a variety of side dishes made from different vegetables like wild leafy plants, Korean squash, spinach, and sprouts.
As well as the nutritional value of vegetables, Namul makes up around 80% of the Korean diet; a ratio we should all aspire to.