This Friday, the 2018 Winter Olympics Games are slated to commence. You know the drill, athletes the world over gather to don uniforms that match the flags of their home country and speed, swish or slide across an icy surface. Personally, I can’t wait.
This year’s games take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The world has begun to turn their focus on the chilly county in the northeast of the country where all sorts of coverage are in the works for curious viewers who want to follow along from home. Aside from the sports, obviously, we’re most excited to learn about the region’s food. This year, NBC tapped chef David Chang to serve as a Food and Culture Expert for the network. As a correspondent, he’ll guide viewers through the myriad of flavors and ingredients that comprise the Korean kitchen.
This got us thinking about the world of Korean flavors. We’re not lucky enough to attend the games in person, maybe we could cook our way there? In anticipation, we reached out to Rachel Yang, the Seattle-based chef and restaurateur, to get a sense of what Korean food meant to her. Here’s what she had to say:
“Korean food to me is my identity. When I started to cook Korean food well into my cooking career, that’s when I felt like I was given a permission to be Korean here in America, rather than an immigrant who needed to blend in. Spicy rice cake dish (tteokbokki) is the most important Korean dish to me. Most of our guests have never heard of Korean rice cakes, but all fell in love with this dish that we have it in the restaurant (our version is with chorizo and fermented Chinese mustard green). It made me realize how people can simply fall in love with unknowns when they are given a chance to try.”
“Active eating is essential. Especially when you go for Korean BBQ, you are no longer a passive receiver of food that comes in front of you. You need to cook—hear, smell, and see—and to serve others as you are eating. It really takes you back to your backyard bbq or to your mom’s kitchen counter.”
Korean flavors pivot around garlic and ginger, earthy sesame oil, soy sauce, and the punch of gochujang, or Korean red pepper paste. Our site has a bevy of recipes that hail from the region, so as the opening ceremonies approach, we gathered our favorites. Even if you can’t get all the way to Pyeongchang, invite those flavors into your own home:
by Matt Rodbard
by Sarah D
by Allison (Spontaneous Tomato)
by Sara Jenkins
by The Curious Pear
What are your favorite Korean foods? Tell us your go-to dishes in the comments.