[Letters] Killer taste: Dishes with various soups

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[Letters] Killer taste: Dishes with various soups

If you wanted to show off Korean cuisine, what would you want to serve? Many would think of hanjeongsik, traditional table d’hote. The expansive table offers a variety of dishes, including court specialties and more common items. When you cannot reach all the dishes spread out on the table, you will feel that hanjeongsik is a representation of the Korean cuisine.

However, I personally think that some items on hanjeongsik are not familiar dishes as they were only served in the royal court. You may feel that the special guests deserve only the most delicate form of Korean cuisine. But if you want to share the true taste of Korea, you would want to offer something that we enjoy and savor everyday on the table.

I would like to recommend the dishes with various soups. When I had to treat an important visitor from China, I chose a restaurant specializing in sujebi, a traditional soup with hand-torn dough flakes. He was not a big eater, but he kept on drinking the soup and complemented the taste. The thick sujebi broth must have captivated his appetite. After drinking with my European friends in Itaewon, central Seoul, we visited a street vender and had spicy ramen. They were impressed how the hot, spicy soup gave them a kick after drinking alcohol.

In fact, the soup in Asian cuisine is well known among Westerners. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton praised pho, a Vietnamese rice noodle soup. Thai noodle soups and Japanese udon are also favorite dishes among foreign tourists. However, the charm of the Korean soup is far more exotic and unique. When I first came to Korea, I travelled all over the country, and what captured my taste buds were soup-based items such as the duck soup I had at a diner in Gwangju and the soybean soup served at a restaurant in Gangwon.

What makes the Korean soup distinguished from foreign cuisines is the variety of refreshing flavors. They all have different flavors, but they share the underlying refreshing taste. Combination of meat, anchovy and bone produces deep flavor while the spices that cannot be precisely measured create a harmony that is uniquely Korean.

I am a cook myself, and using the Korean secret, I developed my own recipe for foreign friends. It is simply impossible to find any other cuisine that offers the soup with killer taste like Korean food.

Lee Charm, CEO of the Korea Tourism Organization
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