In Korea, there is the saying, “금강산도 식후경,” or “Even a trip to Geumgangsan, the mountain of legendary beauty, must wait until after the meal.”
Korean cuisine encourages communal eating, and is best shared between family and friends. The staple of every Korean meal is rice (bap). Traditionally, each person has his or her own bowl of rice, and main dishes are shared. These dishes are typically meats, soups (guk or tang), stews (jjigae or jungol), or noodles, and can either be eaten directly from the dishes in which they were served or spooned onto individual plates.
Set around the main dishes are small servings of side dishes (banchan), including Korea’s famous national food, kimchi. Like the main dishes, banchan, which introduce a variety of flavors and textures to the meal, are also meant to be shared. Banchan can be eaten with rice or can accompany Korean barbecue, in which meat is grilled at the table. Once the meat is cooked to taste, it is placed in crisp lettuce, along with rice and bean paste (ssam jang), to form a bite-sized wrap (ssam). The different banchan can either be added to the wrap or eaten alongside it.
Ultimately, there is no one right way to enjoy Korean food. We hope that you will take advantage of the shared dishes, try a little bit everything, and embrace the Korean approach to eating.