We have all heard of the traditional Korean dishes. But, what we do not usually think about is the ingredient, the meat. There are some recipes that call for using a variety of meats. Almost all of the Asian recipes will call for a combination of meats. There are other recipes where one type of meat is used. So, what is the difference between the four varieties of meats that are commonly used in Korea?
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In the West, when we use the term ‘meat’ we usually mean beef, lamb, chicken, or pork. But in Korea, the term is quite different. They use more words to describe common ingredients that we use but they really mean a number of different things.
Yam: The yam, which is a perennial herbaceous plant, is used in almost all of the dishes that are traditionally prepared. When we talk about a variety of meat, this is what they mean. When you cook with yams, you know that the meat will be grilled or steamed. The small white pods are dried and ground up so that the meat can be turned into a dry crisp paste.
Crab Meat: Another great alternative to beef is crab meat. The crab meat is boiled, then mixed with vegetables and other ingredients. When cooked, it has a delicious nutty flavor and will also give your meals a nice spicy kick. It’s a good thing that crab meat is considered a luxury in the United States since many restaurants offer crabs on the menu!
Chicken: While we all know, chicken is the main ingredient in most Korean dishes. They use it in a variety of ways. Sometimes, it is simply combined with vegetables like onions and green peppers. Other times, it is added to stir-fries. Most Korean dishes call for either chicken or beef and often both. While the common use of chicken in Western dishes is to be able to use less fat, some versions of Korean recipes actually add fat to the mixture.
Flank Steak: This is an interesting option and is actually a fancy name for the short-grain rib-eye steak. The flank steak is leaner than the conventional steak and because of its leanness, it is very flavorful. It usually has high fat and sodium content. The flank steak is primarily used in stir-fries and stir-casseroles, not in most Korean dishes.
Tofu: In Korean dishes, the tofu is made from either ground white beans or soybeans. The soybeans are the more popular choice as they are often available in stores in the United States and are known for being better for your health. The noodles make up the bulk of the tofu and they are typically mixed with various spices, like ginger, garlic, and fish sauce.
Grated Pork: The term ‘grated pork’ is often used to describe the minced beef that is served in South Korea. While many other countries commonly use minced beef, the Koreans like to use beef and put it through a grinder.
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Although the above ingredients can all be used, these are the main ones that are usually used in traditional Korean cuisine. It can be grilled, baked, fried, stir-fried, slow-cooked, etc.
Ingredients should always be fresh and natural, especially meat products. If possible, if there is a specific meal preparation that requires a particular kind of meat or ingredient, always use this type of meat.
However, another important aspect of food is the level of spice and acidity. Even though this sounds simple, some of the dishes are relatively bland, while others are packed with so much flavor that they can overwhelm the palate. So, always be sure to incorporate many fresh herbs, spices, and ingredients in your cooking to ensure that the dish has a delicious and lively flavor.
These are just a few examples of the different flavors that you will find when cooking at home in Korea. With many different influences coming into the country. There are many exciting dishes to try out, that are sure to satisfy your taste buds.