Korean cuisine as a national cuisine known today has evolved through centuries of social and political change. Its roots can be traced back to myths and legends of antiquity. Evolving from a cuisine which was highly influenced by Chinese culture with Buddhism and Confucianism, the cuisine eventually came into its own by differentiating itself in a number of ways.

Ingredients and dishes vary by province. There are many significant regional dishes that have become both national and regional. Many dishes that were once regional, however, have proliferated in different variations across the country in the present day. The Korean royal court cuisine once brought all of the unique regional specialties together for the royal family. Meals consumed both by the royal family and ordinary Korean citizens have been regulated by a culture of etiquette that is unique to Korea.

Korean cuisine is largely based on rice, noodles, tofu, vegetables, and meats. Traditional Korean meals are noted for the number of side dishes (banchan) that accompany steam-cooked short-grain rice. Kimchi, a fermented, spicy vegetable dish is usually served at every meal. Korean cuisine usually involves heavy seasoning with sesame oil, doenjang (fermented soybean paste), soy sauce, salt, garlic, ginger, and gochujang (red chili paste).

A diverse array of foods and dishes can be found throughout Korea.
Korea was once primarily an agricultural nation, and Koreans have cultivated rice as their staple food since ancient times. These days Korean cuisine is characterized by a wide variety of meat and fish dishes along with wild greens and vegetables. Various fermented and preserved food, such as kimchi (fermented spicy cabbage), jeotgal (seafood fermented in salt) and doenjang (fermented soy bean paste) are notable for their specific flavor and high nutritional value.

The prominent feature of a Korean table setting is that all dishes are served at the same time. Traditionally, the number of side dishes varied from 3 for the lower classes to 12 for royal families. Table arrangements can vary depending on whether a noodle dish or meat is served. Formal rules have developed for table setting, demonstrating the attention people pay to food and dining. Compared to neighboring China and Japan, a spoon is used more often in Korea, especially when soups are served.

Kinds of Traditional Korean Food

1. Bap (steamed rice) and Juk (porridge)
Boiled rice is the staple of Korean Food. Most people use sticky rice, which sometimes has beans, chestnuts, sorghum, red beans, barley or other cereals added for flavor and nutrition. Juk is thought of as highly nutritious and light. Many varieties of juk exist including: juk made of rice, red beans, pumpkin, abalone, ginseng, pine nuts, vegetables, chicken, mushrooms and bean sprouts.

2. Guk (soup)

A traditional soup served with rice. Varying ingredients include: vegetables, meat, fish, shellfish, seaweed, and beef bones.

3. Jjigae (stew)
Jjigae is similar to guk but is thicker and heartier. The most famous jjigae is made from fermented soy bean paste. Jjigae is usually spicy and served piping hot in a heated stone bowl.

4. Jjim and Jorim (simmered meat or fish)

Jjim and jorim are similar dishes which are prepared with vegetables and soaked in soy bean sauce, then slowly boiled together over low heat.

5. Namul (vegetables or wild greens)

Namul is made from slightly boiled or fried vegetables and wild greens mixed with salt, soy sauce, sesame salt, sesame oil, garlic, onions, and other spices.

6. Jeotgal (seafood fermented in salt)

Jeotgal is a very salty food made from naturally fermented fish, shellfish, shrimp, oysters, fish roe, intestines and other ingredients.

7. Gui (broiled/barbecued dishes)

When cooking gui, marinated meats are barbecued over a charcoal fire. The most popular meats of this type are bulgogi and galbi. There are also many fish dishes which are cooked this way.

8. Jeon (pan-fried dishes)

Jeon is a kind of pancake made from mushrooms, pumpkin, slices of dried fish, oysters, unripened red peppers, meat or other ingredients which are mixed with salt and black pepper, dipped in flour and egg and then fried in oil.

9. Mandu (dumpling)

Mandu consists of dumplings stuffed with beef, mushrooms, stir-fried zucchini, and mungbean sprouts. Pork, chicken, or fish are sometimes used instead of beef.