Because I've found the balance of yumminess and health
Intense. Flavoursome. Delicious. Healthy? Yes, there is a cuisine out there that encompasses all those mentioned and managed to look out for your health. Having a history of using food as medicine, this cuisine has always prided itself to be a study of balance: colour, texture, presentation, temperature and not to forget, spiciness. Yes, this is Korean cuisine and I am lucky to have Kimchi Hut, my local Korean restaurant to go to every time I crave a bowl of yummy bibimbap.
Cosy, with a very well thought out interior, my party of three were enthusiastically greeted with "Annyeong" by the staff and soon, I changed my mind about bibimbap. Yes, it is served in a hotpot, with an array of sliced vegetable and tender beef slices, and I do want it for a cold day like that day, but a whiff of kimchi, yes the fermented spicy cabbage went on to change my mind. So I ended up ordering the kimchi of kimchi, the kimchi stew (kimchi jjigae).
The spicy and sour in kimchi jjigae, I would say is the epitome of Korean cuisine. With the tofu, kimchi, spring onion, green chilli, and garlic, cooked in a hotpot with the famous Korean chilli paste (gochujang), it is an excellent accompaniment to rice as well as being tummy warming in the colder days. It is also said by the Koreans that kimchi is a digestive aid. Intense? Check. Delicious?Check. Flavoursome? Check. Healthy? Check.
When we talk about Korean cuisine, who can forget the wonderful variety of their side dishes (banchan), literally translated as 'meal accompaniment'? From the very important kimchi, to a more quirky mungbean jelly (cheongpomuk muchim), there's always some fibre for everyone on the table. Someone did hog the kimchi and the beansprout (kongnamul), and I wonder who...
Kimchi isn't the only thing that is served in Kimchi Hut, despite name. Their seafood mung bean pancake (bindaetteok) is an excellent example of the many uses of mung bean. Seriously, jelly and pancake? It's ingenious. However, this ingenious idea was born out of poverty. As mung bean was abundant among the Korean poor, even more abundant than rice, so they made this pancake out of sustenance. Bindaettoek literally means 'poor man's biscuit', after all.
And another ingenious Korean idea is a type of noodles made out of sweet potato, japchae. Who would have thought of that? However, in contrary to the bindaetteok, japchae is born out of royalty, being created to please a king in his party. Stir fried with sesame oil, soy sauce and thinly sliced vegetable, I can tell why that King loved it so much that this japchae creator then got promoted. And Kimchi Hut's japchae was a delicious example.
Now, just don't ask me why I know of these random Korean cuisine facts (and someone would whisper Korean drama). Regardless of the popularity of Korean culture in the land of Oz, Korean cuisine is a healthy, delicious Asian alternative that I think everyone should give it a go, if you haven't already, Kimchi Hut is a good start. Just a warning, kimchi is an acquired taste. (But quite addictive after).