Kitchen Tips

Colour Code: The Secret to Healthy Korean Cooking

When it comes to enjoying a balanced diet, the Koreans have got it down to a fine art. Korean people are firm believers in a holistic approach to mind and body health, and in preventing and treating illness through food. The term ‘eumyangohaeng’ is used to describe the balance of yin and yang and the five elements, and it informs everything they do, from their names they are given to the foods they eat.

We’ve all been told we need to get our ‘Five a day’, but for the Korean culture, this refers to the five elements of fire, earth, metal, water and wood, which are represented by the colours green, red, yellow, white and black.

Not only do Koreans recognize the five elements and colours, they also seek to balance the five flavours of sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty. The secret to healthy Korean cuisine lies in creating a combination of these elements in each meal – it’s no wonder Korean cooking is so colourful and packed with flavour! To unlock the secret to healthy Korean cuisine, we’ve rounded up five of our favourite Korean recipes that celebrate the balance of the five essential elements, colours and flavours.


When it comes to a balanced meal, it’s hard to go past a bowl of Korean bibimbap. Meaning ‘mixed rice’, this colourful dish showcases all of the five elements, with its combination of steamed rice, pickled and raw vegetables, grilled meats and spicy chilli sauce.


Soonduboo jjigae

With the cooling elements of tofu and the warming Korean chilli powder, garlic and onion, this hearty soonduboo jjigae is the epitome of yin and yang in one handy bowl. Plus, with its flashes of red, green, yellow, black and white, it’s the quintessential Korean colour palette.

Soonduboo Jjigae

Dakkochi gui chicken skewers

When making these dakkochi gui chicken skewers, choose ‘traffic light’ capsicums in red, green and yellow, paired with the white of the chicken and the black of the charry grill marks, and you’ve got yourself the perfect Korean snack.

Dakkochi Gui (Chicken Skewers) Recipe


The Korean take on sushi, gimbap is another rainbow-hued example of balance, thanks to the black of the seaweed, the white of the rice, and the green, gold and red in the colourful fillings. Add pickles for crunch and the feel-good factor of fermented foods.

Korean Gimbap


Another well-balanced Korean recipe that celebrates the five elements is japchae, a healthy combination of low-GI sweet potato noodles, fresh vegetables and marinated lean beef.

Must-Eat in Korea: Japchae (Stir-fried Glass Noodles)

For more ways to live well with Korean cuisine, discover healthy Korean ingredients and creative ways with kimchi.

You May Also Like

How to Hot Pot

How to Hot Pot

Dim Sum Deep Dive

Dim Sum Deep Dive


Kate Brodhurst

Rosalin Kristiani

Glenda Mc Donnell

Michael J Sabo

Melinda Savage

Lisa-Jane Fudge

Lillie Giang

Justine Withers

Julia Brodska

Josephine Chan

Sally-Ann Haw

Store Locator

Find your nearest Asian Store


Our Newsletter

Sign up for an authentic Asian experience. From exotic cuisines to fascinating destinations to cooking competitions and monthly giveaways - Discover the Authentic