While one is accustomed and relatively more comfortable with Chinese or Japanese food, Korean cuisine is fairly new to many. There is a growing demand for Korean food because it is considered lighter and healthier as compared to Western cuisine. Korean cuisine is distinctively unique in its colour, flavour and texture. Although it differs from region to region, there are a few essential ingredients that are commonly used in almost every savoury dish. Read on to acquaint yourself with three basic healthy Korean ingredients used in this spicy-salty-sweet cuisine.
It is an indispensable ingredient in Korean cooking. It is often eaten raw, pickled, added to stews, used as seasoning in dishes and roasted alongside barbequed dishes. From Kimchi to Bulgogi, a healthy serving of garlic is a must.
Health Benefits: Garlic has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral properties. It lowers cholesterol and blood pressure and has been used to prevent certain cancers such as stomach and colon cancer.
These flakes are used extensively in Korean dishes. It is spicy and a little sweet. It is the chief ingredient in Kimchi. Spicy and fragrant, these flakes add a burst of colour, taste and richness to anything it is added to.
Health Benefits: The main chemical in hot chili flakes, capsaicin has anti-bacterial effects, helps prevents diseases, reduces body fat and helps cleanse out the body. Furthermore, it triggers the brain to release endorphins (natural pain killers) which bring a sense of well being to the body.
The salty and little sweet taste of soy sauce, sets it apart from other ingredients. A typical Asian grocery store generally sells a dark soy sauce (Jin-gan-jang) and a lighter one (Guk-gan-jang). While the latter is used mainly for soups, Jin-gan-jang is used for everything else. It is a more complex, darker and sweeter brew that includes wheat and other ingredients. You can substitute Japanese soy for Jin-gan-jang.
Health Benefits: Soy sauce is a rich source of niacin (vitamin B3), manganese, and protein. Some studies show that soy sauce can reduce bad cholesterol and since it is full of anti-oxidants, it can also help in preventing cardiovascular disease.
You can also read more about all the different types of soy sauce.
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