The philosophy of Korean food

Posted on oneforkonespoon

See this kimbap?  It’s been very badly rolled.  I know because I rolled it myself.  The ingredients shouldn’t be spilling into each other.  The shredded carrot, for example, is all over the place, when it should be grouped together, distinct, and sharp in contrast to the other ingredients.


Korean Food

But you can still see the effect that’s desired—a bright show of colors.  Black in the roasted seaweed, white in the rice, yellow in the pickled daikon and cooked eggs, orange (or red) in the sautéed carrots, and green in the spinach.  The five colors, elements, or phases of Korean (and Chinese) cooking.

(There’s also the brown of the cooked meat and the sautéed burdock root, but I will conveniently ignore that for now.)

The five elements, though, are more than colors.  They represent material elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, water.  They represent emotions, from rage to fear to contemplation.  They are associated with organs in the body and with five essential flavors, sour, bitter, sweet, spicy, and salty.

No one element is best or right.  What’s important is balance.

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