You can’t talk about Korean food without learning some Korean. For starters, learn Hangeul, the Korean alphabet here, and use this handy Romanization guide. (Keep in mind that “eo” is pronounced “uh.”)

Below are some of the Korean terms we refer to throughout the site.

Common ingredients

yangnyeom (양념): A mixture of Korean aromatic ingredients and seasoning spices used in the majority of Korean recipes. The term “gajeun yangnyeom,” refers to the most common ingredients that go into yangnyeom: minced garlic and ginger, gochutgaru (고춧가루), ggaesogeum (깨소금), chamgireum (참기름), and your preferred jang.

jang (장): an umbrella term for the most important family of Korean seasoning condiments, all of which are fermented and can replace usage of salt. Traditionally, jang are made in large clay vessels called hangari. There are many kinds of jang, but the three main categories are detailed below:

ganjang (간장): Fermented soybean liquid sauce, or soy sauce. Varieties are differentiated by ingredients and fermentation time.

Joseon ganjang (조선간장): The original, traditional Korean soy sauce, made only from soybeans, salt and water. It’s also sometimes called guk ganjang, or “soup” ganjang.

yangjo ganjang (양조간장): A soy sauce influenced by the Japanese that uses wheat. It’s typically slightly sweeter than the classic Joseon ganjang, and the vast majority is made in factories over a 6-month natural brewing period.

jin ganjang (진간장): The name references “jinjang,” but most bottles labeled “jin ganjang” in stores today contain a factory-produced quick-procedure soy sauce made by a local company. This variety is the cheapest to produce and cheapest to buy.

doenjang (된장): Fermented soybean paste that is a byproduct of making ganjang. As you ferment cooked soybeans with salt and water, the liquid becomes ganjang and the solid parts become doenjang. Typically the best flavors come from doenjang fermented for at least two years.

gochujang (고추장): Korean fermented soybean and chili paste. In the old days, gochujang wasn’t a very sweet condiment, but these days it has become increasingly sweet. Its spiciness is different from other hot sauces, with quite a heavy body and a depth to the spiciness. Gochujang is versatile and can be used for seasoning, dips and marinades.

Korean cooking oils:

chamgireum (참기름): Sesame seed oil. This is a must-have item for Korean cooking. It is nutty and has quite a low smoke point, so it is often used as a finishing oil for aromatic effect.

deulgireum (들기름): Perilla seed oil. It is another must-have oil for Korean cooking. Often you’ll find people divided over their preference for chamgireum or deulgireum, though both have their purposes. Deulgireum oxidizes quickly so once you open it, it needs to be stored in the refrigerator. It has a unique aroma and flavor, and a very low smoke point as well.

ggaesogeum (깨소금): Roasted and ground sesame seed

gochutgaru (고춧가루): Dried and crushed chili powder

cheongju (청주): Clear, filtered rice wine. It is often used for cooking fish and meat in Korean cuisine

Cooking terms

bokkeum (볶음): sauté

banchan (반찬): any kind of side dish served on the Korean table and paired with rice. Usually, a variety of banchan are served in small dishes side by side.

jjigae (찌개): a type of thick stew which is strongly seasoned and can be served with rice as a simple daily meal.

guk (국): another soup eaten with everyday meals, but guk usually has lighter seasonings then jjigae, and a higher liquid to solid ratio.

tang (탕): a special kind of soup that can be a main dish on its own. It’s usually built on a base of something like seafood or meat and bones, and is often eaten as a side dish with alcohol.

namul (나물): a term for the very broad category of side dishes made from mountain or field wild greens. They can be fresh or dried, but are mostly blanched and seasoned with varieties of jang.

gamchil-mat (감칠맛): the savory, deep flavor that is sometimes described as “umami” in English.


6 replies on “ 101 ”
  1. Hello! I live / work between LA and South Korea, and this blog has been so helpful! I speak korean, but the nuance of things like “국” and “탕” has always been a little fuzzy. I stumbled on this blog when looking up types of clam species here, and am delighted with the type of content you have. It’s so useful! So many blogs tend to regurgitate the same info over and over, especially when it comes to Korean cuisine, so seeing the way you break down things seasonally is wonderful. I don’t think people outside of Korea realize just how much the food here is dictated by the seasons, and how vastly different it is than in the states. I look forward to browsing the rest of your content!

    1. Hi Gina! thank you for your comment and we are very happy that our website is helpful for the people! also glad that we can share some knowledge of korean cuisine beyond what it is known for!

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