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2016-10 30

[Culture]Korea's Traditional Soju

From the Goryeo Dynasty to now, soju has been one of the most popular alcoholic drink for over seven centuries. Throughout its history, changes in ingredients and recipes have become more distinct according to specific regions around Korea. The distinctive features of traditional soju are different from the commercialized versions that are mass produced. Also, different ingredients, recipes, tastes, and flavors consummate the peculiarities of soju each region possesses. Traditional and Modern-Day Soju There are two different ways of producing soju- the traditional and the modern way. The traditional method of concocting soju is the single distillation process to bring forth the fermentation of various grains. This procedure of fermentation includes washing, drying, and crushing wheat, and mixing it with water. Then, it is filtered, fermented, and mixed with hard-boiled rice, which is then placed in a crock for 15 days. Since this distillation procedure accounts for a host of time and monetary investment, many of the soju brands of today prefer the modern method of making soju- the dilution of industrial grade ethanol. Manufacturers purchase the ethanol in quantity, dilute it with water, and fortify sweeteners to it. This manner of soju production claims for a dash of hours and financial support, which capacitates the soju suppliers to mass-produce soju at an inexpensive price. Regional Peculiarities of Traditional Soju Traditional soju in Seoul and the Gyeonggi province touts elegance and exclusiveness. Due to their geographical locations, breweries of Seoul and the Gyeonggi province consecrated beverages directly to the royal family and noble bureaucrats. Thus, the quality of soju was material to the producers, resulting in the straitened accessibility to ordinary people. Abiding to Confucian values, the nobles yearned for frugal looks and scents of soju. The most renowned examples are samhae-soju and hyangonju of Seoul, and namhansansung-soju and munbaeju of the Gyeonggi province. The appellation of samhae-soju was entitled because samhae means 3 years in Korean and even the king of Joseon could only procure it once in 3 years, demonstrating its exiguity. Also, hyangonju was famous for its bestowment to the king and to loyal bureaucrats. Both namhansansung-soju and munbaeju are famous for their usage of conventional ingredients. Brewers of namhansansung-soju boiled down grains into taffy and for munbaeju, pears were used for slight sweetness. These are all characterized by their pellucid tint and delicate scents of the melded mung beans and wheat. From left to right, traditional soju of Seoul and the Gyeonggi province: samhae-soju, hyangonju, namhansansung-soju, munbaeju (Photos courtesy of Seoul Master, Visit Korea, Moonbaesool) Traditional soju products of the Chungcheong province are generalized by their high-proof alcohol percentage. In order to cover up the bitterness of alcohol, the brewers added omnifarious flowers into soju. The representatives are yeonyupju of Asan, sogokju of Hansan, baekilju of the Gyeryong district, and dugyeonju of Myuncheon. Flowery ingredients include lotus leaves in yeonyupju, azalea leaves in dugyeonju and chrysanthemum stems in baekilju. Also, sogokju of Hansan has its byname of the crippled soju (anjungbangui-sul), due to its sweet taste brought about by fortified taffy made of bee hives. From left to right, traditional soju of the Chungcheong province: yeonyupju, dugyeonju, baekilju, sogokju (Photos courtesy of Yeousai's Blog, Chungnam Net, Deltaeagle, Sogokjunara) Furthermore, brewers of the Jeolla province produce traditional soju with exceptional color and taste. Yigangju of the Jeonju district avails itself of various ingredients such as pear, cinnamon, and honey in order to balance out the bitter and sweet taste of soju. Due to the congruous colors of ingredients, yigangju catch drinkers’ sights with its unique yellow hue. Also, hongju of Jindo adds in medicinal herbs called jincho to stain the alcohol red and usage of barley instead of wheat creates the distinctive, deep taste. Traditional soju of the Jeolla province: yogangju and hongju (Photos courtesy of Umbyeolgung's Blog, TPHolic) Lastly, the Gyeongsang province boasts the prominence of their traditional soju. The most well-known traditional soju of all, Andong-soju brewed by the historically eminent family -the Kim family of the Andong district- has its own singular recipe. The fermentation and filtering processes that accounts for longer time than any other alcohol in Korea augment the bottomless taste of soju. Andong-soju has a strong percentage of alcohol, 45%, which assembled numbers of devotees beyond the Gyeongsang province. In addition, gyodongbupju of the Gyeongju district is brewed by another prominent family of Korea- the Choi family of the Gyeongju district. This type of soju is famous for its intricacy and 100-day-long distillation process. Also the drinking etiquette principally designed for gyodongbupju is notorious for its complicated sequence, which draws people in to be fascinated by it. Pictures of brewing traditional soju of the Gyeongsang province: Andong-soju and gyodongbupju (Photos courtesy of Chosun News, Korean Cultural Heritage Administration) Values of Traditional Soju Unlike the modern-day soju, simply diluted with water and ethanol, traditional soju possesses its own classical values that bear exclusive recipes and history. With more glimpse into the gravity of traditional soju and a sip of it, it will present astonishment flowered by the time and endeavor spent. Kim Ju-hyun

2016-10 04

[Culture]Kimchi, Korea’s Historical and Conventional Icon

Many will agree that kimchi is Korea's most well-known representative traditional food. Despite the pungent smell—that can be unbearable to a non-Korean—it is receiving extensive love around the world. There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi that are made of different types of vegetables. Its variety caters to suit the demands of diverse palates. Throughout the years, kimchi has become an indispensable part of a Korean meal. The outdated name for this indigenous food, chaejeo, comes from Chinese characters which mean fermented vegetable. This popular commodity bears a deep-rooted history and offers substantial health benefits to those consuming them. Tracking Down the Culture It is virtually impossible to state exactly when kimchi first came into the picture, since there are many different kinds of kimchi. The definition of 'kimchi' is ambiguous- any fermented vegetable with seasonings can be kimchi. However, an approximate date, according to a historical record, traces back to 3000 years ago, when chopped cucumber was fermented after being marinated. The “kimchi” we know, the type that is made with cabbage, is known to have originated from the ancient times, even before the era of The Three Kingdoms. The most common type of kimchi we know today became an ideal type in the early 1600s, as pepper was commercialized. Pepper powder, the main seasoning, and Kimchi made with it. In order to preserve food against decomposition, especially during winter, Korean ancestors came up with the means of drying food to prevent rotting. Then a more sophisticated method was discovered, which was fermenting- how kimchi came into the minds of the forebears. They needed to store vegetables for winter when greens cannot be accessed. Initially, kimchi was dipped in salt inside a pottery jar, then buried underground for more thorough fermentation. Having rice as the main staple, carbohydrate was the primary nutrient obtained by Koreans during that time period. To supplement other vitamins, vegetables were highly desirable. By satisfying both conditions of long durability and nutrition, making and storing kimchi became a common practice. Kimchi in pottery pots, buried underground during winter. Kimchi and its Health Benefits To endure the day-to-day industrious lifestyle, people need a good source of fuel for their survival. One sufficient source is, not too surprisingly, kimchi. The dish is made from various vegetables and contains a high level of dietary fiber, while being low in calories. One serving also provides more than half of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C and carotene. Onions, garlic, ginger, chilli peppers are the main ingredients of kimchi (aside from the main body, cabbage cucumber, and radish), all of which are salutary. These vegetables in kimchi also contribute to the overall nutrition value of the dish. Vegetables that serve as ingredients of kimchi, and the final outcome. Health benefits of kimchi can be largely categorized into catalyzing digestion, preventing diseases, increasing immunity, regulating bio-rhythm, and disinfecting the organs. The nutritious constituents of vegetables in kimchi make this work. They boost and smoothen the digestion by allowing the stomach to absorb and decompose the nourishment thoroughly. The low-calorie aspect of kimchi contributes to clearing the blood vessels, leading to a better circulation of blood. Various lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension can also be avoided. Kimchi enables the whole body to maintain good health, which raises immunity and stabilizes bio-rhythm. One health benefit derived from kimchi summon another betterment, and create a chain reaction therein. Jeon Chae-yun