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Spicy food in South Korea

Why are most of its dishes spicy?

If we talk about characteristics of Korean food, one of the most relevant would be the spicy flavor that most of its dishes have. If you’ve seen K-dramas or videos of your favorite Idols eating, maybe you’ve been able to notice the reddish appearance of almost all the dishes they prepare. This is because they use spicy condiments to give that touch so characteristic that we know and usually see.

But what is the reason for the spiciness of its cuisine? According to the experience and opinion of native people, this is due to a social phenomenon: when you eat something spicy, you sweat, and in some way, this relieves stress. It is no secret that Korea is a country where pressure on work, school and college is very high, and is the main cause of stress on people. Because of this pressure and stress, Koreans always look for a way out to feel relief, and they do it through the food.

Speaking of history, we can go back to the 16th century. At this time, the price of salt was very high, so people of that time had to look for a solution to season their food. In the case of Koreans, they decided to replace the salt with the chili powder, which was imported from Japan, to season their food. This marked the beginning of the great gastronomic culture we know today.

Photo by Marcin Skalij on Unsplash

Another reason is because they just enjoy it. It is said that there is a shared culture among Koreans called Maepbusim (맵부심), which consists of the pride of tolerating the spiciness of meals. Many times between them they make competitions between those who support more the spicy, and those who do, feel superior in a certain way.

With these reasons we can see that undoubtedly Koreans are lovers of spicy food, and this has become part of their culture. It is evident that there are very delicious dishes such as Kimchi (김치), Tteokbokki (떡볶이) and Buldak (불닥) that are distinguished by that spicy flavor that we certainly love the most.

In your experience, What is the most spicy Korean dish you have ever tasted?

Written by: Angie Salavarria

Edited by: Laura Fino

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