Hier lest ihr Hugos Essay: „Cuisine and Socializing“
This text is about my favourite Korean and German dishes; about how I experienced the Korean cuisine and what the table manners in Korea and Germany are like. Although the Korean and the German cuisines are very different, there are some
rather similar dishes. One reason for this are the cold winters in both Germany and Korea. At this time of the year you need some special food, that provides your body with everything it needs and is easily stored for some months. That’s why Koreans invented Kimchi and Germans Sauerkraut. Both are based on cabbage, both are fermented and their taste gets stronger over time. Both can be stored over months, but while there is only one type of Sauerkraut and people don’t usually eat it that often anymore, there are many types of Kimchi and it’s still a common dish, served to nearly any type of food. Besides that, Kimchi can also be very spicy while Sauerkraut isn’t.
Another Korean dish with a German counterpart is Mandu. The counterpart is known as Maultaschen. Both are basically meat and/or vegetables inside a thinly rolled dough. Both can be fried or boiled, but Maultaschen never get deep fried or steamed as Mandu. There is a big variety of different Mandu types. Some are even with Kimchi, while Germans would never put Sauerkraut in their Maultaschen. The ingredients are mostly Brät (or sausage meat in English) with parsley or spinach or other vegetables. But sadly, Maultaschen are very regional. They are very popular in the southern part of Germany, but found very little in the northern part.
Another reason why I mentioned Kimchi, Mandu and Maultaschen, besides their good comparability, is their taste. I love their taste and therefore they’re some of my favourite dishes. I can‘t really say why. Maybe it’s because they’re special and unlike other dishes. Kimchi has a taste you rarely find in Germany and luckily there isn‘t just one type. Kimchi is very versatile. You can make Kimchi from nearly every vegetable (there even is a special version with raw fish), just like Mandu.
I loved nearly every food I ate in Korea, so it was very hard to make a favourite-dishes-list. That’s why I put so litte dishes on this list. Now it’s more like an „outstanding-dishes-list“, but otherwise the list would have been way to long.
In addition I would like to explain some traditional German and Korean dishes to you. For example the Korean Bibimbap. It’s a dish, served in a big bowl with rice, different vegetables and meat or tofu. Everything is put seperatedly in the bowl, so you have to mix it before eating. It doesn’t just taste good, it also looks good with all these different colors. Another traditional korean dish I would like to mention is Bulgogi. This dish is quite different to German dishes because there’s one version where you put everything on a lettuce leaf and then eat it with one bite. Yet again there’s rice and vegetables to be to put on this leaf and always some type of meat, in this case cow or pig. But there are also versions without the lettuce leaf, where you just eat it with chopsticks.
In contrast to the Korean dishes, I now explain some traditional German ones. Bread is the first one that came to my mind. You may call it food rather than a dish, but still it’s very unique to Germany. There are a lot of different types, but the base to all of them always is some type of grain. Germans eat a lot of bread, at any time of the day and with every topping you can think of, may it be sweet or salty.
What Germans often eat is sausage sandwich. Sausages are also very traditional and eaten a lot. Some sausages are even named after a city, like Frankfurter or Nürnberger Würstchen.
Last but not least, I would like to mention potatoes, brought from South America to Germany in the eighteenth century and used for thousands of different dishes. Some people call Germans “Potatoe-People“ because we eat so many of these. Cold or warm, thinly sliced or in cubes, deep fried, fried, baked, boiled or grilled there is nothing new left to be tried with potatoes, because whatever comes to your mind, has already been tried by a German. Of course there is potato bread, too.
But now let’s talk about table manners. There are a lot of differences, but I would like to mention only the most important ones. One thing that always looked strange to me is, that it’s not ok in Korea to eat with both hands at the time, because it’s regarded as disrespectful. In general you can say, that respect is seen more stricktly in Korea, than in Germany.
Another big difference in the style of eating is the use of chopsticks. Some Germans in our group were used to using chopsticks and some were not. But none of us were used to the thin shape of the Korean chopsticks.
While in Germany you take all of your food on your one plate or in different courses, there are no courses in Korea and all the food is served on many different plates or bowls at once. So you have to take the food from these bowls or plates, put it on your bowl with rice, there always is a bowl with rice, and then eat it. Talking about this bowl of rice, I have to mention that it’s very important not to stick chopsticks in the rice bowl. This reminds people of the incense sticks normally used at a funeral.
And of course there are rules where to put the cuttlery in both countries. In Korea, you put the spoon to the left of the chopsticks. In Germany, you have your plate in the middle, the knife to the right and spoon and fork to the left. While it is common in Korea to put the spoon down to eat with chopsticks and vice versa, in Germany you use both hands simultaniously, e.g. to cut your meat.
Despite all these differences, it‘s clearly recognizeable that, due to globalization, both cultures get influenced by others. Now you‘re able to eat choclate cake in Seoul and Bibimbap in Berlin.
All in all I have to say, that I love the Korean cuisine. Being so far away from Korea, it helps that my mother makes Kimchi in her Onggi, so there is at least a tiny bit of Korea here at home. But still I miss so much about it, that I can’t wait to get back there again.