Between Two Whales: How China and Japan Influenced Korean Cuisine

@ MOFAD (Museum of Food and Drink)

As the Korean idiom goes, Korea is positioned between China and Japan like a shrimp between two whales. I spoke at MOFAD to discuss how these two powerful countries have shaped Korean culture and its food through peaceful exchange as well as occupation.

From the early influence of Chinese language and religion, to the destabilization of Japanese occupation, and communist China’s support of the current divided state, the cultural and political exchange between the three nations is both complicated and literal.

Throughout the turmoil, a distinctly Korean hybrid cuisine emerged: the marriage of Northern Chinese and Northern Korean dishes are the crux of modern Korean delivery services today. And Japanese-Western foods have been co-opted by Koreans chefs, becoming staples of comfort food cooking in Korea. These exchanges have fundamentally changed the ways that Koreans eat, from soy sauce manufacturing to rice agriculture.

I also spoke with Esther Choi from mokbar, Sohui Kim from Insa, and Eric Kim from Food52 about the complex history of Korean cuisine, and its impact on their own personal, culinary histories.

We also prepared a menu showcasing popular Korean-Chinese and Korean-Japanese western dishes:

March 2019

March 2019

Thanks also to Tokki Soju and Gotham Grove for showcasing their soju and soy sauce, inspired by traditional Korean methods.