A Taste of Korea comes to Santa Monica

As the foil wrapping was slowly removed, two tasty and savory Korean specialties were exposed, creating restlessness and desire from the dozens of students lined up for a treat of Korean tradition. Korean professors Chunghi Yu, Hee Ju, and Jungji Kim organized a "Taste of Korea" event in the business building of the Santa Monica College campus on Friday May 13th, as a way of spreading their culture to students.

The event was organized with a PowerPoint presentation of three Korean specialties: kimbap, bulgogi, and soo-jung-gwa.

Kimbap is a very popular bit-sized food made from steamed rice and various ingredients including cucumbers, egg, and ham, all wrapped in seaweed. This specific dish is commonly enjoyed during picnics or festivities and is characterized by the colorfulness the ingredients bring to it.

"My parents make kimbap for my birthday parties and parties in general. It's really a bunch of individual ingredients coming together and Koreans eat a lot of it," says Korean 4 student Saem Choi.

Traditionally, the most common kimbap is made with egg, crab, cucumber, ham, and pickled radish, but it comes in many variations including cheese, tuna, and beef.

"Kimbap is the most popular Korean food because it is easy to prepare, it's cheap, and has good nutrients. It has everything- meat and vegetables in a bit size. I'm a busy woman so I love it because I can take it with me," says professor Yu.

Many people aren't aware of the health benefits from eating Korean food as it is extremely low in calories and is made with all natural flavors. There is a lot of fiber, as well as protein, and the budget is fairly low.

SMC student David Kim says, "I saw in the Korean newspaper today about how healthy kimchi is and how Americans need to start eating it too because it's fermented so it's supposed to be one of the top healthy foods."

The Korean Peninsula is surrounded by three seas that supply it's people with a variety of fish, which along with the meats and rice dishes, makes seafood one of the prominent dishes to their culture. Their diet includes grains and vegetables, bean paste and curd, and meats. Their food is moderate in calories, low in fat, and sweet tasting.

"My father told me that bean curd is the meal from earth. All of our bean products are good for you and are very cheap. They provide you with energy, vitamins, and proteins. They have meat qualities but are healthier, and this is a product we use a lot of in our food," says Yu.

Bulgogi is a marinated barbeque beef that literally means "fire meat". It was traditionally served exclusively to the wealthy and noble classes but is now enjoyed by everyone. This dish is made with beef marinated in soy sauce, or with chicken and pork marinated in spicy pepper paste.

"It's very traditional food. Moms teach their kids and so on. Presentation is very important. If you've noticed, there are a lot of side dishes when you go out to eat Korean food, which I think is something that attracts Americans to the cuisine," says Kim.

Soo-jung-gwa, also known as cinnamon punch, is a dessert drink that Koreans enjoy after their meals. It is made with ginger, cinnamon, and persimmons, and was traditionally served for royal banquets in the 18th century. This drink can also be made with pomegranate and cherries, and is commonly found on New Years Day.

Soo-jung-gwa has been proven to be extremely beneficial to the body. It improves digestion, prevents colds and anemia, strengthens the intestines and lungs, and keeps the body warm.

"If you are going on a diet, go Korean. We use a lot of grains and veggies and bean curd. There's fiber and protein, a moderate calorie count, it is low in fat, sweet tasting, and healthy," says Yu.

Korean food is finding its way into American culture with its low calorie intake and sweet taste. Restaurant trucks are making their way onto the streets of Santa Monica to produce food that is affordable and traditional, and can be enjoyed in bit-sized pieces for people with busy schedules. All of the ingredients used in these simple dishes can be found in Korean markets or in any supermarket, so that anyone looking for a tasty and healthy treat can make it at home.