I believe that food is one of the easiest way to explore cultures. It approaches people very gently, yet can have a big impact on the person. I was born and raised in South Korea until I moved to the United States when I was in second grade. Both of my parents have lived in Korea for majority of their life time, meaning that I ate variety of Korean food. For me, the biggest impact I have had with food would be Korean, since I grew up in a Korean household. Korean food are mostly based on soy sauce, red chili paste, or soy bean paste. All of the foods made have at lease one or more of the sauces above. Although they have similar bases, all of the foods have unique qualities and specialties that differentiate one from another. For me, some of the most important foods in the Korean culture would be kimchi and Korean style braised short ribs (galbijjim). These foods hold a special part in my heart as I ate them often with my family and friends.
First, kimchi is a common side dish that would be out for every meal in all households. It is made of salted and fermented cabbage that is seasoned with scallions, chili powder, ginger, and garlic. Each household would have different types, but will also vary in recipes as families all have their secret touches. I believe that this is one of the most important food for me because since the kimchi vary from one place to another, the one that I eat at home is special and a reminder that I am home. Since this is also a side dish that was consumed all throughout the history of Korea, I believe that it represents the Korean culture very well. This dish is also special for me as I helped conduct research with Professor Hahm in the past years. Previous researches showed that kimchi had anti-inflammatory effects on mice and humans and can even prevent Helicobacter pylori associated gastric cancers. Therefore, this dish is even more special for me as a biology major, since it can have positive effects on people.
Second, the braised short ribs (galbijjim) are also very important part of who I am today. One of my favorite dishes that my mom would make for me was galbijjim. Galbijjim is steamed braised short ribs that is cooked in sweet brown sauce with vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, and radish. This dish would take quite a while to cook, but my mom was always more than happy to make this for my brother, dad, and me. I have been living in the States since 2nd grade, and I always eat this dish when I am back at home in Korea. No matter where I go, there is no recipe that can compare to my mom’s. Another special aspect that leads me to eating more galbijjim would be that the recipe has been passed on to my mom by my grandmother; this makes me feel even more nostalgic. Not only does this dish hold an important place in my heart, but it also is important history. Galbijjim has a big historical and cultural aspect since this dish was eaten in palaces by the kings as a specialty, since beef was considered to be rare goods back in the past. Today, this dish is still included in majority of households as a celebratory food that is included in all types of occasions.
Atlanta has a wide variety and representation of different ethnic communities, but I am most familiar with the Korean community as I am part of KUSA and I strive to spread the Korean culture to others around campus. Also, Atlanta is said to have the second greatest Korean population in the United States. There are at least two big Korean towns representing the population and its culture called Doraville and Duluth. Here, you can get all types of food and goods that remind Korean people of Atlanta of their homes and introduce new culture to other people. I have visited these towns very often to eat Korean food and they taste quite similar to the ones that I eat back in Korea. One of my favorite gogi places would be Miss Gogi. Although I have had many interactions with the restaurants, I am not familiar with other types of of Korean businesses and experiences in Atlanta. Not only are Korean restaurants and stores in these towns, they are also spread out in the heart of Atlanta, such as Midtown and Buckhead. I believe that Atlanta has a wide representation of Korean culture and our community.
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