Not Just Another Staple Food
Rice in Korean cuisine means life and prosperity. For Koreans, one’s wealth is measured by how much rice is stored in possession. It is difficult to grow rice in Korea for much of its land is steep mountains and that their winters are punishing. So the people have learned to become more diligent and more effective rice growers. Rice translates into “SsaL” in Korean. Once cooked, it becomes “Bap”. It recollects one’s childhood and life in general. Bap also has a meaning of a meal and it often becomes a tool for socializing.
Koreans Enjoy Several Types of Rice
Short Grain White Rice or bakmi has the best taste but worst in nutritional value. It undergoes an intense milling process, completely removing its husk, bran and germ leaving just the starch. The white rice still contains some B-vitamins, but because it is water soluble, they can be easily washed out in during rinsing and cooking.
Short Grain Brown Rice or hyunmi has the bran and germ still attached; some brown rice even still has its husk. Brown rice has a higher nutritional value than white rice, with many vitamins and fiber. It takes longer to cook and longer to digest, and it takes some time to get used to the taste. Many Koreans combine white rice and brown rice together to bring better texture and taste.
Half Milled Brown Rice or 5 bundomi is in between white rice and brown rice. It has gone through a milling process but some portion of the bran and germ remain intact in the rice. It might be considered the best rice, balancing taste and nutritional. A similar type called Germinating Brown Rice or Bal-a hyunmi, is unpolished brown rice with the germination in process, has a softer texture than brown rice and better flavor. It is quite expensive.
Short Grain Sweet Rice or Glutinous Short Grain Rice or chapssal is the “stickiest” variety of rice consumed in Korea, widely used in making rice cakes and dessert. Its glycemic index is very high. If you have high blood sugar, you should not consume too much of this rice.
Wild Short Grain Rice or yasaeng chapssal is also known as black Japonica rice, a combination of two types of rice grown in the same field: black short grain rice and brown rice. When cooked, it has a sweet and nutty flavor. Koreans usually mix it with white rice.
Black Rice or heukmi is originally harvested in ancient China. It’s also called the “forbidden rice” because it was reserved for emperors only. Black rice has a fragrant nutty taste so it can go with many types of cuisines in both savory and sweet. It is full of fiber and iron.