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Korean Royal Court Cuisine

Updated on June 24, 2016
The Great Jang Geum (대장금) of the Korean drama 'Jewel in the Palace' played by actress Lee Young Ae
The Great Jang Geum (대장금) of the Korean drama 'Jewel in the Palace' played by actress Lee Young Ae

If you have watched many Korean traditional dramas like Jewel in the Palace, you might have seen that the foods served for the king and his family during the ancient times were so well-presented.And with this, the globalization of Korean cuisine also started to gain popularity worldwide. Known for its beautiful and colorful presentation, you might want to feast your eyes on the food rather than eat them.

It is said that the Joseon Dynasty(1392-1910) was the golden age of royalty in the history of Korea, and royal gastronomy has been regarded as the boom of Korean food culture. Korean royal food has been prepared only by the best cooks in the court with the freshest and high-quality ingredients from the country. This style of cooking has been handed down for generations an d has influenced most of the present-day Korean food that many are fond of eating.

Royal cuisine is the essence of Korean gastronomy, which has been passed down to generations either by words of mouth of the court cooks and royal descendants or by written ancient recipe chronicles that has been preserved through time and is regarded as a nation's historical treasure.

Meals served for the king were composed mainly of local specialities and seasonal foods;thus royal cuisine is generally prepared during big events and seasonal holidays only.

Compared to modern day Korean cuisine known by many to be salty, spicy red, and has that strong sesame aroma, royal court dishes tends to be less salty, subtle in flavor and is not too spicy.

A traditional palace table setting fit for a king known as surasang (수라상)
A traditional palace table setting fit for a king known as surasang (수라상)

The King's Meal

The royal meal served mainly for the king, called surasang is composed of 12 dishes along with hotpot, kimchi, stew, soup and rice. Surasang was served for the king and his queen on large, round serving table called daewonban and a square table called chaeksangban.

Below are some dishes served to the monarchs of ancient Korea, but has been inherited and passed down through this generation for us to enjoy!

Royal Nine-Dish Platter

Korean name: 구절판 (gu jeol pan)

This dish dates back in the Joseon dynasty, which has been enjoyed by the royal family. From the name itself gujeolpan translates to 'nine section plate'; hence, this speciality is served in an octagon-shaped plate with an extra circular section at the center, making the serving dish having nine sections. In the middle is a stack of wheat flour pancakes while on the outer sections are meat, vegetables and eggs.

Royal Court Stir-Fried Sticky Rice Cakes

Korean name: 궁중떡볶이 (gungjung tteokbokki)

I know many of you are familiar with this hot and spicy rice cake street food sold at pojangmachas (stalls that sells street food) in Seoul.But actually, tteokbokki has already eaten by the royalty during the Joseon Dynasty in Korea,except that it's not spicy and red in color. This non-spicy rice cake dish is also cooked stir-fried rather being braised in a boiling stock before seasoned by hot pepper paste. Before the spicy hot peppers were introduced to Korea, sticky rice cakes were only stir-fried with beef and other colorful vegetables and is seasoned by soy sauce. It is sometimes called 간장떡볶이 (ganjang tteokbokki) meaning 'soy sauce tteokbokki' because of the seasoning used to cook with it.

Fancy Taoist Hotpot

Korean name: 신선로 (sinseollo)

Also known as yeolgujatang, this dish is very similar to the Chinese hotpot, Japanese shabu-shabu and stew in the West. This is considered as a Taoist immortal food.Know for its very colorful presentation, you'd love taking some photos of this dish before digging, or even might not consider eating it. Made up mostly of 25 ingredients like beef, vegetables,meatballs and nuts and boiled along with a light broth cooked in a special pot with a hollow tube where you can drop flaming hot charcoals to let the dish piping hot. This truly tops the list of royal palace food.

Korean Beef Tartare

Korean name: 육회(yuk hwe)

Many have tried eating sashimi and sushi, which are made with raw fishes. Well, how about trying raw beef? No, it's not Japanese cuisine. This Korean royalty menu is made of thinly sliced raw beef strips seasoned with soy sauce,sesame oil, sugar,garlic , green onions and garnished with julienned cucumber and Asian pear, pine nuts,and sesame seeds. During the Joseon Dyanasty, it is said that horse meat is consumed instead of beef. It is served with a spicy-sour pepper paste(cho gochujang) to lessen the gaminess of the raw meat.

Panfish Noodle Soup

Korean name: 도미면 (domi myeon)

This fish dish is made by fried fish fillets, colorful vegetables, with glass noodles sizzling in a light, boiling broth. This dish is best served and eaten while still simmering. It is very unique in taste, looks elegant, and saves you the hassle of plucking up fish bones.

Traditional Persimmon Fruit Punch

Korean name: 수정과 (sujeonggwa)

It somehow looks like tea, this traditional drink dates back to the Goryeo Period, where it has been prepared as a New Year's Day drink by the palace women. Dark and reddish brown in color, it is made of dried persimmons, cinnamon, ginger and garnished with pine nuts. Unlike tea which is served mostly hot, sujeonggwa is best served cold and is commonly consumed as a dessert because of its sweet taste. You may also buy this in canned form at any convenience store in Korea nowadays.

WATCH : Eat Your Kimchi Royal Court Cuisine Dining


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    • Chino Lavares profile imageAUTHOR

      Chino Lavares 

      3 years ago from Hong Kong

      Yes. I've noticed a lot of that in most Korean restaurants overseas that it's very rare to find such style of cooking. But if you could read some Korean you might try to looking at this characters 궁중음식 or 궁중요리, which both means "Palace Cuisine", or they might have English translations below it. I wish you could taste all these delicious dishes and dine in like thy royalty.

      Let me know if you've find one in your area.

      Good luck!

    • peachpurple profile image


      3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      Korean restaurant here don't serve such majestic meals


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