Exploring the Flavors of Korean Cuisine

Exploring the Flavors of Korean Cuisine: A Guide to Essential Herbs

Korean cuisine is a harmonious blend of flavors, colors, and textures, deeply rooted in the country’s cultural and historical background. Central to many Korean dishes are a variety of herbs that add depth and complexity to the food. Let’s explore the essential herbs used in Korean cuisine and discover how they enhance traditional dishes. Plus, enjoy a special recipe for a classic Korean dish at the end!

1. Green Onion (Pa):

Green onions are widely used in Korean cooking, known for their mild, slightly sweet flavor. They are used fresh in salads, soups, stews, and as a garnish. This versatile herb can be found in dishes like Pajeon (green onion pancakes) and Kimchi.

2. Garlic (Manul):

Garlic is a staple in Korean cuisine, providing a robust, pungent flavor to many dishes. It is used both fresh and fermented, enhancing the taste of soups, marinades, and stir-fries.

3. Sesame Leaves (Kkaennip):

Sesame leaves, also known as perilla leaves, have a unique, slightly minty flavor. They are often used fresh in salads, as wraps for meats, or pickled.

4. Ginger (Saenggang):

Ginger adds a warm, spicy flavor to Korean dishes. It is commonly used fresh or pickled in marinades, soups, and sauces.

5. Korean Mint (Buchu):

Korean mint, also known as garlic chives, provides a mild garlic flavor. It is used fresh in salads, pancakes, and as a garnish for various dishes.

6. Red Chili Pepper (Gochu):

Red chili peppers add heat and color to Korean cuisine. They are used fresh, dried, and powdered in dishes like Kimchi and Gochujang (fermented chili paste).

7. Seaweed (Gim):

Seaweed is a fundamental ingredient in Korean cuisine, known for its briny, umami flavor. It is used dried in soups, salads, and as a garnish for rice dishes.

8. Soybean Sprouts (Kongnamul):

Soybean sprouts add a crunchy texture and nutty flavor to dishes. They are often used fresh in soups, stir-fries, and salads.

9. Basil (Gaetnip):

Korean basil, also known as Korean perilla, has a slightly spicy and minty flavor. It is used fresh in salads, wraps, and as a garnish for various dishes.

10. Mugwort (Ssuk):

Mugwort adds a unique, slightly bitter flavor to Korean dishes. It is used fresh or dried in soups, rice cakes, and herbal teas.

Traditional Korean Recipe: Bibimbap (Mixed Rice with Vegetables)


  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 1 cup bean sprouts (kongnamul), blanched
  • 1 cup spinach, blanched and drained
  • 1 medium carrot, julienned
  • 1 zucchini, julienned
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup cucumber, julienned
  • 1/2 cup Korean radish (mu), julienned
  • 2 green onions (pa), chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic (manul), minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • Gochujang (Korean chili paste) to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Prepare Vegetables: In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil over medium heat. Sauté each vegetable (carrot, zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, cucumber, and Korean radish) separately until tender, seasoning with a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Blanch and Season Greens: Blanch the bean sprouts and spinach, then drain and season with minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
  3. Cook the Eggs: Fry the eggs sunny-side up in a separate pan until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny.
  4. Assemble Bibimbap: Divide the cooked rice into bowls. Arrange the sautéed vegetables, blanched greens, and bean sprouts on top of the rice. Place the fried egg on top.
  5. Garnish and Serve: Drizzle with the remaining sesame oil and sprinkle with chopped green onions and sesame seeds. Add gochujang to taste. Mix well before eating.


The use of herbs in Korean cuisine is essential to its distinctive flavors and aromas. Each herb brings its own unique character, enhancing the taste of traditional dishes. By incorporating these herbs into your cooking, you can bring a touch of Korea to your kitchen.