Tasty and healthy Korean food

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Friday, March 14, 2014

DID you know that Korean food is one of the healthiest cuisines in the world? The Koreans have a unique approach to food. Many dishes are either stewed or boiled and grilled, and their sauces go through a process called fermentation.

For them, food is much more than something to fill the belly—it provides taste, a connection to their country, and medicine to the body. This is obviously why Koreans are not known for being obese.

One could find the most authentic Korean food at Maru Restaurant of Imperial Palace Waterpark and Resort Spa, located along the coastline of Maribago, Mactan Island. So named because of the traditional platform table and low seats, Maru Restaurant’s culinary master, world-class Korean chef George Park will show you the best of Korean cuisine.


“I always prepare the dishes in the menu in the traditional Korean way of cooking, but I also adjust to the palate of the diners upon request,” the very gracious host, chef George, disclosed with a very amiable smile.

The most popular Korean dish is the bulgogi and at Maru’s, they specifically named this as Seoul bulgogi. This is a versatile way of preparing beef into a stew, with the meat thinly sliced and marinated in a sauce made from fruit juices, garlic, onions, soy sauce (that chef George made), and comes with marinated tofu and noodles. The end result is a delicious, quite spicy meat soup that is very low in fat and thus, very healthy.

But nothing comes near to being heavenly as the japchae, stir fried sweet potato noodles with vegetables and, again, beef. The sweet potato starch noodles give japchae its very distinct chewy texture. The vegetables are all cooked lightly so they retain their natural and healthy flavor. Because of the ingredients being used, this dish is very low in calories and carbohydrates. Who can say that delicious food is not healthy?

When at Maru, do not miss out the doenjang jjigae (say tenjang jighe), bean paste stew with prawns, clams, spring onions, green chili, bean curd, and zucchini. Here it is served in an earthenware pot (very traditional way of serving Korean soups). You can have it blisteringly hot or very mild if you don’t have the stomach for spicy food.

“Koreans love spicy food. Many dishes that come out from the kitchen have some form of chili to it,” chef George said. Chili is known to speed up metabolism and eating it is one great way of making sure the calories are burned off.

If you want to try only one recipe from the menu list, let it be dolsot bibimbap, stone pot rice with assorted vegetables, beef, lettuce and egg (optional). In Korean “bibim” means “mixed” and “bap” means rice. This dish is usually served with metal chopsticks and a spoon. A taste sensation, there is nothing like it!

Fermented foods are foods that have gone through a process called “lactofermentation” wherein natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch on the food creating lactic acid. This process creates beneficial enzymes such as B vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.

Natural fermentation of food helps to preserve its nutrients and is found to break down food to a more digestible form. Kimchi, the most popular Korean side dish, is one of the healthiest foods in the world as it uses fermentation to achieve its distinct taste. And it is very spicy, a great way to burn off excess fat and calories after a very sumptuous meal. Chef George makes the radish kimchi being served at Maru Restaurant.

Koreans are not famous for desserts, but they have delicious sidings like the Korean pancakes (zucchini and tofu), odeng (fish cake) and assorted vegetable salads.

For the health buffs and the waist-conscious, why not try switching to a Korean diet?

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 15, 2014.


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