Korean Food : Korean Eat Only Rice? : Rice Consumption


Q. My Korean friend said ‘Koreans basically eat only rice meals throughout the day.’ Breakfast with rice, lunch with rice, and dinner with rice. It’s hard to believe. They should be sick of eating it all the time. Is that state true?

A. Basically, yes. You must be surprised by hearing this. But as your korean friend said, all korean meals are traditionally based on rice. You think we must be fed of it, mustn’t we? But we habitually eat rice for every meal and we don’t feel that awkward of it.

Bachelors in Korea often hope their wives for this.

I want to have warm soybean soup(된장찌개) made by my wife every morning.

This saying indicates that Koreans usually eat breakfast as an important meal and that includes soup and rice, of course. Rice at breakfast also means elaboration and affection from wives, since it takes long time to prepare them early in the morning.

There is another saying that show how important rice is for Korean.

Korean lives by Rice Power (밥심)

To conclude, the answer is Yes, Koreans eat rice 3 times a day even breakfast.

Q. But I see so many western foods in Korea. That must have affected the Korean food culture somewhat. What do you think of it?

A. You sharply pointed it out. Let’s focus on ‘basically and traditionally’ that I mentioned on my answer. In the past, all meals used to include rice even desserts. After western food was introduced to Korea, a new ingredient, wheat flour began to be used, and whole food market started to change.

At the current time, Koreans eat all types of international food from the world. It cannot be true anymore that Koreans eat only rice meals. Koreans began to eat toasts and cereals for their breakfast, and sandwiches for lunch and italian pasta and pizzas for dinner. They drink herb tea with chocolate cakes for dessert.

Korean Rice Consumption decreases.

Koreans eat definitely less rice compared to the past. According to the statistics, the rice consumption in Korea diminished from 80.7kg in 2005 to 72.8kg in 2010, The consumption per capita also reduced to 199g in 2010. Contrary to that, wheat flour consumption gradually increase from 31.8kg in 2005 to 35kg in 2010.

Korean Government Encourages Rice Eating.

Government makes great effort to protect rice production for 2 reasons.
First, Rice is a major food(grain) in Korea that sustains food industry. Rice is still a significant ingredient in Korean daily meals although its consumption is decreasing. The rice producers must survive the inflow of cheap rice from abroad so that Korea can retain sufficient food supply.

Secondly, Rice works an important role in Korean cuisine. As material products get abundant, cultural products get valued more. It’s certain that ethnic cuisine takes a great part in its culture. To get a better position in world market, Korea must keep its food culture based on rice, and that must be grown in Korea.

Korean government is holding several events and policies to cope with rice consumption decrease. They encourage companies to brand their rice putting more value on it with named by locals. They support companies to develop new rice-based food to meet consumers’ westernized tastes. That includes rice cheese cake, rice pancakes, rice bread, rice noodles, and more. They also stimulate citizens to eat breakfast with rice by announcing benefits of it.

korea rice
I love Korean food the most. I have grown up eating Korean food that’s embedded in culture. It’s not just about taste or health facts of food, but it’s about my childhood life with Korean food. Mom made love-filled breakfast with rice and soup in the morning. I love to recall those memories and I am willing to continue this memories to my children in the future.

I worry that Korean food culture seems to be faded away, being diluted with flow of western food. I will consume more Korean rice to support rice industry and to keep my culture and myself.


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Posted by Food Storyist

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