Korean Health Foods 101
By Kathy Chin Leong
In Santa Clara’s Koreatown, a three-mile stretch along El Camino near Lawrence Expressway, there are a slew of great Korean restaurants and cafes. And within the food culture, there are favorite no-nonsense foods and intriguing ingridients. Here’s a key to the traditional foods you’ll find in Korean grocery stores, tea houses, and restaurants.

Banchan – Found in Korean restaurants, this is an array of low-calorie miniature appetizers, usually boiled bean sprouts, dried fish, and fermented radish, that accompany a meal. It is fine to ask for free refills.

Doenjang – Dried soybean paste. A zesty condiment chock full of amino acids, this staple strengthens the bones, detoxifies the liver, and prevents heart disease. It is also rumored to prevent cancer.Health properties do not diminish when cooked or boiled in a soup.

Ginseng – A blond, knobby root with tendrils is extremely potent, tasting medicinal and bitter. Essences used in tea, candy, and drinks to boost the immune system, circulation, even sports performance. Found in Korean medicine cabinets everywhere. Not advised for pregnant women or children.

Kim chee – Napa cabbage and other vegetables lathered with garlic, green onion, Korean red chili, and garlic. High in fiber, vitamin A and C, iron, carotene, and calcium. Spice levels range from mild to fiery. In ancient times, clans used to make enough jars of the stuff to last all winter.Over 600 different types of kim chee have been concocted over the centuries.

Tea in a jar – Bits of real fruit ensconced in a jar of honey or sugar, resembles and tastes like marmalade. Spooned into hot water, this makes a delicious tea for colds and sore throats. Packaged in flavors such as citron, aloe vera, pomegranate and papaya.

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