The Korean people’s eating of boiled cereals as a staple food was formed in primitive times.
Korean ancestors cultivated barnyard millet, foxtail millet, millet, sorghum, soybean, azuki bean and rice already in primitive and ancient times.
The word pap, boiled cereals in English, appeared in written documents for the first time in the early middle ages, the period of Three Kingdoms.
Samguksagi and Samgukyusa, old chronicles and history book of the Three Kingdoms in Korea, recorded pap and chalpap (boiled glutinous rice).
Pap was called pakko during the Koryo dynasty.
Pap is cooked in various ways, with one cereal, with two or three cereals, and with other supplementary materials.
Many proverbs were created in relation with pap.
An old Korean proverb says, The spectacles of famous Mt Kumgang cannot interest the hungered, meaning nothing can work on an empty stomach.
Such proverbs as A grain of rice kills ten ghosts, Boiled rice is medicine, and Good health is beneath the rice bowl, give medical advices that it is important to have regular meals in order to be in good health as well as restore health.
Besides, there are many other proverbs related with boiled cereals.
Noodles are a traditional Korean dish with a history of over a thousand years.
It is said that noodles came from chopped noodles enjoyed by Buddhist monks.
During the Koryo dynasty (around 10th century) when Buddhism was widespread, there was a Buddhist saint who liked chopped noodles very much and the monks of his temple had it as a staple food.
One day there took place a general meeting of monks across the country at the temple. To serve a large number of monks the temple’s monks pressed flour dough through a press, and since then the present noodles came into being.
Koreans have loved to eat noodles from old times.
It has been a must to have noodles for everyday meals, and wedding and first birthday ceremonies.
The record of noodles first appeared at the end of the Koryo dynasty.
The book Ryongbiochonga written in 1444 said that Choe Yong, a military general of Koryo, served his guests with noodles and other foods. Another book Haedongyoksa read that during the Koryo period noodles were expensive owing to the small wheat production, so it was forbidden to serve noodles except at special feasts.
Judging from them, noodles were already widespread in the Koryo period.
Noodles, according to basic materials, are divided into buckwheat noodles, wheat noodles, starch noodles and corn noodles.
They are often prepared by mixing basic materials with other ingredients.
For example, buckwheat noodles are prepared with buckwheat flour and boiled water of mungbean flour or glutinous rice, and wheat noodles by wheat flour and egg.
According to how they are made, noodles are divided into threadlike noodles, chopped noodles and so on. Most common are threadlike noodles.
They are also divided into cold noodles, warm noodles and noodle hash according to how they are served, and they are served in different stocks and with garnishings.
Cereal cakes are made in the way of steaming cereals or cereal powder, or pounding or moulding the boiled cereals.
They are one of favourite staple foods of the Korean people.
The historical fact that the Korean nation made cereal cakes already in the Bronze Age, some 4 000 years ago, when they made earthenware steamers can be proven by a mural painting found in the tomb of King Kogukwon of Koguryo Kingdom.
And the Ballad of Mill composed by Paekkyol, a musician in the days of the Three Kingdoms, shows that there was a custom of making cereal cakes as festive dishes for the New Year.
Cereal cakes are prepared as special dishes for the birthday party, wedding ceremony and holidays.
There are anecdotes, stories and proverbs related to cereal cakes as many as those related to boiled cereals.
Porridge was an alternative staple food for the Korean people.
They ate porridge since the primitive times when they began to grow cereals, that is, even before they ate boiled cereals.
Historical records and folk materials show that there were a wide variety of porridge which were prepared in various ways and had great pharmacological effects.
During the feudal Joson dynasty many families prepared porridge for breakfast.
And old people ate porridge before breakfast, and weak or ill people ate porridge for health recuperation.
It was also a folk custom to send porridge prepared with rice and adzuki to a mourner’s house.
Porridge is made with cereals, sometimes added with various ingredients.
In olden times people ate stuffed pancakes, and since the 18th-19th century they made pancakes without stuffing. Pancakes are called jijim, or jonbyong, or puchigi in Korean.
In some regions, such as Hwanghae Province, pancakes were prepared by filling crushed adzuki bean or mung bean.
Pancakes are made with various cereals, such as mung bean, potato, corn, wheat, sorghum, glutinous rice and adzuki bean. Either new crops of the year are watered and milled or powdered cereals are kneaded to fry in oil.
It is easy to make pancakes, so they are a common dish for every family.
Jellies are prepared by boiling starches obtained from ground buckwheat, mung bean, corn or acorn and cooling them.
In old historical documents jelly, or muk in Korean, was written as pho in Chinese character.
Mung bean jelly was regarded as the best of the jellies, and the jelly made of yellow mung bean was called hwangpho (yellow-coloured jelly) and that of green mung bean chongpho (greenish jelly).
Korean people had long eaten mukchae, a salad made with jelly and other ingredients.
Jinchanuigwe, a book compiled in 1848, tells that jelly salad made of green mung bean includes as secondary ingredients pork, parsley, laver, egg and chili powder. Another historical book, Tongguksesigi, refers to mung bean jelly salad as thangphyongchae, which also includes pork, parsley, laver and vinegared soy sauce.
In the past ordinary families usually ate jellies made of acorn, buckwheat and corn for lunch or supper, but they prepared mung bean jelly as a special dish for holiday meals or when they entertained guests.
Noodles made of green corn jelly served in refreshing kimchi juice or sesame soup was regarded as a special dish in the Phyongan provincial area in fresh corn season.