Korean royal court cuisine

Korean royal court cuisine
Korean name
Hangul 조선왕조 궁중요리
Hanja 朝鮮王朝 宮中料理
Revised Romanization Joseon Wangjo Gungjung yori
McCune–Reischauer Chosŏn Wangjo Kungjung yori

Korean royal court cuisine (Joseon Wangjo Gungjung yori) was the style of cookery within Korean cuisine traditionally consumed at the court of the Joseon Dynasty, which ruled Korea from 1392 to 1910. There has been a revival of this cookery style in the 21st century. It is said that twelve dishes should be served along with rice and soup, with most dishes served in bangjja (bronzeware).


In the Dae Jang Geum theme park, a model of a royal kitchen in which gungnyeo (court ladies) worked was displayed

Collectively known as gungjung eumsik during the pre-modern era, the foods of the royal palace were reflective of the opulent nature of the past rulers of the Korean peninsula. The opulent nature of the royalty is evidenced in examples as far back as the Silla kingdom, where a man-made lake (Anapji Lake, located in Gyeongju), was created with multiple pavilions and halls for the sole purpose of opulent banquets and a spring fed channel, Poseokjeong, was created for the singular purpose of setting wine cups afloat during the writing of poems.[1]

Reflecting the regionalism of the kingdoms and bordering countries of the peninsula, the cuisine borrowed from each of these areas to function as a showcase. The royalty had the finest regional delicacies sent to the palace. Although there are records of banquets pre-dating the Joseon period, the majority of these records note a vast variety of foods without mentioning the specific foods present.[2] The meals cooked for the royal family were not seasonal, like a commoner's meal. Instead, they varied significantly day to day. The eight provinces were represented each month in turn in the royal palace by ingredients presented by their governors. This gave the cooks a wide assortment of ingredients to utilize for royal meals.[3]

Food held a very important place in Joseon period. Official positions were created within the Six Ministries (Yukjo, 육조) that were charged with all matters related to procurement and consumption of food and drink for the royal court. The Board of Personnel (Ijo, 이조) contained positions specific for attaining rice for the royal family. The Board of Rites (Yejo) were responsible for foods prepared for ancestor rites, attaining wines and other beverages, and medicinal foods. There were also hundreds of slaves and women who worked in the palace that had tasks such as making tofu, liquor, tea, and tteok (rice cakes). The women were the cooks to the royal palace and were of commoner or low-status families. These women would be split into specific skill sets or "bureaus" such as the Bureau of special foods (Saenggwa-bang, 생과방) or the Bureau of cooking foods (Soju-bang, 소주방). These female cooks may have been assisted by male cooks from outside the palace during larger banquets when necessary.[4]

Five meals were generally served in the royal palace each day during the Joseon period, and records suggest this pattern had existed from antiquity. Three of these meals would be full-course meals, while the afternoon and after dinner meals would consist of lighter fare. The first meal, mieumsang (미음상), was served at sunrise on days when the king and queen were not taking herbal medicines. The meal consisted of rice porridge (juk, 죽) made with ingredients such as abalone (jeonbokjuk), white rice (huinjuk), mushrooms (beoseotjuk), pine nuts (jatjuk), and sesame (kkaejuk). The side dishes could consist of kimchi, nabak kimchi, oysters, soy sauce, and other items. The porridge was thought to give vitality to the king and queen throughout the day.[5]

The sura (수라) were the main meals of the day. Breakfast was served at ten in the morning and the evening meals were served between six and seven at night. The set of three tables (surasang, 수라상), were usually set with two types of rice, two types of soup, two types of stew (jjigae), one dish of jjim (meat stew), one dish of jeongol (a casserole of meat and vegetables), three types of kimchi, three types of jang (장) and twelve side dishes, or called 12 cheop (12첩). The meals were set in the suragan (수라간), a room specifically used for taking meals, with the king seated to the east and the queen to the west. Each had their own set of tables and were attended by three palace servant women known as sura sanggung (수라상궁). These women would remove bowl covers and offer the foods to the king and queen after ensuring that the dishes were not poisoned.[6]

This Korean food heritage has been inscribed by the government as Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 38. Han Bongnyeo (한복려 ; 韓福麗) is the current Living National Treasure as the keeper of this property.[7][8]

Surasang setting

Surasang setting

The surasang should be served with three tables and a hotpot. The largest round table at the right upper corner is the main table which contains main bowl, soups and stews, dishes, side dishes and fermented stored dishes. The small round table at the left upper corner contains red sura, gomtang or thick meat broth, dessert, tea, empty dishes and bowls. This table is also used to store the covers of bowls and dishes used in the main table. The rectangular table in the right lower corner contains eggs, sesame oil, various raw vegetables and several sauces. The hotpot at the left lower corner is heated with charcoal, and usually contains jeongol such as sinseollo.

The setting was as follows:[9]

A, B, C: surasanggung (수라상궁)

  1. songsongi (송송이): cubed daikon radish kimchi[9]
  2. jeotgugji (젓국지): kimchi from Chinese cabbage seasoned with jeotgal[9]
  3. dongchimi (동치미): white kimchi[10]
  4. jeotgal (젓갈): fermented, salted seafood[11]
  5. jorigae (조리개): hard-boiled food with heavy seasonings[12]
  6. namul (나물): seasoned vegetable side dishes[13]
  7. saengche (생채): fresh salad[14]
  8. jjim (찜): steamed or boiled dishes[15]
  9. mareunchan (마른찬): dried foods[16]
  10. janggwa (장과): braised seafood[17]
  11. pyeonyuk (편육): boiled and seasoned meat pressed by heavy weight and then sliced thinly[18]
  12. changui (찬구이): fried Codonopsis lanceolata (더덕, deodeok) and kim[19]
  13. jeonyuhwa (전유화): pancake-like fried dish[20]
  14. Jeotguk jochi (젓국 조치): kind of fish soup[21]
  15. togu (토구): a plate used to hold bones during the meal[9]
  16. jang (장): soy sauce[9]
  17. chojang (초장): soy sauce with vinegar[9]
  18. cho gochujang (초 고추장): chili paste with vinegar[9]
  19. tojang jochi (토장 조치): soybean soup[9]
  20. huinsura (흰수라): white rice[9]
  21. gwaktang (곽탕): seaweed soup[9]
  22. chaeso (채소): vegetables[9]
  23. gogi (고기): meat[9]
  24. jangguk (장국): soybean paste soup[9]
  25. dalgyal (달걀): egg[9]
  26. jeongol (전골): type of stew[22]
  27. jaengban (쟁반) and chasu (차수): teapot and plate[9]
  28. gongjeobsi(공접시): empty plate[9]
  29. gonggi (공기): empty bowl[9]
  30. suran (수란): poached egg[9]
  31. hoe (회): raw fish and meat[15]
  32. deoungui (더운구이): hot grilled meat[19]
  33. hongban (홍반) or patsura (팥수라): rice with azuki beans[9][23]
  34. gomtang (곰탕): soup from beef meat and bones[24]

Main dishes served in a bowl


Closeup of the ingredients in goldongban or bibimbap

Sura (수라) is a bowl of boiled rice and grains. Two kinds of sura must always be served. This includes white sura.[25]

Juk, mieum, and eungi

Juk () and mieum (미음) or eung-i (응이) are types of rice porridge usually served in the morning. Juk is thicker than mieum in texture,[28][29] latter of which is similar to the Western gruel.


Domimyeon, stuffed sea bream casserole with vegetables and vermicelli

Guksu (국수) are noodles that are prepared with buckwheat or wheat flour, with the former being preferred.

Mandu and ddeokguk

Mandu (만두) are boiled or steamed dumplings. Mandu dough is made from either wheat flour or buckwheat. The dough is then stuffed with various fillings. Tteokguk (떡국) is a soup made of tteok (glutinous rice cakes)



Tang is a type of soup made with beef shank, intestines, a knuckle (bone) and beef brisket.

Jochi and gamjeong

Jochi (조치) and gamjeong (감정) are stew-like dishes which is called jjigae in nowadays. If seasoned with gochujang, they are called gamjeong. Jochi is seasoned with salt or salted shrimp. Other varieties include:

Jjim and seon

Baechuseon, steamed and stuffed bachu (napa cabbage) roll

Jjim (): steamed or boiled beef, pork, and fish seasoned with vegetables. Seon () is steamed vegetables, tofu, and fish stuffed with fillings made with beef or chicken and onions.

Jeongol and sinseollo

Jeongol and sinseollo are similar to Western stew or Chinese hotpot. Sinseollo (which is a variety of jeongol) is boiled in meat stock with various vegetables and mushrooms in a specific cooking pot with holes. Jeongol and sinseollo are served with a burner.

Side dishes


Saengchae (생채) is like a salad seasoned with salt, vinegar, soy sauce, or mustard sauce.


Namul (나물) are any variety of steamed vegetables seasoned with hot pepper, garlic, green onion, salt, and sesame or perilla oil. Typical vegetables include spinach, daikon, royal fern, bracken, zucchini, green bean sprouts, Korean bellflower, bamboo shoots, etc. In some cases, dangmyeon (potato starch noodles) and roasted beef can be used as well.


Jorigae (조리개) hard-boiled foods with heavy seasonings. Meats, fish and vegetable are mainly used.



Jeonyuhwa (전유화) or sometimes jeon: a dish resembling a pancake. The main ingredients can be lightly battered with egg and wheat flour. Eggs, flour, and other ingredients can be mixed to make pancakes.


Deodeok gui

Gui is a generic Korean cuisine term for roasted and seasoned dishes. The main ingredients include laver, beef, the root of deodeok (Codonopsis lanceolata; 더덕), fish, mushrooms, vegetables, Aralia elata sprouts (두릅), etc.


Yukhwe (육회, 肉膾)

Hoe (회) is raw fish or raw seasoned beef

Jang (장류)

Banchan (반찬)


Mostly made of rice, it is eaten as a dessert or on Korean Thanksgiving Day, which falls on August 15 of the lunar year. These rice cakes vary from containing sweet red bean rice to sesame seeds. Most of these rice cakes are mildy sweet and are enjoyed by everyone from young to old.

Tea and fruit punch

A sweet rice punch. Being an iconic Korean traditional drink, several varieties of canned sikhye are now widely available.

A sweet drink flavored with ginger and cinnamon. Softened dried persimmons and pine nuts are added at serving time.

See also


  1. Pettid, 129
  2. Pettid, 130.
  3. Pettid, 132.
  4. Pettid, 130-132.
  5. Pettid, 133.
  6. Pettid, 134-135.
  7. "Special Interview - Han Bok-Ryeo, Master of Korean Royal Cuisine". Hancinema. 2009-12-07. Retrieved 2013-05-10.
  8. "Vive La Korean Food! Hallyu Revitalizes Culinary Tradition". The Korea Times. 2008-03-20. Retrieved 2013-05-10.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Pettid, Michael J. Daily Meals, Korean cuisine: an illustrated history. China: Reaktion Books Ltd, pages 133-138. (2008) ISBN 978-1-86189-348-2
  10. "Types of kimchi". Korea Tourism Organisation. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  11. "Jeotgal". Seoul City. Archived from the original on 2004-04-23.
  12. "Health food – Chiyuk-jorigae". Suragan. Retrieved 2013-05-14.
  13. "The Wide World of Namul". About.com. 2011-06-17. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
  14. "Saengchae". Korea Tourism Organization. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  15. 1 2 "The general kinds of Korea Food". Korea Tourism Organization. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
  16. "Mareunchan". Korea Tourism Organization. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  17. "Janggwa". Korea Tourism Organization. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  18. Lee Jong-im Director, Korea Food and Culture Research Center. "Pyeonyuk : Sliced Beef". Koreana. Archived from the original on 2015-04-12. Retrieved 2013-04-05.
  19. 1 2 궁중음식 (in Korean). e-foodservice.co.kr. Retrieved 2013-05-14.
  20. "A List of Korean Savory Pancakes". About.com. Retrieved 2013-04-05.
  21. 젓국 (in Korean). Foodnara. Retrieved 2013-05-15.
  22. "Korean Food: Stews". Life in Korea. Retrieved 2013-04-03.
  23. 홍반 (in Korean). Daum Dictionary. Retrieved 2013-05-15.
  24. "GOM-TANG". Trifood.com. Retrieved 2013-04-02.
  25. "Food Fit For A King". Korea Taste. 2011-05-09. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  26. 오곡수라 (in Korean). Daum Dictionary. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  27. 골동반 (in Korean). Daum Dictionary. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  28. 죽,‘현대’와 죽이맞다 (in Korean). Chosun. 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  29. 죽, 미음, 응이 (in Korean). Hanjin Mall. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  30. 속미음 (in Korean) Doosan Encyclopedia
  31. Neobiani uses the same sauce as Bulgogi(Korean Barbecue), but the meat is thicker and its cooking methods are relatively simple because it does not require cooking vegetables together. The beef is cut into thick portions, and in order to tenderize the meat and give the same texture as steak, small knife cuts are made all around the meat, and after marinating in a sauce that is made less sweet, it is grilled over an open fire or in a pan."Korean Food Foundation". Retrieved 2014-03-15.


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