Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Korean Dining-Proper Etiquette


Recommended Posts

Last night a friend and I had a wonderful Korean meal in Centreville, VA (sorry I forgot the name of the place), but both being novices to Korean food we were unsure if we were to eat the all the various Kimchee that came out prior to our meal (I had Bimbimbap, my friend just boring Chicken Teriayki) or with our meal. Our seats didn't give us a view of the other diners, and the waitstaff were very much overwhelmed as the place was crowded. Thanks in advance!

(oops I meant "dining"_-can't edit topic title!)

Edited by ditsydine (log)

-----------------

AMUSE ME

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You don't HAVE to eat or finish all the various Banchan (Kimchi is a type of Banchan, but not all Banchan are Kimchi) brought to your table. You should at least try some of each, however. In our case we have to ask for second or third orders of some of the Banchan items around here, because we like them a lot.

The main difference between Korean dining etiquette and that of other Asian countries is that you eat rice with a SPOON and you do not pick the bowl up. You can put various banchan on your rice bowl as condiments with the metal chopsticks, but you don't want to actually eat your rice with them.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Last night a friend and I had a wonderful Korean meal in Centreville, VA (sorry I forgot the name of the place), but both being novices to Korean food we were unsure if we were to eat the all the various Kimchee that came out prior to our meal (I had Bimbimbap, my friend just boring Chicken Teriayki) or with our meal.  Our seats didn't give us a view of the other diners, and the waitstaff were very much overwhelmed as the place was crowded. Thanks in advance!

(oops I meant "dining"_-can't edit topic title!)

The banchan is eaten throughout the meal, as an accompaniment to your main course(s), despite that they are often brought out to the table before the main course(s).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are a "few etiquette" rules when dining at a proper korean meal but in my life I think I observe them maybe 5 times and all but one was at someone home. And I certainly do not know all the dining rules. Let's say my parents wern't really into formality at the table and neither am I.

As for in most korean resturants, I've not been to anything really formal around DC and none of the waitresses care that much. They are impressed with you if you try to speak a bit of korean. In addition, I've heard them try to steer non-koreans to certain dishes. Don't let them do that.

As for Banchan, I start eating that as soon as they arrive and ask for refills when I empty the ones I like.

What Jason said about the spoon and not picking up the bowl to your mouth is true. Although I have no idea why? But I've also done it so...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The main difference between Korean dining etiquette and that of other Asian countries is that you eat rice with a SPOON and you do not pick the bowl up. You can put various banchan on your rice bowl as condiments with the metal chopsticks, but you don't want to actually eat your rice with them.

Actually, Korean etiquette requires that rice be eaten from the rice bowl with the chopsticks, not with the spoon. The only time the rice is taken from the rice bowl with a spoon is when one spoons a bit of rice, carries it over to the soup bowl, lets some soup flow into the bowl of the spoon, and eats the spoonful. This rice-bowl-to-soup-bowl move is distinctively Korean. Perhaps you were referring to this exception to the rule that rice is eaten with chopsticks.

You are absolutely right, though, about not picking up the rice bowl.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Eating rice with chopsticks is not considered rude. Eating rice with a spoon is considered more ergonomic, probably because we do not pick up our rice bowls and we use skinny chopsticks. Spoons are preferred. I think somewhere along the line this was misintepreted by some people, including a handful of Koreans, that eating rice with chopsticks is considered rude by Koreans.

EDIT: Cross post. Korean etiquette does not dictate that rice be eaten with chopsticks rather than a spoon either.

Edited by touaregsand (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great thread. What about mixing up your bibimbap? Just go right at it? Should you put the gochuchang/rice vinegar mixture on before mixing or after?

Also, while we're being polite, what is the proper way to say, "Thank you"?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Eating rice with chopsticks is not considered rude.  Eating rice with a spoon is considered more ergonomic, probably because we do not pick up our rice bowls and we use skinny chopsticks. Spoons are preferred. I think somewhere along the line this was misintepreted by some people, including a handful of Koreans, that eating rice with chopsticks is considered rude by Koreans.

In a home environment, in especially modern Korean-American households, its considered to be okay to eat rice with chopsticks, particularly if it is a non-traditional Korean meal or if non-Korean Asian food is being eaten. It has been explained to me by my adopted Korean family that in a traditional dining situation, such as on a holiday, a special family gathering, or in a nice Korean restaurant, it is considered to be extremely low-brow to use chopsticks as opposed to the spoon.

By the way, the whole eating rice with spoon/versus not eating with spoon thing is part of the long history of animosity and cultural divide between the Korean and Chinese people.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Eating rice with chopsticks is not considered rude.  Eating rice with a spoon is considered more ergonomic, probably because we do not pick up our rice bowls and we use skinny chopsticks. Spoons are preferred. I think somewhere along the line this was misintepreted by some people, including a handful of Koreans, that eating rice with chopsticks is considered rude by Koreans.

In a home environment, in especially modern Korean-American households, its considered to be okay to eat rice with chopsticks, particularly if it is a non-traditional Korean meal or if non-Korean Asian food is being eaten. It has been explained to me by my adopted Korean family that in a traditional dining situation, such as on a holiday, a special family gathering, or in a nice Korean restaurant, it is considered to be extremely low-brow to use chopsticks as opposed to the spoon.

By the way, the whole eating rice with spoon/versus not eating with spoon thing is part of the long history of animosity and cultural divide between the Korean and Chinese people.

Jason-

Both my parents come from Yangban families and I have relatives who were politicians and diplomats. Both sides have a long line of Confucian gentleman scholars. I am quite familiar with Korean dining manners at different levels.

EDIT: It would help to know what region of Korea your adopted Korean family comes from in understanding why they would say that.

Edited by touaregsand (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was aware of your heritage -- I was pointing this out for the other readers in the topic, who might not be familiar with the complex nuances.

I think that some might consider it rude to eat with rice with chopsticks, because eating rice with Korean chopsticks can look a little clumsy (or perhaps even lowbrow, as you say). But I wouldn't stretch is so far as to say rude. I've never heard that.

It's not really that important. :smile:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that some might consider it rude to eat with rice with chopsticks  because eating rice with Korean chopsticks can look a little clumsy

I think traditional Korean chopsticks, especially the long thin metal ones used in restaurants are even clumsy for Koreans, especially ones raised in this country. While I consider myself an adept chopstick user for a non-Asian, its a huge challenge for me to use the long metal kind and I will often ask for the regular plastic or wooden kind if it is avaliable if I am dining at a Korean restaurant. My Korean family eats at home entirely with Chinese and Japanese style chopsticks.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is what I have been able to find on the 'Net in English regarding Korean table manners:

http://www.lifeinkorea.com/Food/f-manners.cfm

At first, taste soup or kimchi juice, and then try rice or other dishes. Use spoon for rice and liquid foods, such as stews or soups; use chopsticks for other foods.

http://www.asiafood.org/koreafood.cfm

Koreans use a spoon to eat rice, soup, and stews and chopsticks for rather dry side dishes, but spoon and chopsticks are not used simultaneously. Koreans also do not hold their bowls and plates while eating. When the meal is over, the spoon and chopsticks are placed back where they were.

http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Korean-cuisine

Unlike other chopstick nations, Koreans do not eat rice with chopsticks, instead use a spoon at formal or public meals. Koreans never pick up their rice or soup bowls but leave both on the table and eat from them with spoons. Side dishes, however, are eaten with chopsticks.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmmm. Whenever my (few) Korean friends and I sit down to a meal, they ate like I did, ie: picking up rice with chopsticks, and even lifting the ricebowl close to their lips. No one made any comments whatever about being rude or even different. Was it because they were hungry? or deferring to my technique? or the style was more efficient? or...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmmm. Whenever my  (few) Korean friends and I sit down to a meal, they ate like I did, ie: picking up rice with chopsticks, and even lifting the ricebowl close to their lips. No one made any comments whatever about being rude or even different. Was it because they were hungry? or deferring to my technique? or the style was more efficient? or...

Did you sit down to a Korean meal at a Korean restaurant or were you eating Chinese food? Or Korean-Chinese food even?

I think all bets are off with formal Korean dining rules if you aren't eating a formal Korean meal. The younger generation also probably eats in a more relaxed manner when not in front of their relatives as well.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

Link to comment
Share on other sites

both being novices to Korean food we were unsure if we were to eat the all the various Kimchee that came out prior to our meal (I had Bimbimbap, my friend just boring Chicken Teriayki) or with our meal.
you dont have to eat everything up. a lot of times those side dishes arent up to snuff. do what we do: taste a tiny bit of everything, even the stuff that looks nasty. then ignore the stuff that tastes yukky or boring or bland to you and scarf up the rest. you never know what you might be missing, so be sure to try a little of everything at the beginning.

as for all that other spoon stuff, if youre going to eat korean in md/dc/va, dont sweat it. just eat the way that feels most comfortable for you. youre not in korea, and believe you me, i am sure those restaurant staff have seen just about everything. as long as youre making an effort, i am sure no one will even blink. and arent the staff too busy to notice anyway?

you shouldnt take my advice so seriously though. i am of solid ssangnom stock.

"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is what I have been able to find on the 'Net in English regarding Korean table manners:

http://www.lifeinkorea.com/Food/f-manners.cfm

At first, taste soup or kimchi juice, and then try rice or other dishes. Use spoon for rice and liquid foods, such as stews or soups; use chopsticks for other foods.

http://www.asiafood.org/koreafood.cfm

Koreans use a spoon to eat rice, soup, and stews and chopsticks for rather dry side dishes, but spoon and chopsticks are not used simultaneously. Koreans also do not hold their bowls and plates while eating. When the meal is over, the spoon and chopsticks are placed back where they were.

http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Korean-cuisine

Unlike other chopstick nations, Koreans do not eat rice with chopsticks, instead use a spoon at formal or public meals. Koreans never pick up their rice or soup bowls but leave both on the table and eat from them with spoons. Side dishes, however, are eaten with chopsticks.

This is proof that you shouldn't believe everything you read on the internet.

What I know of Korean dining etiquette I got from my Korean family-by-marriage, who tell me (because I asked) that every Korean person they have ever seen eats rice with chopsticks, including on the most formal occasions, and, no, they are not low-brow, low-born ignoramuses, but quite the opposite, so that's good enough for me.

Edited by browniebaker (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What I know of Korean dining etiquette I got from my Korean family-by-marriage, who tell me (because I asked) that every Korean person they have ever seen eats rice with chopsticks, including on the most formal occasions, and, no, they are not low-brow, low-born ignoramuses, but quite the opposite, so that's good enough for me.

Even at a young age I was eating formal Korean meals at home and at restaurants. My parents have become much more relaxed about table manners these days mostly because of uncooperative DILs. You are absolutely correct to say that even on formal occassions Koreans eat rice with chopsticks. I really think the whole confusion over manners started because Koreans have a tendency to eat rice with a spoon more than the Japanese or Chinese for instance. But there is nothing rude about eating rice with chopsticks in the context of a formal dinner.

I had so many fine Korean manners pounded into me as a child that I have largely blocked them out of my mind. :wacko:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great thread. What about mixing up your bibimbap? Just go right at it? Should you put the gochuchang/rice vinegar mixture on before mixing or after?

Also, while we're being polite, what is the proper way to say, "Thank you"?

Oftentimes bibimbap is served with a dollop of gochujang in it. You can always add more to suit your tastes. Some people mix the bap more gracefully then others, others just dig in. Just don't use shoveling motions, more like raking with a spoon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What I know of Korean dining etiquette I got from my Korean family-by-marriage, who tell me (because I asked) that every Korean person they have ever seen eats rice with chopsticks, including on the most formal occasions, and, no, they are not low-brow, low-born ignoramuses, but quite the opposite, so that's good enough for me.

Even at a young age I was eating formal Korean meals at home and at restaurants. My parents have become much more relaxed about table manners these days mostly because of uncooperative DILs. You are absolutely correct to say that even on formal occassions Koreans eat rice with chopsticks. I really think the whole confusion over manners started because Koreans have a tendency to eat rice with a spoon more than the Japanese or Chinese for instance. But there is nothing rude about eating rice with chopsticks in the context of a formal dinner.

I had so many fine Korean manners pounded into me as a child that I have largely blocked them out of my mind. :wacko:

Ditto - We always knew who was visiting by which chopsticks were set on the table.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone for all off your feedback! I have learned more than I originally expected. The whole chopstick/spoon thread now explains to me why the place setting included chopsticks and a spoon that had a paper cover, which I just assumed was to show it was santiary (lol--like a toilet)! Sadly, I do not live in the DC Metro area, but I will check out the few Korean places in my neck of the woods (Raleigh, NC) now that I have a bit more of a clue!

J

-----------------

AMUSE ME

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Did you sit down to a Korean meal at a Korean restaurant or were you eating Chinese food? Or Korean-Chinese food even?

I think all bets are off with formal Korean dining rules if you aren't eating a formal Korean meal. The younger generation also probably eats in a more relaxed manner when not in front of their relatives as well.

I am not of the younger generation, except in my own 63 year old mind. And, how many people go around eating in stiff formal fashion any more?

My few "born in Korea" friends are from the diplomatic community in Ottawa. My last "lowbrow" Korean Formal Dinner was at the Ambassador's residence where I did see a lot of people eating rice with chopsticks. Perhaps, I should refer them to you for a lesson in Korean formal dining etiquette.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

you shouldnt take my advice so seriously though.  i am of solid ssangnom stock.

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

Well said melonpan!

A lifetime ago I spent many hours teaching western table manners to Korean diplomats prior to overseas postings - now there are some stories - and I took several classes in Korean table manners at a Korean "finishing" school. We used chopsticks to place items on rice, to make little kim chee & rice "sushi" rolls and the like but were taught to use spoons when eating rice by itself and with soups. Times change, manners change but I still adhere to those basics. Just as I wouldn't pour soy sauce on my rice at a Japanese restaurant in Japan, I wouldn't pick up a big glob of rice with chopsticks in Korea. I am probably more sensitive to it than a Korean, because as a foreigner I would already be attracting unwanted attention and the last thing I would want to do is have people muttering about some barbaric, ill mannered alien - of course, I'd understand what they're saying and that can be interesting in itself!

"Eat it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." TMJ Jr. R.I.P.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...