What is Obangsaek?
Obangsaek is the main color which always seen on Korean food. It contains of 5 colors that represents of the five elements of the universe. The philosophy of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements is expressed well in the colors of Korean cuisine. Each of the five cardinal colors: white, black, green, red and yellow is associated with different elements, cardinal directions and philosophical meanings. Cooking in balance with the five cardinal colors, or Obangsaek is a practice of capturing the energy of the universe and absorbing it through the consumption of each meal.
The meaning of each representative color
- Cheong (blue or green)
Blue or green symbolizes of youth, spring, trees and stands for the east in terms of cardinal directions. The ingredients which usually use in Korean food are cucumber, green onion, water celery, wild sesame leaves. They are useful for heart, energizing liver and intestines.
- Jeok (red)
Red signifies fire and the south. It can also represent summer, the expansion of energy and the safeguarding against evil. Koreans used to hang dried red pepper strings around the earthenware sauce jars in the courtyard to protect them from ill fortune.
- Heok (black)
It represents of water, the north and the wisdom. It tends to calm the mind and also good for kidney and bladder. Black beans, black rice, black sesame seeds, stone mushroom, laver and seaweed are the example of black colored Korean food category.
- Baek (white)
Garlic, onion, potato, lotus root, radish, bean sprout are some of the example of white colored on Korean food. It represents of innocence, justice, stands of the west of cardinal direction, metal and autumn among the seasons. White colored foods give the good impact for lung and respiratory organs.
- Hwang (yellow)
Yellow represents earth and the center among the five cardinal directions. In ancient Korea, yellow was used for the emperor’s royal robes to symbolize nobility, authority and trustworthiness. Furthermore, in Korean traditional medicine, yellow ingredients are believed to affect the function of the stomach and the spleen and thus the appetite. These include pumpkin, sweet potato and other foods, including soybeans, the main ingredient of soybean paste and soy sauce.
Historically being a royal court dish during the Yi Dynasty, gujeolpan consists of 8 delicate fillings served around thin crepe-like wheat flour pancakes called miljeonbyeong. It’s a dish served on traditional holidays such as lunar New Year and other special occasions.
Gujeolpan actually refers to a platter with nine sections that’s used to serve traditional delicacies. “Gu” means number 9, “jeol” sectioned, and “pan” a tray or a platter. In Asian culture, the number nine holds a symbolic meaning of fullness and harmony. Gujeolpan as a dish carries that meaning by offering a harmony of colors, textures, and nutrients.
The most well-known of these foods is bibimbap, rice mixed with vegetables and meat, which the colors of the ingredients are beautifully arranged.
Healthy and packed with vegetables, japchae consists of sweet potato noodles (or glass noodles) stir-fried with nutty sesame oil and thinly sliced vegetables and beef.
It is made up of rice and fillings rolled in a sheet of seaweed, it’s seasoned with everything from rice vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, sugar, and salt rather than just vinegar, and is eaten without condiments such as wasabi and pickled ginger.