Long before their fancy bubble foaming cleansers and animal print sheet masks, Korean women relied on antioxidant-rich dishes to keep their skin in tip top shape. Unsurprisingly, you don’t get poreless glass skin through a steady diet of greasy chips and mince pies. Nor is it enough to slather yourself in rare potions of snail slime and horse hairs like some sort of cosmetic fairytale witch. See, the ladies of Gangnam have long since known that if you’re after baby-soft skin, what’s going into your body is just as important as what’s going on it. So what traditional dishes do Koreans consume for their enviably plump skin? Here are the top five foods that Seoulites swear by.
It’s pungent, it’s pickled and it’ll do wonders for your skin while destroying your fridge. Kimchi is a spicy fermented cabbage beloved by Koreans. Packed with enough garlic to kill a small village of vampires, Kimchi contains tonnes of selenium and antioxidants that help to fight the ageing process and promote an even complexion. Eaten with virtually every meal, this delicious cabbage adds a bit of flavour to any bland dish, so if you’re an amateur, try it with some eggs and avocado, but beware, with this much garlic and chilli, Kimchi is not date night food!
Seaweed Soup (Miyeok Guk)
Seaweed soup is a regular staple in Korean breakfasts and is also consumed on birthdays to pay homage to new mothers who are given seaweed soup as a way to supplement vital nutrients lost through childbirth. That’s right, instead of gorging on calorific, sugar-tastic cake on birthdays, Koreans are feasting on humble, low-fat seaweed soup so that even as they celebrate getting older, their skin looks like it hasn’t aged a day. Why’s it so good? Seaweed offers ample sulfates that have a soothing effect on your complexion.
Soybean Soup (Duenjang Jjigae)
That’s right – more soup. And you thought Korean cuisine was all about fried chicken and barbecue! Soup is the true soul of Korean meals and is eaten every single day. Soybean soup is a national favourite as it’s frugal and healthy with the soybean paste being rich in vitamin E and antioxidants, helping to protect skin from any pesky UV damage.
Fun fact: soybean is very cheap in Korea and women who splurge on expensive coffees and meals while eating cheap soybean are referred to as soybean women.
Barley Tea (Bori cha)
In winter, it’s served cold and in summer, it’s refrigerated in large bottles. Barley tea has a lovely deep taste and is drunk in copious amounts by Korean women. It is known to enhance your circulation, which is essential to keeping skin firm and cells regenerating. So why not swap out the occasional coffee for a barley tea? Your skin will surely thank you for it.
Fermented Rice Wine (Makkeoli)
Makkeoli combines Korea’s two favourite past times – drinking and pampering. Unlike soju, this alcoholic drink is rich in vitamin B and amino acids helping to brighten your skin tone and improve any unevenness in your skin tone. It even works wonders for acne. Makkeoli has inspired countless sheet masks and serums in Korea and can be found in most standard Korean restaurants.