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Korean Macrobiotic Guidelines and Cooking

April 6, 2011

Korean macrobiotic cooking is often also referred to as “natural cuisine/cooking” (jayun-shik) or sometimes “well-being cuisine” in Korean society. The recommendations that these natural, macrobiotic chefs or food researchers have are very similar to those of the East-Asian macrobiotic guidelines that we are familiar with. In general, Korean macrobiotic guidelines are based on the four old East-Asian sayings that Koreans hear very often anywhere that has something to do with food and well being.

1. A full, whole thing is a masterpiece. – Eat the full, whole foods including leaves, roots, stems etc.
2. The human body and the earth, ground are not separate. – Local foods fit the body best. Eat local food from the season.
3. The human life should be following primitive nature. –  Eat non-processed food the way it comes from nature.
4. The harmony of Yin and Yang. – Eat a good balance of Yin and Yang foods.

Basically, Korean macrobiotic diet followers eat whole grains, avoid artificial seasoning or processed sugar, use naturally dried/prepared seasoning, eat local & whole food, and avoid meat, dairy and eggs.

Another thing about Korean macrobiotic cooking is that it really focuses on simplifying the cooking process to appreciate the natural flavor and nutrients of the whole foods. Traditional foods like namul banchans is where you can see how Korean macrobiotic cooking really comes to life. You can say that these namul banchans are basically the most fundamental basis of food dishes in Korean cuisine. There are a ton of traditional Korean soups and stews that are cooked appropriately for the season as well (such as napa cabbage soup and radish soup during the winter, and miyuk/wakame soup and cucumber soup during the summer). These foods are just the natural way of traditional cooking.

As we have blogged about before, Korean temple food really stays true to the macrobiotic guidelines despite the overwhelmingly western, fast food influences that are taking over Korea. Younger Koreans are in love with high calorie meat and dairy products and fast food chains like KFC, McDonalds, Domino’s and Pizza Hut. You would not believe how many of these stores have taken over the streets of Seoul and how busy they are! Consequently, child obesity in Korea is rapidly rising, and there is a counter movement that is advocating for going back to “Grandma’s old table”, where traditional veggie soups, stews and namul banchans make up the table.

It’s Korean temple food that really still sticks to the practice of traditional Korean macrobiotic cooking. They insist on growing their own food on their land and make sure to dry or pickle the food while they are at their best nutritional condition during the warmer months for use during the winter months.

Related to Korean temple food’s core philosophy on cleansing the mind and body, Korean macrobiotic, natural cuisine chef Lim Ji Ho talks about how food is fundamentally about “being one with nature” and also “healing” the body. Instead of using specific recipes, he emphasizes the importance of improvising with food, taking into account the features and flavors of the ingredients on hand, and cooking at any time and in any place – unlike people who think that they cannot cook without the proper ingredients and cookware. Another thing that I really appreciate is that he focuses on is the importance of having a thankful mind for the trees and plants and whatever it is that you are using to eat – saying “thanks to the tree” and “I will take and eat just a little”. Which is so important in our day and age of overeating and being greedy about food (which I am guilty of) and not eating slowly while giving thanks. His documentary specials on Korean TV, “The Wandering Chef, Lim Ji Ho” really touched many Koreans, including myself.

Lim Ji Ho

Korean macrobiotic, natural cuisine chef, Lim Ji Ho.

Lim Ji Ho Special

The documentary special where Lim Ji Ho travels and cooks for people he meets on the road.

Anyway, I learn more about Korean macrobiotics and the natural way of living and eating and cooking everyday. I will be sharing more as my journey continues. What are some macrobiotic guidelines and recommendations that inspire you, help you become more centered, and appreciate your life and mother nature?

Note: You can get some more information on macrobiotic living at Alice’s blog – which we are huge fans of!

19 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2011 2:57 pm

    Thank you for this interesting post, Sunnie! My attention was caught by Chef Lim’s point about a more improvisatory style of cooking that does not depend on the “right” ingredients or equipment, and really looking at the food to see how it needs to be cooked. That’s very different from starting out with a recipe and making the ingredients fit your concept of what you’re going to cook. Of course, recipes are great, but learning to think the other way sometimes would be worth it.

    I would love to know more about Korean macrobiotic cooking. I also liked your post on mu namul. I really like Korean radishes (so juicy and refreshing) and I’m excited to hear that they have a purifying effect. I’m going to go home and eat up some of the kkakdugi I made last week. 🙂

    • Sunnie permalink*
      April 6, 2011 8:33 pm

      Hey there, Lu!

      Yes, you are so right. Chef Lim makes a really good point about being fluid about eating and cooking, doesn’t he? I think it’s really important to think about what nature can give us and how we can use it accordingly. Chef Lim uses all sorts of different ingredients that are available in the fields and talks about how it’s very important that we go back to using all sorts of various plants in our cuisine like we used to before modernization and industrialization of food production. I read in a book that US citizens eat approximately 0.02 % of what is edible on earth. Isn’t that pretty shocking?!

      You made kkakdugi!! That is very impressive. I haven’t made kkakdugi in a while, I should make a batch soon. 🙂 And I will keep you posted on the macrobiotic cooking/life style guidelines that I learn and what I try adopting into my life!

  2. April 6, 2011 6:40 pm

    Thank you very much for this insight. And I look forward to reading more about Korean macrobiotics.


    • Sunnie permalink*
      April 6, 2011 8:43 pm

      Thanks for the wonderful, insightful questions, Alice! Your questions really make some very interesting posts – so we are very grateful!!! We really learn a lot from your website – as for the sesame salt, it’s really something that Koreans use a lot too – although all these things are known as “Japanese” in the Western world (we call it Kkesogum – literally, sesame salt). While I’ve used store bought ones before, I’ve never really made it myself. Very cool that you make your own, I’ll have to give it a try! All the other dishes that you made with the sesame salt sounds sooooo good, I am really determined to try them as soon as I get back from traveling next week. Thanks Alice!

  3. April 9, 2011 7:04 am

    Sunnie, what an interesting post! I have to admit I know next to nothing about macrobiotic cooking/food, Korean or otherwise. But I really enjoyed reading this and the documentary you mentioned does indeed sound very interesting, I would love to watch it someday. I think the first point intrigued me the most however, as I rarely eat every part of a vegetable or green, there always seems to be something that I cut out and throw away, sometimes simply out of habit and not because it’s inedible or anything of the sort. It’s a shame to see those things go to waste really, I should look for ways to incorporate them into my eating habits. I anticipate your future posts on this topic! 🙂

    • Sunnie permalink*
      April 10, 2011 10:08 am

      Julia, you will find the macrobiotic life style fascinating. I will try to provide information on the blog as I continue my journey as well! I know, the first point about the veggies is very cool. I try to use all my leftover parts for veggie broth, and it’s been working on really well. I just keep everything I cut off and then use it for veggie broth. It amazes me how those make a really yummy and nutritious veggie broth. I’ll make sure to share my veggie broth ideas in a future post! And yes, the documentary is really intriguing as well. I have so many good ideas for future posts! Thanks Julia!! 🙂

  4. j clark permalink
    July 19, 2011 11:21 am

    DO you have a link to this video documentary?

    • Sunnie permalink*
      July 19, 2011 11:29 am

      Hi, J!

      No, we’ve tried looking for the series multiple times but it was in vain. I don’t think it’s popular enough for people to upload or stream. Too bad, it is a really good series. 😦

      • J clark permalink
        July 20, 2011 5:57 pm

        Too bad. I actually worked for mr. Lim Ji Ho in the summer of 2008. I was the only american to have ever worked there. It completely changed my life. My visa ran out and couldn’t get a work visa to stay longer. I stay in contact though. You know he has a new restaurant in Seoul. Thanks for the reply take care.

      • Sunnie permalink*
        July 20, 2011 10:18 pm

        Oh my goodness, J! It is so amazing that you got to work with him – especially as a non-Korea! You must have really impressed him. It is so cool that the experience had such an impact on your life, what kind of changes did you find yourself making?

        I did not know that he has a new restaurant in Seoul either, I actually tried to look for his restaurant when we were in Seoul in May, but had no luck. If you know the name of the restaurant, please let us know!

        It’s so exciting to hear from you, thanks for sharing, J!

  5. Dan Mount permalink
    August 3, 2011 7:45 am

    I have been macro for a long time and have always loved the cooking aspect of macrobiotics. I lived in Japan for seven and a half years and traveled to Korea during that time. I found some very interesting foods that were totally vegan. I ate glutenous millet cooked with black soy beans, some veggie burgers made with soybeans and fresh veggies, and of course, many kinds of Kim Chee. I traveled to a Buddhist Temple in the mountains where the food was simple and very delicious. I am a wholistic macrobiotic health practitioner and believe it is better to know the ancient ways of yin and yang before being vegan. I have helped to heal many people of diseases with simple vegan macrobiotics and yin and yang philosophy/cosmology and chi exercises. It really works! If you have any questions, please contact me at

    • Sunnie permalink*
      August 3, 2011 8:27 am

      Hello, Dan! Thanks for visiting our blog! How wonderful that you lived in Japan for so long and even visited Korea during that time. Yes, there are a lot of East Asian food that are vegan and the food is really yummy. Yes, I agree with you that understanding the yin and yang qualities of food is probably more important for health purposes than simply being vegan! And thanks so much for offering to answer questions, Dan. We might email you with some questions in the future! 🙂

  6. Dan Mount permalink
    August 3, 2011 2:19 pm

    Thank you Sunnie Kamsahamnida…Arigato Gozaimasu! Thank you for your reply. I know that the Korean People of not so long ago were very macrobiotic and there were many Taoists. That is why the Korean flag is the yin and yang symbol. The koreans were also the greatest potters in the world, as i knoiw the Japanese copied the Korean earth glaze, I saw that recently there was a lot of Ancient Korean Pottery found in South Korea. I hooe to hear from you again soon. I wish I could find the glutinous millet and grow it in the US. It is so delicious!! .I do speak Japanese but very little Korean and I do not read hongul moji! Peace, Dan

    • Sunnie permalink*
      August 3, 2011 4:35 pm

      Dan, how cool that you are so interested in East Asian history and culture! Very neat. Yes, you’re right, Korean food culture has been rapidly changing during the last decade and it’s causing a lot of health problems to Korean society. It’s really sad (and scary too) to hear about the increasing cancer rates, heart diseases and such… There is a great need to go back to our eating traditions. I try to learn more about macrobiotic living and eating everyday.. will email you when I have any questions. Thanks!

  7. poiu permalink
    December 12, 2015 1:35 am

    yeah i can’t wait to try it.
    he’s nationally recognized multiple times and been on both ‘food arts’ and ‘food and wine’.
    a true hidden gem.

  8. michel permalink
    February 4, 2016 1:01 am


    Sorry , but ,because you continually “요술을 부리다 ” juggle with the term , the word ” MACROBIOTICS ”
    I just would like to know wher and with whom
    Did you study ” MACROBIOTICS ” ?

    MACROBIOTICS in fact is a philosophy

    Thanks for your answer


    • Bill permalink*
      February 8, 2016 12:09 pm

      Hi, Michel. We haven’t studied anywhere and don’t fully try to practice! 🙂


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