Korean salads (корейские салаты) can be found all over the post-Soviet states. They are the most colorful spots at local food markets. And in Central Asia, there is hardly a single market without them!
You may think “kimchi” and you will be only partially right. These “Korean salads” are something unique. The background story of this delicious food is a story of success but also a tale of tragedy.
In the 1920s Korea was occupied by Japan. But a considerable number of ethnic Koreans lived on the other side of the border, in the region of Russian Far East. When Stalin took over the leadership of the Soviet Union, he ordered a series of forced resettlements of peoples throughout the dominion. Almost every Korean was deported, mostly to unpopulated areas of the Kazakh and Uzbek Republics. Having no other choice, they had to struggle to adapt to new, harsh environments. Thousands died.
The displaced tried to recreate Korean flavors with whatever they had. They started to use carrots instead of Korean radish and grass instead of seaweed. The addition of their native marinating techiniques and heavy use of spices resulted in something completely new and unique. This is how “Korean salads” came to life.
Unexpectedly, over the course of the 20th century the culinary creations of Soviet Koreans became more and more popular throughout the country. Some made small fortunes by selling their salads! The prosperity continued after the fall of the USSR. The recipes have since evolved and today they include some ingredients associated with the cuisines of China and Korea rather than those of Central Asia, like glass noodles, tofu skin and galic shoots.
Post-Soviet Korean salads continue to be a cuisine in its own right.