Korea was once a primarily agricultural nation, and since ancient times rice has been cultivated as Koreans' staple food. These days Korean cuisine also contains a large variety of meat and fish dishes along with wild greens and vegetables. Various preserved food, such as kimchi (fermented spicy cabbage), jeotgal (seafood fermented in salt) and doenjang (fermented soy bean paste) are particularly popular due to their distinctive flavor and high nutritional value.
In Korean cuisine all the dishes are served at the same time. A typical meal normally includes rice, soup, and several side dishes, the number of which vary. Traditionally, lower classes had three side dishes, while royal families would have twelve.
In Korea, like in neighboring China and Japan, people eat with chopsticks. However, a spoon is used more often in Korea, especially when soups are served. Formal rules have developed for table setting, which can vary depending on whether a noodle or meat dish is served.