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“To globalize, Korean food should be expensive?”

  • 8 posts
  • started 4 years ago by Maangchi
  1. I read this interesting article the other day about globalizing Korean food:
    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/art/2009/07/146_47414.html

    I don't know if this is badly translated, but so much of it is baffling. I've never heard of this guy before, but apparently he's some kind of bigshot in Korea?

    "To most people here, Korean food is nothing more than what they have at most mealtimes and they consider it a waste of money to try different and pricier Korean dishes," he said. "How can we expect our own food to be promoted on the global stage when it's still left out in the cold at home?"

    Are we even talking about the same country here?

    "Even back in history, food has actually never been at the center of Korean culture," he pointed out. "And to make it worse, Korea has lost a lot of its cultural legacies during the drastic industrial growth in its modern history, as in the traditional liquors that had to be lurking in the shadow throughout the authoritarian period."

    This is nearly gibberish to me, but hasn't Korean food pretty much ALWAYS been at the center of the culture?

    But he seems to think the way for Korean food to gather interest worldwide is for it to go high-end, experimental, and expensive. Then it will garner respect, and people will want to eat it. And first! it should do this in Korea, and get Korean people behind it.

    Is it just me or does this seem like a very odd way to spread Korean food around the world? By starting with expensive Korean restaurants IN KOREA? Hello?

    If they really wanted it to spread around the world, they should do better at getting in the hands and mouths of people around the world who already want to eat it. And then those people will pass on their love for Korean food to their friends, and so on and so on, and then before you know it, you have a culinary sensation.

    But what do I know?

  2. I personally think korean food, more specifically korean bbq, is presently gaining speed in terms of popularity in the US. Korean BBQ's are popping up everywhere in a more mainstream way rather than restaurants that are gears towards koreans only.

    If you think about it, there isn't much in Korean Cuisine that is of common taste to the American taste palette other than Bulgogi, Kalbi and other meats like that. Japanese cuisine has already taken care of those dishes via teriyaki chicken/beef which has been extremely popular in america for a while.

    All the asian foods that have made their way into the american food subculture all have a very generic but great taste that can easily be identified with american's taste buds.

    I fail to see many korean foods that are like that.

  3. Toronto has been a hot bed of K-food action within the last 5 years (why so long?). First there was Chinese food, then came Japanese. Thai came in a wave, but K-food had always been eluding the Toronto public for some time. So I tried to figure out why.

    First of all, fermented or pickled foods are definitely not things that would tickle the average Canadian or American taste buds... it almost certainly is an acquired taste. They would sooner eat sauerkraut than eat kimchi. BBQ... well, everyone loves that if they can get past the aforementioned food group.

    Secondly, the Korean restauranteurs knowing this fact, failed to introduce the traditional side dishes to eager customers wanting a new and exciting culinary experience. I would be at a restaurant and not see certain Banchan at the "foreign" guests' tables. Instead of giving the customers an experience (good or bad), they decided Korean BBQ and Sushi would be their central focus. The customer's would ask, "what is that dish and why was it not served to me?"

    The lack of reasoning and pride in their own food by K-restauranteurs allowed, I think, customers to get a second rate service. So what if it doesn't suit the western taste and the food goes to waste. There may be the one person who is a Korean food convert who preaches its greatness through Banchan... maybe that person will then want to learn more about the K-culture. This builds understanding and trust.

    So, I believe the K-restauranteurs are finally not worried about the wasted kimchi and are proud to serve everyone equally. I can see K-food becoming even more popular.

    In Toronto, hot dog & sausage carts are numerous. French fry and ice cream trucks are almost as frequent, but other than that there were few options in street fare. Toronto city council recently allowed other food vendors (very limited) to be able to sell on Toronto streets. Korean Bulgogi is one of them. If you live in Toronto you can get K-street food at Yonge and Eglinton. Menu: bulgogi with seasonal kimchi and tokbukki served on or with eomuk-guk or japchae.

    The Korean "waive" just turned into the Korean Wave in Korean food!

  4. Ooop! My point is not to make Korean food sell at London prices, but to make it more accessible by promoting it. That's how you "promote it on the global stage!"

  5. I agree that Korean restaurants are a bit timid when it comes to showcasing the cuisine. I'm half korean and therefore very not korean to korean eyes. If I go with friends to a restaurant I have to pull out my barely passable korean to get anything decent in the way of banchan. The more curious will ask me how I learned to speak korean but all of them will serve the regular dishes.

    Its a shame because I really do think that NYC is ready for the full range of flavors that korean food has to offer. There are quite a few fancy places here in the hip neighborhoods but most of them pale in comparison to what you can get in Ktown.

  6. @ EddieB,

    I'm Korean but I don't look very typical. So when I go to some K-restaurants I get the "foreigner" banchan. My Korean speaking skills has gotten a lot better within the last 5 years and I'm no longer holding back at restaurants. They do bring the more traditional banchan when they know that you are Korean.

  7. I'm in Los Angeles county, and things are certainly changing. Americans who frequent Korean restaurants are now given everything a Korean gets. (Without all the "you like spicy?!!")

    I read that article and it's just so silly. The Korean government is not going to make a whit of difference in "globalizing" K-food. It's been happening and continues to happen organically due to the huge influx of Korean immigrants. Silly government officials and their silly jobs.

    :)

  8. Koreans are getting there though. I live in Oakville, Ontario (40 mins. West of Toronto) and I can find Korean shrimp chips, Korean noodles, aloe drinks, etc at the local big box grocery store. Snacks seem to be sold at my town where few Koreans exist. Oakville is an affluent town... could that be one reason? Do affluent people try more foreign foods? Possibly. Is this globalization of Korean foods? Or is it just snacks? Hey, that's still a start.


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