Thursday, August 2, 2012

Localizing Korean Food

The announcement of yet another Korean food – or 'hansik' – restaurant overseas, this time in London, is raising uncomfortable questions about the popularity of Korean food in Korea itself.

The bibimbap chain Bibigo will be situated near Oxford Circus and seat 86 people. As more and more Korean food is diverted to Korean restaurants in other countries though, people are increasingly asking what Koreans are eating instead. The uncomfortable answer may lie in the huge number of American fast-food restaurants which can now be found in every major Korean city, and even some cities outside Seoul.

Worse, the pure-Korean bibimbap served in London will likely be rendered non-Kosher because of the fourteen chefs hired, only five are of Korean descent, and it is thought that most of those five are effectively 'gyopos' and are therefore not considered real Koreans anymore within Korea.

Some of the recipes will also be modified for local customers. Bibimbap is a mixed rice dish often consisting of rice, sautéed Korean vegetables, burning hot chili pepper paste, a raw or fried egg and sliced meat, served in a red-hot bowl which blisters the skin immediately if touched. But after a series of salmonella scares in Britain, it is illegal to serve raw eggs, mad-cow disease will probably see beef replaced with fish, British people generally prefer mild peppers rather than the throat-stripping kind, Korean vegetables are hard to find overseas, and potatoes are more popular than rice on the small island.

The resulting 'British Bibimbap' will therefore consist of fried potatoes, with fish and sautéed peas or mild tomato sauce served in Korean or British newspapers, as burning hot bowls would guarantee a series of lawsuits. There are high hopes that this locally modified Korean dish will prove hugely popular among British people.

The British restaurant will also serve the limited range of Korean alcohol which is weak enough to not fall under the transportation of airline fuel and weapons proliferation laws within the EU. Britain – known for its binge drinking culture – has long been seen as a spiritual cousin to Korea and an attractive potential market by Korean breweries. However, British people who have tried binge drinking with Korean beer have said that while they tend to vomit sooner, they are usually still sober when it happens.

In addition to a Korean government-owned restaurant opened in New York two years ago, a similar project to localize Korean Food has also taken place in America this year. In this case kimchi – which is usually fermented – is served in its raw cabbage form on top of a slice of beef wrapped in two thick pieces of shaped bread. It has already proven to be a huge hit, with some American fast-food companies even trying to introduce this Korean fusion food back to Korea.

But while more and more people around the world are getting hansik, it does mean Korean food is being necessarily diverted away from Korea to allow them to experience it. This may mean that people living in Korea must continue to make sacrifices, going without and eating burgers, pizzas and other inferior dishes.

Related Links
Bibimbap Chain Launches in London to Spread Korean Cuisine in Europe
New London Korean restaurant is recruiting
London Korea Links
Young Chefs Adapt Korean Food for American Palates
Government Seeks to Put Overseas Koreans Out of Business

Disclaimer: Please note the links above are generated automatically by our software and may not always be directly related to the news article.