Korea opportunities: Once Asia's least trendy food, now everyone's getting in on the kimchi act

 

First came "K-pop"; now, get ready for "K-food" as Korea's national cuisine attempts to shake off its also-ran status in the Asian food stakes and attract a new audience. With his catchy tune and crazy dance moves, Psy paved the way for fellow Korean pop-stars to break into international markets. And now restaurateurs and retailers are leaping on the Gangnam bandwagon by following K-pop with a host of K-pop-ups, namely Korean-influenced food trucks that are proving popular from Birmingham to Glasgow.

Chefs are getting round the stumbling block of unfamiliar dishes – anyone for kkakdugi? – by slipping Korean flavours into old favourites such as hamburgers and tacos. The Hawksmoor steakhouse chain peps up its burgers with kimchi (chilli-spiked fermented cabbage), while barbecue specialist Neil Rankin uses gochujang, a hot-pepper paste, to spice up his chopped brisket.

And the trend isn't limited to modish joints in the capital: supermarkets from Tesco to Asda are increasing their ranges of punchy Korean delicacies such as meat marinades, including bulgogi sauce, and crispy seaweed snacks.

Tesco recently extended its Korean ranges from three stores last year to 49 stores in Greater London after seeing sales jump by 140 per cent. It is poised to roll out the range to other parts of the UK if demand continues to grow. Matt Clark, Tesco's head of world foods, said the move was a "direct result" of Psy's influence as a "brilliant ambassador for Korean culture in the UK".

The supplier CJ Foods said Korean food imports into the UK jumped 135 per cent in the past 12 months. And Dan Suh, managing director of a rival company, Korea Foods, described demand as "phenomenal", adding that sales to major retailers had doubled during the past two years. He said the trick was making Korean flavours "relevant, because they risk being too niche in their original form".

One man who has big plans for the UK is Dong Hyun Kim, a businessman from Seoul who spotted a gap in the market back in 2003 and started selling Korean food in north London. After his Kimchee restaurant proved a hit in central London, he developed a smaller Kimchee To Go format; he hopes to open 15 outlets by 2015. Mr Kim is backing his own cuisine alongside Japanese food: he owns the rapidly expanding Wasabi sushi-and-noodle chain.

Danny O'Sullivan, 30, from Belfast, started his street food stall Kimchi Cult in east London after returning from a teaching stint in Korea with his girlfriend. "It's getting more popular. People ask me what kimchi is a lot less now, which is good," he said. The pair are planning to move to Glasgow after Christmas, to open a restaurant there.

In London, Linda Lee, who founded Koba and Nizuni, will build on the success she has already had with a third restaurant, On The Bab, which opens later this month. She said her national cuisine, which spans grilled meats, hotpots, and rice and noodle dishes, suits the British palette, plus "it has lots of healthy foods, so fits well with the current trend for healthy eating".

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Travel
Fair trade: the idea of honesty boxes relies on people paying their way
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Recruitment Consultant (Trainee), Finchley Central, London

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary