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".

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
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

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there