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".

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
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: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own