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Posted by on Jul 14, 2016 in Commentary, Korean Food | 0 comments

A Korean spin on American food trends

A Korean spin on American food trends

Traditional and fusion Korean foods topped National Restaurant News’ list of top food trends for the past couple of years, yet the prognosticators foresee an ebbing in enthusiasm for Korean cuisine in 2016 even while hankering for a couple of hanshik staples deepens. Several of NRN’s favorite food trends have Korean equivalents. 

Fried Chicken

fried-chicken
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Korean Fried Crack is a customer favorite at Blomster’s Korean Diner in Guerneville, California.

Americans seem to think we invented fried chicken, but we were not the first to chop up chickens, dip them in a batter and fry them up. Thanks to the Colonel, we just did a better job of exporting it.  

Koreans have done a wonderful job in both marketing and execution at making fried chicken their own. The 2014 Korean TV drama My Love From Another Star made the comfort-food combo chi-maek (from chicken and 맥주 maekju, or beer) known throughout Asia. Korea’s food tourism industry can certainly make room for chi-maek while they continue to hype dishes such as royal cuisine and dakgalbi. 

Chilies

John F. Kennedy said “a rising tide lifts all the boats” and Americans have been hankering for spicier food for decades. From Tex-Mex to Nepalese food and Sriracha, Americans are starting to show the world they can handle the heat. The increase in the popularity of Korean food has largely coincided with America’s increasing appetite for spicy food. 

Although chilies are native to Central and South America, Korean cuisine, particularly the cuisine of the South, is loaded with chiles. Dried rehydrated chilies make their way into Korean pastes like gochujang and ssamjang. Raw and sautéed chilies make their presence known in many Korean dishes, too. The Korean chili packs a punch that chili heads treat with respect. 

Loaded French Fries

French fries are traditionally served with just a modest sprinkle of salt and ketchup or mayonnaise on the side for dipping. In America, when we overwhelm a plate of french fries with heavy toppings like chili, cheese, ground beef and other toppings, these culinary concoctions are often referred to as  “loaded” French fries. The most traditional “loaded” French fry based dishes include the Quebec classic poutine and America’s chili fries.

Why might this be a popular trend? NRN referred to loaded fries as “items of low food cost and high deliciousness.”  French fries are a low cost favorite that are a nearly blank canvas for any type of messy, tasty, meaty dish. 

Korean-American street food has taken the concept of “loaded” French Fries to another level, smothering fries in kimchi, kalbi and garlic. 

KoJa-Kitchen-kamikaze-fries
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KoJa Kitchen’s kamikaze feature crisscut fries, smothered in bulgogi, kimchi, sweet mayo and green onion are a favorite at Larkspur’s Off the Grid.

Namu-Gamja-fries
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Namu’s street food stall at San Francisco’s Thursday and Saturday Farmers Market at the Ferry Building feature organic potato fries smothered in gochujang, kewpie mayo, kimchi relish and bulgogi.

NRN postulated in their 2015 food trend roundup that Korean food was a bit overhyped this past year and Thai cuisine actually supplanted hanshik in the American palate, but several of their 2016 food predictions mention Korean staples such as kimchi and gochujang continuing to rise in popularity. 

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