Seoul Eats: Korean Food in the News and Media

By Daniel Gray

In the last year and a half Korean food has gotten a lot of American media attention. The brash glutton, Anthony Bourdain from the travel channel was the pioneer who brought his show, "No Reservations" to tackle Korean food. Then following his trail a year later was Matt Gross, the Frugal Traveler, from the New York Times. A month ago Travel Channel's Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre foods was here and next month, PBS’s show “Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie” will be here.

So what seems to be the attraction? I think it's a snowball effect of many different factors. First of all, there is a growing Korean population in the United States and with that comes an increase in the number of Korean restaurants and grocery stores. American taste buds are changing, so many seek out the spicy and sour. Also, the profile of Korea has been raised in the last decade as it has become a leader in technology and commerce. And since New York City has embraced Korean food and labeled it “gourmet,” the world has started to take notice.

David Chang, chef of the restaurant Momofuku, has been at forefront of the Korean food movement. His reinventions of common Korean dishes such as Bo-ssam made with Berkshire pork and Hobak Juk (pumpkin porridge) made with whipped tofu have grabbed American curiosity and they want to know his influences. David Chang is the culinary maverick-and not in the Palin/McCain sort of way. His noodle bar has only one vegetarian option (ginger and scallion noodles) in a country that demands you appease every epicurean subset. Furthermore, his favorite ingredient is pork and yet pig is still considered taboo in America. How he survived and thrived is a real success story. I love how he takes the literal Korean names and runs with it. Ssam literally means anything wrapped, so he takes the most unlikely ingredients and wraps them together. He might have chicken with edamame, azuki beans, rice, and kimchi puree wrapped in a flour pancake. Sure, it might sound like a mix of “too much,” but people are clamoring for it. Gosh, you label Ssam an “Asian Burrito” and you’ll have people lining up around the block. Maybe it’s all in the name. I mean “tripe” or “pigs trotters” don’t sound at all appetizing. Maybe they should be renamed “Korean Beef Cheerios” and “Le Pied Terrine.”

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