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thdad

Why can't Korean food become mainstream?

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Interest in Korean food appears to be growing, as evidenced by the steady increase in Korean food related topics by Egulleters as well as positive reviews of Korean restaurants from the New York Times.

However, I can't shake off the impression that Korean food and Korean restaurants (at least in NYC) still fall under the 'I've tried it once' type of one-time ethnic dining experience category. What I am trying to say is that Korean food is not as ubiquitous as Japanese or Chinese restaurants in the city (as well as the numerous Japanese style maki/sushi places).

Is Korean food too Korean/ethnic (as served by the restaurants in mid-town) or too strange (Korean-fusion attempted by D'or Ahn or even Bahn) for New Yorkers?

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We've discussed this a few times before on other threads, my theory is that the Korean community is so insular is that they are doing very little to promote their cuisine in this country. There is also the issue that a lot of Korean ingredients are fermented, which many Americans would find disagreeable.

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=30103


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Its very salty, one of the most salty cusines I know of. It's also very spicy, and heavy on meat. It's also generally fairly expensive, it's possible to drop $50 pp on 32nd street. It also has portion size problems, they tend to be large, which is a cultural thing according to my Korean friends. Finally, also according to my Korean friends, no Korean restaurant in NY is particially good.

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I like Korean but I have to say that it is one of those cuisines that I am drawn to maybe once a month or once every two months, unlike say Italian, Japanese, Thai, French or Chinese. Maybe I haven't experienced all the subtleties of Korean food, though I have tried not just the usual suspects but also places like Hangawi and Kori. I find it is not as multi-dimensional in flavor as the other cuisines I mentioned. Again, maybe this is just me but others have also said the same thing to me.

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Its very salty, one of the most salty cusines I know of.  It's also very spicy, and heavy on meat.  It's also generally fairly expensive, it's possible to drop $50 pp on 32nd street.  It also has portion size problems, they tend to be large, which is a cultural thing according to my Korean friends.  Finally, also according to my Korean friends, no Korean restaurant in NY is particially good.

All of your remarks are pertinent, but I will comment on price. It's possible to drop $50 on dinner on 32nd St., but it's also possible to drop $25, or even less if you go to Han Bat. I also think that the banchan makes Korean meals a fine value.

I'm not convinced that Korean food can't become mainstream. Pickles are mainstream and spicy Mexican (or Tex-/Cal-Mex) food is mainstream, so is it really impossible for kimchi to at least get closer to the mainstream? I'm not sure. I also note the incredible spread of sushi. 40 years ago, would a vogue for raw fish in the U.S. have been foreseeable? I'd love some comments on that.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Following up on the comments made above, I believe that the Korean restaurants in mid-town (and in Flushing or Fort Lee) do a good job of presenting everyday ordinary Korean food. However, that is the problem, because ultimately these places are catering to the Korean population and the simple, straight in your face type of foods are what the average Korean (or Korean American) likes to eat.

I am wondering if there needs to be an effort to further modernize or westernize Korean food in order to make it more accessible for mainstream tastes here in the United States. I hate to say it, but a place like P F Chang's serves watered down and heavily modified (some not even Chinese) versions of Chinese food and they seem to be doing very well with mainstream diners.

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Try coming to Honolulu, where Korean fast-food joints are part of nearly every food court and every supermarket has a refrigerator shelf of different brands and types of kimchi. If that's not mainstreaming, I don't know what is.


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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The pricing issues are partially related to portion size---for example, the concept of an appetizer size portion of dumplings in your average Korean restaurant does not exist. You have better want 15 dumplings for $12, because that's all they have. It's a cultural thing according to my Korean friends, when you eat out you are supposed to spend money and have excess food. Ever see a couple on a date with six dishes, most of which they waste? I see that everywhere I look in a Korean restaurant. In terms of Honolulu, the cultural background of its residents is not representive of the US as a whole, so I would not make broad assumptions based on what sells there. With respect to pickels, sure, we have them in the US, but the fact that you can't easily get a high qualtity fresh pickle in most of the US makes me wonder how many people want most of their meal pickeled....... Look at your typical Korean meal......sallty pickeled vegetables and unusual fish products to start, followed by a spicy and salty soup (lets say Sun Du Bu Chigae), followed by BBQ yourself meat, to which you are supposed to add salty soybean paste, followed by bim bop (to which you are supposed to add salty and spicy red pepper paste), which includes more of those pickeled vegetables. Most of what you'll find on your table is salty or spicy or pickeled or all of the above. It's not just a slice of pickel on your burger.

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I think K-town dining is about as mainstream in NYC as C-Town dining. There just haven't been many attempts at fine dining Korean yet. The only example that jumps to mind is D'or Ann.

Obviously adjustments have to be made before any cuisine can become mainstream with a culture it isn't inherent to. Look at the difference between sushi dining in Japan and sushi dining in America. Big maki rolls covered in avocado are an adjustment that suits the intended audience well. Nobody has made attempts to "friendly-up" kimchi and the likes yet.

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I think kimchi would work well enough in more German/Polish areas (Illinois, Wisconsin)...just turn down the heat a notch...its similar enough to sauerkraut.

besides, everyone's been exposed to kimchi at their neighborhood "Japanese" restaurant that's actually run by Koreans.

its the other factors mentioned in this thread that are the issue.

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Jason: thanks for pointing out the "Why isn't Korean food popular in the US?, Or is it?" thread. A fascinating read, and I think the factors affecting the general appeal and acceptance of Korean cuisine in the US have not changed much. I agree that Koreans are not doing a lot to promote their cuisine here. Just flip through, say, Time Out and see how many Korean restaurants are listed. A few, but none are around K-town.

thdad: I'm Korean, so I'm not contributing much to this thread by saying I don't think the food is too ethnic. ;) That's not to say that Korean cuisine isn't changing, though. I was recently at a Korean restaurant in northern Virginia and my mom complained that the food was too sweet. The waitress explained sweet is the new trend in Korean food. That's too bad.

I think that Korean food is already instantly accessible to anyone who enjoys eating a broad array of cuisines. Not everything is pickled, and even then, I've met quite a few caucasians who can't seem to get enough kimchi. And even then, there is an astounding array of kimchi available. Not all of it is red and hot, cabbage and/or daikon.

Who might not like Korean food? Those with insular food habits. Picky, unadventurous eaters. Is it worth dumbing down cuisine to attract that crowd? My opinion, no. However, on a related note, those looking for a cleaner, more "accessible" version of Korean food might want to try Dosirak on E 13th St, if it's still open. I haven't been there in ages.

Cross-over dishes should help to create interest in a new cuisine. Kalbi, what red blooded, meat-eating, bone-gnawing American wouldn't like this dish? I guarantee it would a hit at _any_ backyard bbq if it is prepared home-style with kosher cut ribs instead of the traditional restaurants preparations. That is, either pre-cut meat with no bone, or presented as a long thin sheet of meat attached to a long section of rib and cut at the table with scissors. Boo.

Discussions about the limited availability of Korean restaurants invariably seem to point back to the success, if you will, of the Chinese. Yay, Chinese restaurants are everywhere. That begs the question: to what end? Does this mean I can get authentic Chinese food, the sort eaten in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Taipei, Fujian province, etc etc? No. It means I can get lots of dumbed down Chinese food across this nation of ours. The dishes may still quite reasonably stand on their own for being tasty and edible, and I gladly and willing had many satisfying cheap meals for years from the Chinese take-out place around the corner from my old apartment. But did this dumbed down cuisine whet my appetite for searching out more authentic cuisine? No, though it eventually changed. Why?

Of all things, watching the original Iron Chef series (which, granted, usually featured a version of haute Chinese food tuned to the Japanese palate). Reading about Spicy and Tasty, the temporary ban on Sichuan peppercorns, Grand Sichuan, and choi sum gai fan in the NYT. I went back to my take-out place and asked them to make me mabo tofu. I got a surprised look and they gladly obliged, even though it's nowhere on their menu.

But to echo my sentiments in the Chinatown Brasserie thread, where am I going to go to get authentic Chinese food? Chinatown? Maybe, though I've heard more than a few jaded folks say it's only for tourists and the real action is found out in the depths of Flushing and Bay Ridge. And that puts me in the same spot as Joe American sitting in a Korean restaurant. It doesn't matter if the menu has English on it. What are the dishes that will make this visit worthwhile?

Restaurants should highlight their specialties. This is not limited to Korean restaurants. When I ask "what's good" in any ethnic restaurant and almost invariably get one of two responses. "Everything" or what amounts to a blank stare.

Instead of dumbing down the cuisine, I'd rather see service improve at existing restaurants. Service will vary from restaurant to restaurant, day to day, shift to shift, server to server. I don't think Korean restaurants generally subscribe to any notion of excellence in service as you might find in other restaurants. I've never worked in any restaurant, let alone a Korean one, so maybe I'm talking out of my ***.

Finally, more important than restaurants advertising themselves, I think Korean food could use more outsider press. Reviews in newspapers, magazines, eGullet. Books. Kitchen Confidential and A Cook's Tour both completely changed my mind on offal. Television: I watched the No Reservations episode on Korea with mixed thoughts. Anthony Bourdain loves offal, and it's so widely available in Korea. I wish he had visited places that served offal and blood sausage, rather than be trapped in that karaoke room for an interminable period of time. Or go through some of the other markets that sell things besides fish. I was really astounded on my recent trip. Here's a self-promoting link for some pictures I took while in Korea this spring. Who could look at this and not start salivating? But what's more important is that at least he went there for the rest of us to see.

I think one small thing we can all do is begin writing about what it is we like at Korean restaurants.

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When we actually had a local Korean restaurant we ate there...its gone. We have one about 25 miles away now, we have been there twice in 6 mos. I have also started making my own completely bastardized Korean influenced meals with beef and pork in commercial "korean" sauces, fresh pickles I am learning to make, and greens and other veggies with sesame and garlic. Its fun, its tasty, but mother sure as hell wouldnt eat it.

tracey


The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

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I think that Korean food is already instantly accessible to anyone who enjoys eating a broad array of cuisines.

.......

Who might not like Korean food? Those with insular food habits. Picky, unadventurous eaters.

And there are exceptions. Those who know me and have dined with me can attest that whether it's pickled pig's feet, cow's foot soup, braised veal tongue, brains, kidney, sauteed pork stomach or any number of other non-mainstreeam items - I'll try it at least once and will have it again if I enjoy the taste, texture and complexity (or simplicity) of it.

I've eaten Korean food on perhaps six to eight occasions over the past 25 years and although I've never disliked it... I never found anything compelling enough about the tastes, textures, contrasts and styles of preparation that lured me back into havign it more frequently.

Most certainly it can be attrbuted to being "a matter of taste" but could there be more to it? I enjoy and partake regularly of Jamaican, Vietnamese, Thai and Dominican food. Less frequently but still on my regular radar are Hong Kong style Chinese, Polish, Afghani, Persian and French.

Less frequently and most likely because for me they fall in the same category as Korean food are Ethiopian and Tibetan food.

But is it possible that like many open minded folks who have tried Korean food and haven't found it have strong appeal... perhaps I haven't tried really good Korean food? I've long been more or less indifferent to Chinese food but have it periodically because it's generally cheap and convenient. But when I tried a good dim sum restaurant and subsequently ate in a very good Hong Kong style place that offered non-Americanized dishes - I really enjoyed it.

That parallels my experiences with Indian food. It was not until I tried some amazing Bangladeshi food a few years ago at Mina Foods in Queeens that I finally said - 'Ah ha! Indian food can be really good!".

And picture the plight of the vast majoprity of Amercians - if even in Manhattan's 32nd Street zone one must pick a restaurant carefully to get one that offers a great Korean culinary experience - imagine the challenge of finding a good one in most small to mid size cities.

That said... Syracuse has a larger population of Koreans than any other Asian group and we do have one tiny little neighborhood Korean place on my side of town. They never advertise but the grapevine says I'm likely to be the opnly Anglo in the joint and that the food is very authentic. I'll give it a shot and report back....

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Tracey,

If you're using commercial sauces to marinate your meat, try this instead:

Soy

Sesame oil

sugar

minced garlic

You might want to add an acid, say some fruit juice. And make sure the soy is real soy (e.g. check the ingredients label for soybeans). You don't need a lot of sesame oil, and just add all the ingredients to taste.

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Tracey,

If you're using commercial sauces to marinate your meat, try this instead:

Soy

Sesame oil

sugar

minced garlic

You might want to add an acid, say some fruit juice. And make sure the soy is real soy (e.g. check the ingredients label for soybeans). You don't need a lot of sesame oil, and just add all the ingredients to taste.

I kind of like where I am with it now I use Lee Kum Kee Korean bbq sauce with a little chile paste and sesame oil for the beef, and lots of chile paste with a little of the BBQ sauce for the pork. I made a great radish and cucumber pickle last week it was a very pretty pink.

t


The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

garden state motorcyle association

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Tracey,

If you're using commercial sauces to marinate your meat, try this instead:

Soy

Sesame oil

sugar

minced garlic

You might want to add an acid, say some fruit juice. And make sure the soy is real soy (e.g. check the ingredients label for soybeans). You don't need a lot of sesame oil, and just add all the ingredients to taste.

Let's not give out too many recipes - I don't want to have to give you a "talking-to" at the next secret meeting. :wink:

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I'm enjoying reading the posts on this thread - especially yours, Larry.

I think that bibimbap is a good candidate to become mainstream. Fried rice is totally mainstream, and bibimbap has a lot in common with fried rice. It's not fried but is a mix of rice and a bunch of other good things. And the addition of hot sauce isn't strange at all, because hot sauce sells big-time in the U.S.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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I'm enjoying reading the posts on this thread - especially yours, Larry.

I think that bibimbap is a good candidate to become mainstream. Fried rice is totally mainstream, and bibimbap has a lot in common with fried rice. It's not fried but is a mix of rice and a bunch of other good things. And the addition of hot sauce isn't strange at all, because hot sauce sells big-time in the U.S.

Korean hot pepper sauce is very salty. The typical American hot pepper sauce has medium to low sodium (Tabasco has almost none). It's a very salty cuisine and every flavoring ingredent (soy sauce, miso, red bean paste, pickels) is very salty. That's got a lot to do with why it isn't a best selling cusine. And given people's views of carbs and white rice, I wouldn't hold my breath on bibimbap. The dish that has the most breakthrough possibility I think is Bugoil. The problem is that someone already did a dumbed down version of grilled meat Asian style served over rice with a sauce, it's called teriyaki and you can find it in many food courts.

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I think that the mainstreaming (or dumbing down) of Korean cuisine and the further refining of authentic Korean cuisine are two efforts that can go together. For example, the average Joe can have a toned down version of bibimbap at a fast casual type of outlet at the local mall while a diner who has some experience with Korean food can have an authentic Chonju-style bibimbap at a tonier Korean restaurant in Manhattan. Chinese is popular in the United States because it caters to every taste -- from the gloppy stuff served at take out joints to the refined regional dishes served at better Chinese restaurants. At the end of the day, everyone has experienced Chinese food in one form or another.

The popularization of Korean flavor profiles through watered down sauces, mixes, and marinades is one way of getting the average diner become aware of Korean food and ingredients. Once he or she gets a taste of Korean food through mainstream versions of Korean food at the local mall (for example) wouldn't the next step be in trying the real thing at a real Korean restaurant?

What about the status of authentic Korean restaurants in New York? The quality of Korean restaurants in Manhattan (even including Woo lae oak in Soho) in terms of quality of food, service, and interior cannot compare with the product offered by the best restaurants in Seoul. In general, they are not as up to date in terms of food/menu and service with the rapidly changing counterparts in Korea. Many native Koreans who have eaten at Korean restaurants in the United States have commented on the fact that the seasoning is too heavy or 'traditional' -- in other words, too salty and heavy. Native Koreans now generally prefer food with a lighter touch in terms of seasoning, which is in stark contrast to the heavily seasoned food you normally encounter at Korean restaurants in New York. In other words, Korean restaurants in the United States are stuck in the 80's~90's whereas the restaurants in Seoul have continously evolved through the years to accommodate the changing tastes.

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Having lived and eaten in Korea for four years, I can say that Korean food is certainly not to my taste. I always wanted the kimchi to be sweeter! Even after having eaten (I must admit) really great galbi in various places throughout Korea, the typical Korean meal; that is, rice, kimchi, and soup, just never called to me. I have eaten really great deonjangjigae. I have eaten home cooked meals, and restaurant meals. But nothing ever jumped out at me and said, "I could eat this happily for every single day for the rest of my life." Which is how I feel about Banana Flower salad, or rice in shrimp paper. If it came down to it, and you offered me the choice between a Thai, a Vietnamese, and Korean restaurant, I would go for the Thai and the Vietnamese every time. Except maybe if I were feeling nostalgic! It just was never suited to my palate. And I consider myself a pretty adventurous eater.

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When I asked "who might not like Korean cuisine," I was envisioning someone completely ignorant of anything beyond what might be available outside of national chain restaurants and perhaps the frozen food aisle at the grocery store. I completely (and ignorantly) ignored the possibility that there might be people who eat with open minds and still don't like Korean food. To those folks, I apologize sincerely.

Todd36: I was thinking about your portion size comment earlier today.

If I go to a Chinese restaurant and order what I think are "a few dishes," I will always end up with an embarrassing mountain of food. I'm not blaming the restaurant, but I just want to point out that the notion of family style or sharing-sized portions is not restricted to Korean cuisine.

As another example, imagine my surprise when I found out how many courses the "standard" Italian meal was supposed to have. Glance at any Italian restaurant menu that lists zuppa, antipasti, primo, secondi (please pardon any errors), and then try ordering one of each for one person. You can't do it! Not unless you're sharing with three or four people. Are there any instructions or advice on the menu? No. Does the server suggest this? No. Does the restaurant offer the option of serving reduced sized portions so you can have a bona fide meal with every course? Not that I've seen. It's been a rare occasion, if ever, that I've been with a group at an Italian restaurant where it was assumed everyone would share dishes so as to have an authentic Italian-style meal.

As a final example, let's consider that "American" restaurants also have a tendency to present oversized portions in order to present the notion of value. McDonald's is an easy target, but far from the only one.

Regarding cross-over/mainstream dishes, I know from experience that bibimbap is a slam dunk (thanks for pointing that out, Pan). It's what I always use to introduce people to Korean food. Dolsot bibimbap, served in a rocket-hot stone bowl, will actually let you fry the rice a bit, and then you can enjoy the charred rice on the bottom afterward.

I don't think it's worth anyone's effort to appeal to carb-o-phobes.

Now regarding salt, the meal you describe does sound a bit salty. But good grief, I'd have trouble imagining someone who could eat that much food. I don't think I'd be eating, much less order, at least half of what you just proposed for a single meal. Besides, let's not think that Americans have been afraid of salt. The national hysteria over sodium intake didn't come about by our culture being too stingy on salt intake. And from the general scarcity of Korean restaurants we know they're not to blame, either. ;)

It is true, though, that prepared Korean food can be heavy on salt and hot pepper. When I was young, I remember my parents would occasionally have a separate bowl of water to wash off some of the pepper and perhaps to wash off some salt from store-bought ban chan. You could ask your server for a bowl of water next time. Interestingly enough, our home-made ban chan never seemed to salty or hot.

Finally, before I met my wife, I went for years without eating much Korean food. Now that I am eating it much more frequently, I don't think the food in restaurants (e.g. K-town, 32nd st) is too salty. I'd chalk that up to personal preference unless others chime in to the contrary.

Pan: It's also true that Korean food tends to be mind-boggling expensive compared to most ethnic cuisines. "Cheap Korean" is practically an oxymoron. Maybe the prices high because it's what the target audience (Koreans) are willing to bear.

Nathan: Fair comment on Korean-run Japanese restaurants, but let's not forget that kimchi is something of a hit in Japan and that it's not uncommon to find it served in Japanese-run home-style restaurants or izakayas these days.

Phaelon: I was thinking about your "eight korean meals in the past 25 years" comment. I think you answered your own question with your Indian/Bangladeshi food experience. And that's why I think increased media coverage would be vital. To help explain what is good, and why. Reading Jeffrey Steingarten's pieces on bread has made me much more keenly aware (and picky) about the bread I eat now.

rooftop1000: I completely respect your choice to use Lee Kum Kee... although... I think that's a Chinese company, and I'd probably just as soon avoid Korean-made dashi for soba noodles. But that's just me.

thdad: I concede that there's plenty room for the simultaneous maintreaming and refinement of Korean food. I generally agree that mainstreaming a cuisine at least introduces certain aspects of it to a broader population. Whether it directly entices one to try more authentic cuisine is, in my mind, questionable. I subsisted off of Taco Bell for quite some time and it took years (and serendipitous circumstances) before I came to appreciate corn tortillas. But without that introduction, people may not be inclined to try the cuisine "full-strength" at all.

I find it interesting that Thai and Vietnamese have been called out as cuisines that people might eat more frequently. Personally, I eat very little Thai or Vietnamese, though I don't object to either. In fact, we're planning a trip to Vietnam later this year, and at least one major reason is for the food. I've had Ethiopian just once. Recently I've had an insatiable craving for French bistro fare, but that's another matter entirely.

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I'm half asleep as I write this, so please point it out of I'm wrong, but on the topic of Korean food being pricey...

Consider the work that goes into Korean food. All of that banchan at your table doesn't come from nowhere. Every little dish involves an annoyingly large number of steps to prepare. It's hard enough getting banchan right- anyone who's eaten over or unerripe kimchi knows this - but to get 7-10 dishes of it with every meal justifies the pricetag of that plate of meat youre about to grill.

Besides Indian food, with its chutneys and relishes, I can't really think of any other Asian cuisine which gives so much damn food gratis. And in fact, most Indian places I can think of charge for those items.

Open a joint, call it Korean tapas and you can charge $5-9 for each plate. I've had a menu developed for years now based on this concept except for one problem, which is this very topic. The folks aren't ready for Korean. Are y'all gonna come be my first guests?

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Mind-bogglingly expensive, Larry? I have to mention Han Bat again. You can get a really hearty meal there for some $12 plus tip. I think that compares well to diner meals. Sure, bulgogi and galbi are expensive, just as prime steaks are. But get some bibimbap or some of the less expensive jigae and the like, order no extra appetizers and just chow down on your order plus the banchan, and you don't have to pay that much. Granted, it'll be more than a burrito in a Cal-Mex taqueria in California, but it's hardly mind-boggling.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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When I lived in America, I would notice how the Korean restaurants appeared to be little more than holes in the wall, or strip malls, with zero to none atmosphere. Service brisk -bordering on rude, little English spoken, k-pop blaring from cheap speakers, and chances were you were the foreigner in the restaurant.

Would that make you wanna drop 30 bucks on dinner?

But since moving to Korea, many of the restaurants are the same. Some of the most popular Korean restaurants in Seoul are ones notorious for their bleak interiors and rude "ajumas,"- older married lady- who will usually throw a smile at the foreigners bumbling their way through a meal.

As far as being mainstream, my husband found upon our first visit back to the states, that our parents were better versed in Korean cuisine than us. Both our eyebrows rose when we announced that we were headed to the supermarket and my mother-in-law asked "could you pick me up some of that gal-bee. It's delicious."

It took me a year of living in Korea to even eat kim bap (like maki rolls). Three years later I salivate when I smell kim chi, and worry how I’ll satisfy my ddokboggie fix when I return to the states.


Edited by maryeats (log)

She came, she saw. She ate, she blogged.

www.maryeats.com

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Many native Koreans who have eaten at Korean restaurants in the United States have commented on the fact that the seasoning is too heavy or 'traditional' -- in other words, too salty and heavy. Native Koreans now generally prefer food with a lighter touch in terms of seasoning, which is in stark contrast to the heavily seasoned food you normally encounter at Korean restaurants in New York. In other words, Korean restaurants in the United States are stuck in the 80's~90's whereas the restaurants in Seoul have continously evolved through the years to accommodate the changing tastes.

I think this is true, thdad, as the food in K-town is too salty for me and I'm very used to homecooked Korean cuisine. In Korea, on the other hand, I have had nouveau Korean and more modernized Korean food that I love. LA seems to pick up on the changes in Korean cuisine since there's a much larger population there. Meals don't have to be so heavy.

There's also the issue of customer service and ambiance in most Korean restaurants. Culturally, the food served is most important to Koreans, so people don't care if the place looks like a cafeteria or if the waitstaff is careless. Most K-town restaurants don't offer a fancy dining experience even though the prices can compare.

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