Korean Ginseng, Red and Green Peppers and Kelp
are the Best International ingredients
The ‘Banchan’(side dishes) that Koreans serve on the table at every meal are alluring the taste buds of people around the globe. One of the Banchan is traditional ‘Bugak’(seaweed or vegetables such as green and red peppers, laver, brown seaweed, and kelp, coated with glutinous rice starch, dried, and deep-fried). Bugak was invented by Koreans of old to preserve the ingredients of the seasons throughout the next year. Bugak keeps the original tastes of the nutrients of ingredients with the passing of time. Similar dishes to Bugak are ‘Danggwa’(adding seasonings and sweetness and fried), ‘Jaban’(seasoned and fried) and ‘Twigak’(only fried).
Well-known before for Oriental Natural Chip, which now non-Koreans enjoy, Oh Hee-sook, the head of Sangjayon Co., has worked hard for twenty years to restore, research, develop, and promote the unique taste of her Bugak. Married to the Papyeong Yun’s 16th head family in Geochang in South Gyeongsang Province, Ms. Oh was handed down the family’s secret recipes with 300 year-old history from her mother-in-law.
Among the many dishes she has learned to make, Ms. Oh noticed that Bugak has the high potential to be commercialized and so founded the Sangjayon Co. in Gokseong in South Jeolla Province in 1995. From olden times, Gokseong has been well-known as an optimum place to procure the ingredients of Bugak, namely sesame seed, bean, and glutinous rice. Gokseong is a passage in which seaweed is conveyed from coast to inland. Located in a deep gorge in the southern area, Gokseong has the three essential elements needed to produce Bugak: fresh air, abundant sunlight, and clean water
Enjoying theses natural elements to the full, Ms. Oh makes traditional Bugak with only ingredients produced in the region and does not use any preservatives, monosodium glutamate (MSG), or artificial colorings. She said: “I try to preserve the taste and scent of the ingredients like red and green peppers, garlic, laver, brown seaweed, kelp as much as possible when I ferment and season them. The Bugak I make is characterized by a simple sweetness using natural honey and oligosaccharide as a coating syrup.”
Absorbed in the development of traditional Bugak according to the tastes of modern people, Ms. Oh developed 50 kinds of Bugak and got patents for 10 making processes. Once an apparent mere side dish, now her Bugak has become a scrumptious snack in its own right. Since the Seoul Food Exhibition in 1997, the Bugak has been gaining recognition around the world. At the 30 international food exhibitions at which the Bugak has been displayed, it was so popular that participants scrambled for it. Today consumers in the United States, Japan, and many countries in South East Asia and Europe continue to enjoy it.
Ms. Oh remarked: “When I first present my Bugak onto the world market, I thought that only overseas Koreans would buy it for nostalgic reasons. But I was wrong as I found that overseas consumers like it more and they call it the ‘21C’s natural chip’ and ‘environmentally-friendly oriental chip.’ This made me realize that Korean ingredients like ginseng, red and green peppers and kelp are the best international things.”
On the basis of this international success the transformation of Bugak goes on and on. The development of fusion-style Bugak with chocolate coating is on the way. The export goal of the Bugak is USD$ 1m this year, an increase from USD$ 0.3m last year. Ms. Oh stressed: “Bugak is unique because it is made of only using our indigenous Korean ingredients. Sometimes it’s hard and lonely to take the lead in the globalization of Bugak, but when I hear international consumers exclaiming “Wonderful!,” I feel a sense of duty to spread traditional Korean food tastes all around the world.”
Park Sung Eun firstname.lastname@example.org
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