Korea and Japan are geographically close neighbors. For a long time, there have been brisk economic, social, and cultural exchanges between the two countries, so Korean food is common in Japan and many Japanese make Hansik (Korean dishes) at home. If you type “Korean food” or “Hansik” in a Japanese web search engine, you can obtain a lot of information including recipes and pictures of the Japanese enjoying Korean dishes. In this issue, the status of Korean food in Japan is assessed by Jang Yun-hui who studies in Ritsumeikan University, located in Kyoto.
1. Is it true that Korean food products and Hansik are popular keywords on the internet in Japan?
Yes, it is true. Many Japanese search those words and get information on Korean food products and Hansik online because Korean food is a great hit in Japan.
I am an active user of social media and frequently upload diverse contents there. Pictures and stories about Korean food products and Hansik are some of my most popular posts. Many friends share them and click the “Like” button. Sometimes, I re-post pictures from the Facebook page of the aT center in Osaka and they receive very positive responses. In fact, some of my friends commented that the food in the pictures looks very delicious and suggested that we go together to have it.
2. What has been the most memorable of your YaFF activities and why?
Last October, I participated in the Korea Festival (an annual event introducing Korea in Japan) and introduced Korean products at a food promotion booth. I hosted a tteokbokki (stir-fried spicy rice cake) cooking show and invited visitors to make tteokbokki by themselves, offering them cooking instructions. Many people flocked to the event and it ended with great success. I knew tteokbokki was gaining much popularity here but I never expected such a huge interest.
There is one more episode I would like to share with you. I ran a Korean pub at the school festival last year. Thanks to the Hallyu (the Korean culture wave) and Hansik trends, I made a big profit. My special dish was spicy Korean fried chicken, or “yangnyeom-chikin” in Korean. Some people praised it as the best chicken dish selling in Japan. Many students came to my pub to enjoy spicy Korean fried chicken with makgeolli (Korean rice wine) and soju (Korean distilled liquor) every day during the festival.
3. What Korean dishes do people in the Kansai region like?
Representative Korean dishes—bibimbap (rice mixed with vegetables and beef) and tteokbokki—enjoy continuous popularity. These days, samgyeopsal (grilled pork belly) and budae-jjigae (spicy sausage stew) are in the spotlight. My friends told me they enjoy “meat on a sizzling stone pan” because it feels very Korean. They also think it is unique to wrap the meat in vegetables and add a special sauce such as ssamjang (soybean paste mixed with red pepper paste) and gochujang (red pepper paste) or salt.
Budae-jjigae is similar to Japanese nabe (soup in a hot pot) but spicier and that is what attracts many Japanese.
Among Korean processed foods, ramyeon (instant noodles) is very popular. Even though Japanese ramen is famous around the world, Korean instant noodle products are selling well here and receive positive responses. Spicy noodles in particular have earned many fans among local consumers as can be seen in numerous reviews.
Kimchi is yet another star. Recently, the number of people who want to try different types of kimchi is increasing in Japan. Some Japanese order kimchi from Korean restaurants to enjoy kimchi with a more authentic flavor at home.
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