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Bestselling K-Food in the US

PART 1. Preview of the Korean Pavilion at 2017 Summer Fancy Food Show in New York
PART 2. K-Food Popular in the US
PART 3. K-Food Featured in American Mass Media

# Part 1. K-Food Goes to the US to Meet American Consumers
Interest in health is on the rise, and many Americans are becoming more health-conscious, looking for the food that is good and helpful for the body. This trend, along with the Korean Wave (popularity of Korean pop culture overseas), puts Korean food into the spotlight. An increasing number of Americans are looking for Korean food products including those they see in Korean popular culture media such as music videos and TV dramas.

MAFRA (the Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs) and aT (Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation) will participate in the 2017 Summer Fancy Food Show in New York for three days from June 25 to 27. The fair will take place at the Javits Center in New York City, America’s economic capital. It is one of the largest trade fairs in North America. Compared to other international trade events, Fancy Food Show is famous for hosting a large number of pavilions representing different countries.

Diverse K-Foods to Choose from According to Your Taste
Popular Korean Foods from Gochujang and Bulgogi to Seasoned Seaweed, All in One Place

The Korean pavilion of the Fancy Food Show will be set up under the theme “Delicious K-Food, To Fit Your Lifestyle.” Visitors will have a chance to see and taste different kinds of Korean food. To promote Korean products more effectively, MAFRA and aT will run several galleries in the pavilion. The main gallery, What’s New K-Food Zone, will display promising Korean products in the US market, such as kimchi, rice, and samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup). A K-Food Presentation will be held to introduce flagship products of participating Korean exporters.

Several cooking events using major Korean exports—gochujang (red pepper paste), soy sauce, doenjang (soy bean paste), traditional tea, samgyetang, seasoned seaweed, etc.—will be also organized. They will demonstrate to visitors how to make popular Korean dishes, such as bulgogi (Korean-style barbequed beef) and tteokbokki (spicy stir-fried rice cake), using Korean and local ingredients.

The Korean pavilion will be operated in collaboration with 27 Korean food exporters who plan to promote many different types of Korean agriproducts including beverages, snacks, Korean traditional sauces, noodles, health food, and kimchi to foreign buyers.

# Part 2. Major Korean Food Exports to the US
What Korean foods have captivated the American taste buds with their unique flavors? Below is a list of Korean food products that are actively exported to the US.

1. Seasoned Seaweed

Just a decade ago, Americans called seaweed “black paper” and avoided eating it. Now, Korean seaweed is in the spotlight as a highly nutritious food. Crunchy and aromatic, it is enjoyed by Americans mostly as a healthy snack they can have anywhere and anytime.

2. Beverage

The US is the biggest market for Korean beverages. Among them, aloe beverages are the biggest hit. They taste sweet, are made with only natural organic aloe and contain vitamin C which is good for skin care.

3. Ramyeon

The strongest points of Korean instant noodles are the spiciness and chewiness. Although many people associate Korean instant noodles with delicious red soup, there are also other types of ramyeon that are no less popular. For example, there is cheese ramyeon, jajang ramyeon (in black bean sauce), white soup ramyeon (with chicken broth, green pepper, and egg), and many other kinds.

4. Oyster

With its fragrance of the sea and the pleasant, chewy mouthfeel, the Korean oyster has a good reputation among overseas consumers and is actively exported abroad. The Korean government carries out rigid inspections of the products for export and provides them with sanitary certificates. The US FDA has officially announced that the Korean sanitation program successfully passed inspections in accordance with the US Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP) and the import of Korean oysters to the US can restart.

5. Red Ginseng

Korean red ginseng is very good for the body because of the large concentration of saponin, one of the main constituents of ginseng, which has been scientifically proven to be effective in preventing cancers and decreasing cholesterol levels. Korean red ginseng companies export a wide range of products where ginseng is processed in different ways and made into capsules, candy, jeolpyeon (pounded ginseng), and other types of products.

6. Halibut

In 2012, the Korean government started to support shipments of fresh fish from Korea using specially designed containers. Since then, the export volume of Korean halibut to the US has been steadily increasing.

Part 3. K-Food Featured in American Mass Media
Korean cuisine is becoming popular among Americans, and the number of Korean restaurants in the US is growing. As a result, local media often introduce popular Korean dishes. Let us take a look at some stories featuring Korean food in the US.

1. Health, PBS: Kimchi

In 2006, Health, an American monthly health magazine, selected Korean kimchi as one of the “world’s healthiest foods.” It was reported that kimchi is rich in dietary fiber, low in fat and that some studies show fermented cabbage has compounds that may prevent the growth of cancer. In addition, the magazine introduced a recipe of a kimchi dish “to wake up your morning.” Its ingredients included scrambled egg, kimchi, diced tomatoes, and mushrooms.

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) shot the documentary “Kimchi Chronicles” (13 episodes), which was aired in July 2011. Hollywood’s A-list stars Heather Graham and Hugh Jackman appeared in the series and positively appraised kimchi.

2. CNN: Bibimbap, Kongnamul-gukbap

In 2015, CNN Today reported on Korean food popular in the US under the title “The K-Food Revolution.” One of the principal anchors of CNN, Michael Holms, visited a famous Korean restaurant and introduced dishes it offers, such as bibimbap (rice mixed with vegetables and beef), bulgogi burger (with patty made of thin slices of beef marinated in a soy sauce), gochujang-dakgangjeong (crispy chicken in red pepper paste), and a Korean dumpling salad. He said, “Making bibimbap is the next ‘Gangnam Style,” and that “Korean dishes have captivated gourmets all around the world.” 

Last April, CNN reported on kongnamul-gukbap (soup with bean sprouts and rice), commenting that “Travelers suffering from a hangover may want to visit [a kongnamul-gukbap restaurant] for breakfast—kongnamul-gukbap is celebrated for its restorative properties.”

3. Chicago Tribune: Yangnyeom-Chicken

Chicago Tribune published an article on Korean seasoned spicy chicken in 2013. It explained how to make the sauce and provided a detailed description of the ingredients such as red pepper powder, garlic, and soy sauce. Korean-American chef Marja Vongerichten was quoted as saying, “Unlike American fried chicken, which tends toward the salty end of the spectrum, Korean fried chicken is sweet and sticky but no less addictive.” She added, “The Korean-style chicken, full of great flavor and tremendous crunch, has become all the rage in the US.”

4. Washington Post: Kimchi, Yangnyeom-Chicken, Bulgogi

The Washington Post featured an article introducing kimjang (kimchi-making) culture and a kimchi recipe in 2012. The newspaper described kimchi is “Korea’s affordable health care” and suggested that kimchi “could be sold at Sephora as a regenerative skin-care product.”

Three years ago, the Washington Post selected 40 local restaurants and their dishes to enjoy in 2014, introducing them under the title “40 Eats for 2014.” Two of the restaurants on the list serve Korean food: YoonHa’s Kitchen & Deli (daeji-bulgogi, which is thin slices of marinated pork) and BonChon (Korean-style chicken).

5. Chicago Review, Bon Appetit: Ssam

In 2010, Bon Appetit spotlighted unusual barbeque dishes for Independence Day. One of them was ssam, which is rice, Korean-style barbequed meat, and condiments (such as red pepper paste) wrapped in vegetable leaves. The article contained detailed information on the dish and a recipe.

The Chicago Review posted a “Different Food Guide” last year where it introduced ssam as a “delicious diet food.”

6. NBC: Gochujang

In 2013, NBC’s TV show “NBC Today” featured gochujang (red pepper paste) as part of its “New and Exciting Food Trends for 2013.” Panelist Adam Rapoport of Bon Appetit commented, “Gochujang is becoming more popular than it was. We can buy gochujang easier than Thai sriracha (hot chili sauce).”

Park Sung Eun  parkse@agrinet.co.kr

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