YOU'RE already dancing Gangnam Style, now its time to eat like a Korean.
Food trend forecasters and supermarkets are predicting dishes such as kimchi, bulgogi and bibimbap will be up there with favourites like pad thai and laksa as Australia’s exploration of the Asian food map continues.
“People’s interest in Korean food is riding high,” said food personality and host of SBS’s Food Safari Maeve O’Meara.
“It’s delicious and really good for you. The Koreans eat for both taste and health.”
Restaurant goers were the first embrace the Korean trend.
“We’ve experienced a 50 per cent increase in Korean restaurant bookings in the last year,” said Stevan Premutico, CEO and Founder of the Dimmi online restaurant booking site.
“Korean is the new Mexican.”
Coles spokesperson Anna Kelly said the trend is gathering momentum for home cooks.
“You could say ‘Gangnam Style’ has hit the Australian supermarket aisle and we are seeing clear evidence of this as a significant food trend with our customers,” she said
Ms Kelly said celebrated Korean-American chef David Chang, who recently opened a restaurant in Sydney, was critical in popularising the interest in Korean food.
“There has been year on year growth of 15 per cent in our grocery category servicing Korean style cooking, as Australian’s start experimenting with the sweet and salty flavours and traditional Korean barbecuing techniques.”
Charmaine Solomon, whose Complete Asian Cookbook taught a generation of Australians how to cook Asian at home said it made sense that having navigated Chinese, Thai and Indian cooking, Korean would be next.
“People are adventurous and keen to try different foods,” she said. “As long as you follow a good recipe you can’t go wrong.”
O’Meara said Australian and Korean homecooks shared a common love.
“Koreans revere the barbecue”, she said, making it an appealing, accessible style of cooking for Australian cooks.
“They use a lot of garlic too. I once heard someone say Koreans eat seven heads of garlic a week!” she said.
Beyond 'Seoul food', the whole Asian food category continues to expand. At Coles, growth in Asian groceries such as soy and fish sauces, curry pastes, and spices, has increased 15 per cent in the past year while fresh produce sales – wombok, pak choy, choy sum and gai larn - are up 25 per cent.
Everyday Korean favourites
*Kimchi is to Koreans as Vegemite is to Australians. Homemade or bought, it’s made from fermented cabbage and a combination of garlic, anchovies, onions and chilli. This crunchy, spicy banchan – the name for the side dishes that come with every meal - is a staple of the dining table, and consumed with a bowl of rice, or stirred into soup or stews.
“Kimchi is more than an icon of Korean food,” says Maeve O’Meara of the pungent smelling dish. “It has near-religious significance. Koreans will say they ‘just don’t feel right’ without their daily serve.”
*Bulgogi: The Koreans love the barbecue – usually a tabletop grill filled with hot coals - and bulgogi is a favourite made using thin strips of beef marinated in soy, sesame oil and sugar and cooked over charcoal or on a tabletop hotplate.
*Bibimbap: This famous rice dish is made in a stone bowl to give the edges of the rice a crusty texture. It’s topped with an egg and vegetables such as carrots, spinach, bean sprouts, radish, and zucchini and flavoured with chilli, garlic, sesame oil and soy sauce.
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1/2 (about 800g) wombok (Chinese cabbage), trimmed, cut into large pieces
250ml (1 cup) water
60g (1/4 cup) rock salt
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large slices fresh ginger
1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
Rinse wombok under cold water. Drain. Combine the water and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the wombok. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 4 hours to soak. Drain, reserving liquid. Place wombok in a bowl.
Add garlic, ginger, chilli and vinegar to the wombok. Stir to combine. Transfer to a 750ml (3-cup) capacity sealable glass jar. Pour over reserved liquid to cover. Set aside for 2-3 days to develop the flavours. Drain before serving.