Can Korean Food Conquer America? Or is the kimchi too smelly?

Korean food is poised to be the next big thing.
For decades, Korean food has had few U.S. outposts, mostly in Hawaii and a few urban neighborhoods, while Chinese food went on to colonize the nation. But now we are in the midst of what’s been termed the Korean Wave, a global sweep of Korean arts and culture that has placed South Korea among the top ten of world cultural exporters; and its government is determined to push its cuisine into the leading ranks by 2017 with its food globalization plan.
But the kimchi is stinky.

A government-ordered survey conducted by the Seoul-based Corea Image Communication Institute found that the unique smell of kimchi, the ubiquitous fermented vegetable dish, is Korea’s biggest barrier to globalizing its cuisine. It’s an odor that has been described as a tangy cross between garlic, pork fat, musty cigarette smoke, stale beer, with a whiff of sewer. Keep a jar in your refrigerator and the smell permeates everything else in there. With every swing of the door, it wafts out to be absorbed by clothing, rugs, even a pet’s fur.

There are hundreds of kimchi varieties and styles, the most common made from whole heads of brined Napa cabbage that are slathered with a paste made from garlic, ginger, and hot pepper flakes. The cabbage is packed into earthenware jars and buried in the ground where it pickles and ferments. It’s unearthed when it reaches an appropriately eye-watering state of sour and hot, with leaves that are both wilted and crisp. During the fall harvest, you’ll find cabbage heads bobbing in the brine-filled bathtubs of traditional Korean homes.
Popular is an understatement.
Kimchi is eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s present at nearly every meal—as an entree, condiment, or side dish; stirred into noodles and rice; as an ingredient in pancakes, soups, and stews; or a topping for hamburgers, pizza, and tacos. Kimchi has its own museum, superhero (Kimchi Warrior), and was sent to the International Space Station with Korea’s first astronaut.
When Koreans smile for the camera, they don’t say ‘cheese;’ they say ‘kimchi.’
If South Korea’s food globalization plan succeeds, by 2017, we’ll be smiling for kimchi too.
Hold your nose, open the windows, load up on breath mints, and get ready.
Read The New Culinary Hot Spots to find out about other cuisines that are elbowing their way to a place at the American table.

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6 Responses to Can Korean Food Conquer America? Or is the kimchi too smelly?

  1. Kimchi Green says:

    In a few months we will be selling our Kimchi on-line for those of you who aren’t as adventuresome as some to actually take on the crazy task of making it yourself. Mrs. Kim has been making delicious Kimchi all her life and my brother and myself thought we’d share our joy with Americans. Her brand will be called Kimchi Green. Follow us on Facebook, just search Kimchi Green. Thanks!

  2. Janice says:

    It can be an acquired taste. if you acquire it, the stuff is like cabbage crack.

  3. I have never had Kimchi before. I would love to try it. 🙂

  4. GreenGirl says:

    I don’t think Korean food will be as well received as Chinese and Japanese especially sushi

  5. Pingback: Tweets that mention Kimchi in America | Gigabiting --

  6. Kimchi!!! I love Korean food, but I don’t eat enough Korean food. I must organise another trip to a Korean restaurant really soon. *hungry*

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