Monday, October 31, 2011

Korean flavors predicted to become menu mainstay next year

..Could kimchi, the fiery, spicy fermented cabbage native to Korea
become the food item of 2012?

According to international restaurant consultancy group Baum +
Whiteman in New York, Korean cuisine is predicted to emerge as a
robust, influential global food trend in 2012, with its distinctive,
punchy flavors penetrating mainstream menus.

While upscale eateries may serve dishes poached or braised in pungent,
spicy kimchee broth, for example, don't be surprised to see
Korean-style fried chicken pop up on the menus of chain restaurants,
says the report released last week.

Kimchi is what baguettes are to the French or what pasta is to the
Italians -- that is, indispensable. A side dish accompaniment to every
Korean meal, kimchee is a fiery, spicy, fermented cabbage marinated in
red chili powder, garlic and ginger, akin to German sauerkraut, only
packed with a wallop of heat.

Celebrity chefs Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence and Chuck Hughes have
become a few high-profile kimchee converts, teaching viewers how to
make quick-style, 'Westernized' versions on food TV. A few popular
applications include stuffing the condiment into barbecued, pork
sandwiches as an Asian-style slaw, a natural combination given that
kimchi and pork also make up the main ingredients in another authentic
Korean dish, kimchee stew.

The report credits the influence of food trucks for pushing Korean
cuisine into the North American culinary consciousness, which over the
last few years has been primarily fixated on other Asian influences --
Thai and Vietnamese flavors.

Entrepreneur Roy Choi's food truck Kogi BBQ, for instance, drew a cult
following in Los Angeles for its Korean Mexican tacos -- traditional,
homemade tortillas stuffed with Korean-style beef -- spawning copycat
trucks all over the country. Their popularity is also widely credited
for putting the spotlight on Korean flavors.

French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and his half-Korean wife Marja
have also been spreading the Korean culinary gospel this year in their
PBS series Kimchi Chronicles. Narrated by Aussie actor Hugh Jackman,
the series travels throughout South Korea highlighting the country's
regional specialities.

Meanwhile, the report also points out that since Koreans run most of
the sushi bars in the US, expect more fusion recipes as restaurateurs
gain the confidence to open eateries outside the confines of
Korea-towns. The Korean government, for instance, has embarked on an
aggressive tourism campaign and is reportedly footing the bill for an
upscale restaurant in New York to promote the national cuisine,
according to the consultants.

Seoul transplant Junk Sik likewise become the first gourmet,
'modernist' Korean restaurant to take up residence in New York when it
opened last month.

Other popular Korean dishes include kalbi, marinated short ribs,
bulgogi, marinated beef, and bibimbap, a bed of rice in a traditional
stone bowl, topped with seasoned vegetables, beef, and a fried egg,
bound together by kochujang, a red papper paste.

While American palates aren't quite ready for the paste to become to
become a mainstream grocery store find, the consultants predict,
"...wait until 2013."

Baum + Whiteman creates high profile restaurants around the world and
is the team behind Windows on the World, which sat atop the World
Trade Center.

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