The rise in popularity of Korean cuisine in the United States is evident as foods like Bulgogi and Korean BBQ have become staples in various major cities. Tongnamoo further comments that the entry of K-cuisine gave birth to traditional American foods with a uniquely Korean spin to it. In fact, all-American foods like fried chicken, chilies and French fries now have Korean equivalents.
Americans typically associate fried chicken with the process of chopping up chickens, seasoning with herbs and spices, dipping them in a batter, and frying them up. While the Americans focused on the process, Koreans did a great job making fried chicken their own through excellent execution and marketing. One example that represents this success is the way they marketed the comfort-food combo chi-maek (chicken and maekju, or beer). This fried chicken appeared in the 2014 Korean TV drama series My Love from Another Star which was a hit in Asia.
From the fiery Tex-Mex dish to the zesty Nepalese food and Sriracha sauce, America’s love affair with spicy food is evident. It was like destiny, then, when America’s appetite for heat crossed paths with the increase in the popularity of Korean food. South Korean cuisine contains a lot of chilies — specifically dried rehydrated chilies — that have made their way to Korean pastes like ssamjang and gochujang.
Loaded French Fries
People typically season French fries with ketchup and salt, or mayonnaise on the side for dipping. In the US, French fry lovers “load” their plate of French fries with generous toppings such as ground beef, cheese, chili, and more. Koreans took the concept of this American street food up a notch by smothering the fries in garlic, kalbi, and unsurprisingly, kimchi.
These Korean twists allowed some of their staples, such as kimchi, to become more prevalent in the US. It won’t be long until Korean cuisine achieves the same success as Japanese cuisine.