All this technology requiring intense digital detoxes and we still aren’t able to download food. For a K-drama fan, this pain is further exacerbated – almost all the shows have lots of screen time where the characters are feasting on what look like lip-smacking meals. This works out terribly most of the time, causing us to dump our rotis and subzis and figure out how to order in what the characters are eating. Ramyun dripping with tteokbokki sauce with kimchi on the side had us rummaging through the kitchen cupboards for whatever noodles we can find while watching YT videos on how to get the taste right. The South Korean cultural wave, popularly known as the Hallyu wave, found plenty of takers during the pandemic; before that, it was limited to a very niche audience.
K-Drama and K-Pop Takeover
It’s not merely about the food; it’s also about the experience. There is no doubt that Korean cuisine is popular right now. The biggest reason has to be the importance of food in their culture. Characters in K-dramas are often seen sharing food with each other, particularly mothers, who display affection by preparing and stockpiling meals (how very Indian of them). During the pandemic, this newly discovered love increased the demand even further, which gave rise to the Korean food market in India. While it often takes time to acquire a taste for Korean cuisine, Indians welcomed it with open arms. Indian and Korean cuisine share similar methods and ingredients to create these delicacies, such as frying, fermenting, boiling, or the use of rice and lots of vegetables.
Food has played the main character in some of the most popular shows like Dinner Mate where two strangers decide to have regular dinner dates with no personal information shared and no commitment involved. The leads just eat about everywhere in the drama, and we’re treated to dishes as simple as convenience store ramyun to more extravagant fare like fancy steak at a resto; all of this gave us a clearer vision of the food culture there.
Even though some dramas don’t have food terms in their titles, the scenes in the series still make us crave mouthwatering dishes. The fried chicken platter from Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo and The King: Eternal Monarch has its own separate fanbase. And sometimes it gets hard to decide what looks more delicious: the food or the actor eating it.
Apart from K-drama, our beloved K-pop idols have also done their bit in popularising this scrumptious phenomenon. While a lot of them are on a strict diet, you can always spot a few of them going on a mukbang (eating broadcast) at midnight. BTS member Jin is considered one of the biggest foodies in the idol community. Jin even created his own cooking blog, Jin’s Cooking Diary, and a Mukbang show called Eat Jin. And as a full-time food lover, his biggest achievement has been to become the face of his favourite ramyeon, brand, Jin Ramen, by Ottogi, which coincidentally shares his name. The impact of him being the face of the ramyun company led it to sell out everywhere around the globe.
KARMYs are sharing pictures of all Jin ramen being sold out in stores 😭 pic.twitter.com/u7MskusLkV
— Sam⁷ PEOPLE PT2 (@BTSOriented) November 11, 2022
Numbers Don’t Lie
According to the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry, after the 2020 shutdown, there has been a significant rise in the consumption of Korean food in India. The volume of just Korean noodles increased by 162% in 2020 and by 178.0% in 2021. The popularity of Korean cuisine in India is being fuelled by the growth of Korean freestanding restaurants in places like Chennai, New Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru, and Mumbai. According to the owners of the Korean specialty cuisine restaurant Sun and Moon (Mumbai), “The business has increased significantly in recent years due to the Hayllu wave. Because our location is in a busy working area, we serve these dishes to a variety of customers, including office-going South Koreans who have relocated to India for work as well as the younger generation, which has been largely following K-culture in the form of dramas, webtoons, or K-pop. We’ve also observed that Indian people are not only experimenting with their palates but also making some of these dishes as their go-to order”.
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And your first instinct is always to get a packet of instant noodles from your food delivery app when you are craving these delectable meals. According to the grocery delivery app Zepto, instant Korean ramen has reportedly replaced traditional instant noodles for many. Zepto’s order histories prove that sales of Korean noodles have increased by 400% over the past six months, indicating a growth in demand for the Korean Ramyun.
Let’s Start With The Basics
India as a country is home to the highest number of vegetarians globally. Even though South Korean cuisine tends to be meat-heavy, vegetarians can still find lots of delicious dishes to enjoy. Here are some of my favourite foods and beverages to get you acquainted with Korean cuisine:
Kimchi is most commonly fermented cabbage, this is best explained as a spicy cabbage pickle. Crowned Korea’s national dish, it can be consumed on its own or as an ingredient in anything from soups to fried rice. It has a saline undertone that prevents it from becoming overly sweet despite being both sweet and spicy. Because kimchi is actually quite healthy, you can rationalise eating an excessive amount of it in one sitting, despite its addictive crunch and heat.
Most people probably consider bibimbap to be one of their favourite and most well-known Korean dishes. It simply translates to “mixed rice with meat and assorted vegetables”. One can make endless variations to this dish depending on their preference and dietary requirements. You can skip the meat with any vegetable or protein option. This dish is also known as fridge cleaner because there is no specific ingredient for it; you can mix anything with rice.
Gimbap isn’t often vegetarian in Korean cuisine; typical ingredients include spam, fish cakes, and beef; however, it’s a fantastic concept to be familiar with. The gimbap can be made vegetarian by selecting your own fillings of veggies and rice, wrapped in a thin layer of dried seaweed. K-drama fanatics will always connect gimbap to the drama Extraordinary Attorney Woo, where our leading lady’s breakfast had gimbap on display. This show also helped raise sales of this Korean rice and seaweed snack.
4. Instant Ramyun
K-drama fans are well-versed with the concept of “Wanna have ramen with me?” One can simply compare it with Netflix and Chill. But in Korea, Ramyeon has a long history. It arrived on the local market in the early 1960s as the nation struggled to recover from the devastation and poverty brought on by the Korean War. As ramyeon grew popular outside of Korea, chefs started experimenting with different methods to prepare it. But the instant noodle portion cooked in an aluminium pot remained incongruous. By including a wide range of ingredients, such as bean sprouts, spring onions, eggs, rice cake, and cheese, which are frequently the go-to components for many Koreans creating ramyeon, you can transform ramyeon into a more wholesome and balanced meal.
South Korea is big on the drinking culture. The most common traditional drink is soju, which is a clear and colourless alcoholic beverage traditionally distilled from rice. Koreans like to drink soju both pure and mixed with beer. Sometimes they also mix soju with Coca-Cola or Sprite.
Special mention goes to the Korean hotpots.
Also, read 5 K-Drama Love Languages That We Crave