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London falls in love with Korean food

Posted November. 06, 2013 08:25,   


The 2013 Korea Brand and Entertainment Expo opened Monday (local time) at the Old Billingsgate exhibition center, Lower Tames St. in London. Londoners tasting Korean-style raw beef at a booth of "Bibigo," a Korean food brand owned by CJ, uttered exclamations of "fabulous," "gusty," "dramatic," etc.

Bibigo launched the menu after recognizing that British people enjoy eating steak tartar made of raw meat. As for the steak tartar, mustard is covered on raw meat to generate a strong taste. The Korean style is to mix sesame oil and soy sauce with raw beef to emphasize aromatic and savory taste. One British visitor who tasted the Korean food said, "I don`t know how to express this taste. It is not salty or sweet. This addictive taste can be found only in Korean food."

While President Park Geun-hye is in the U.K. as state guest, British people are showing enthusiasm on Korean food. Korean food, so-called K-food, may be on the brink of spreading worldwide.

According to food industry sources, among four Korean restaurants introduced in Michelin Guide European edition 2013, Bibigo, Isadal, and Hana are located in London. The ethnic food market is estimated at over 5 trillion won (4.7 U.S. billion dollars) annually in the multiracial country of the U.K.

Bibigo at Soho street where galleries and entertainment companies are concentrated has become popular by launching menus tailored to British people. Bibigo Soho store transformed Korea`s street food into a haute British cuisine. Representative menu is Soondae: Korean Black Pudding. A popular brunch menu, Soondae is a Korean style blood sausage made of beef, pork or duck. Bibigo placed white kimchi on the side for British people who like neat taste. Bungeoppang, a fish-shaped waffle filled with red bean cream, turned into a fancy menu. The dessert named Goldfish, which places Bungeoppang on a dish, added visual effect to sweet taste, and is popular.

Korean Monkfish was created since British people enjoy monkfish broiled with salt. It is not roasted but steamed and is favored by health-conscious British people.

Thanks to unique menus, Bibigo was able to be listed on main pages at Michelin Guide in just a year after opening, making Michelin Guide break the principle of excluding company-owned chain restaurants. Park Ho-yeong, head of U.K. division of CJ Group, said, "World prominent restaurants first open in London and then spread worldwide. The U.K. is a very important strategic area in spreading Korean food globally," adding, "An increasing number of British people are immersed in the addictiveness of Korean food and its taste. There are good chances of succeeding if a good storytelling is made on Korean food."

Kimchee, a Korean restaurant located in central Holborn area near British Museum, is also a hot place. With just 300 seats, people have to wait for 30 to 40 minutes with a waiting number ticket. Food served here are similar to other Korean restaurants, serving Kimchi soup and pajeon (seafood pancake), etc., but the restaurant boasts of neat and modern atmosphere whereas other restaurants` interior and service resemble typical Korean barbeque restaurants.

Korean processed food is also popular in London. On Tuesday, U.K. retailer Tesco opened a Korean food exhibition at its 50 stores including the New Malden store in London. Large companies like Ottogi, Sempio and Nongshim, as well as smaller but strongly performing ones displayed processed foods there. More than 150 items were displayed including ramen, curry, snacks and kalguksu (chopped noodles). A source at Homeplus, a subsidiary to Tesco, said, "Demand is high among British people who are aware of Korean songs and movies," adding, "We prepared the event to contribute to globalization of Korean food."

At the 2013 KBEE exhibition, Korean contents, fashion and beauty products also gained popularity. At the CJ E&M booth standing at the center of the exhibition center, visitors danced to songs of popular Korean idol groups or singers including 2NE1, f(x) and G Dragon. A make-up show was also held for people learn how Korean popular stars make themselves up. Many British women were asking about Korean cosmetic brands and dresser sets. Kolon held a fashion show on its environment-friendly fashion brand Re; Code, while animation firm Iconix signed a contract for exports of its character brand Pororo with a Finnish broadcasting firm.