Chennaiites are going gaga over Korean food and we tell you why

Like K-pop and K-drama, K-food is making waves in Chennai as well
Mandu is a dish that has become famous here
Mandu is a dish that has become famous here

When one opens Instagram, their feed will undoubtedly have something related to food and music and most probably Korean food and K-pop. The culture of South Korea seems to have taken over the minds of people from several continents like a Tsunami over the course of a few years.

It is clear that people got into all things Korean with the rise in popularity of K-pop and K-drama. Food and culture cannot be separated, like hydrogen and oxygen in water, and when one becomes popular, in time the other is well-received as well. Dishes like Baked Fish, Bingsoo, Bibimbap, Grilled Beef, Mamenori, Prawn Tempura, Ssambap, and Tteokbokki seem to have hit the right chord among people in Chennai.

But how did all of this begin? Why is it that a person living in Chennai is transfixed when one mentions Korean food? We contacted two prominent chefs in town who held Korean food pop-ups in town recently, and they seemed to have the answer.

Fried chicken <em>kimbap</em>
Fried chicken kimbap

Chef Ashutosh Nerlekar, Director of Food Production, The Park, also said the rise in the popularity of Korean food came to be due to K-pop and K-drama'a popularity. "People have been made aware of the Korean culture, and food and culture get along really well. This has curated a lot of interest in people wanting to come out and try different things. The Gen Z is helping a lot in terms of generating interest for the Korean cuisine."

When asked about the time period Korean food started becoming popular in Chennai, he responded, "It is a pretty recent one, probably about two-three years old. If you talk about the great restaurants in India, in any of the big cities, Korean outlets are not in the league of the Thai, Chinese or Italian restaurants. It is gathering steam and Chennai has about five to six good restaurants now."

Baked fish
Baked fish

According to chef Ashutosh, the Japanese cuisine definitely has a bigger audience in Chennai as things stand. "For the Korean cuisine to achieve that status in Chennai, it might take some time and also, how things are marketed matters. Many hotels would probably want to open a Japanese restaurant first, than a Korean restaurant. Things might change in probably in another three to five years. It is also about the availability of the ingredients. To buy Korean ingredients, there are only two-three places in Chennai where one can go," he claimed.

Gokul Kumar, better known as Chef Goku of Hygge, also seconded chef Ashutosh's opinion that the popularity of Korean food came after K-pop became the craze in Chennai. "I think the popularity came when people started watching K-dramas and listening to K-pop. Naturally, they then want to try the food," he stated.

Korean corn dog
Korean corn dog

Chef Goku claimed that both the Tamil Nadu cuisine and Korean cuisine are heavy on spices. "The spice range is pretty similar and it is something the people of Chennai love. That is also a reason why it (Korean food) became popular (here)," he added.

"I did a Korean Corn Dog pop up and people flocked just to try that! I also did another pop up, where dishes like Banchan, Kimbap, Kimchi fried rice, Mandu, Bibimbap, etc were served. Compared to the other pop ups I've done, Korean pop ups have always been very successful," he stated.

Korean fried chicken
Korean fried chicken

Gokul thinks Korean food has more popularity than Japanese food in Chennai at the moment. "Korean food has the spice that is similar to what people prefer to eat here. Also, many Koreans are living here, and they own restaurants too. Korean food stores are also coming up. Korean food has kind of taken over Chinese and Japanese food," he said.

How long will the fascination that Chennaiites have with Korean food last? It might be present for a few months, or forever, but truth be told, people of Chennai would probably be the best judges of that.

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