South Korea’s most popular restaurant discovery company Mangoplateis eyeing expansion both domestically and throughout Asia after securing a $6.1 million Series A round of funding, according to TechCrunch.
Since emerging from a Seoul-based accelerator program two years ago, Mangoplate has raised $7.2 million in total from investors, including Qualcomm Ventures, Softbank Ventures Korea and YJ Capital.
Available in both Korean and English, Mangoplate is currently estimated to include around 40 percent of Korea’s restaurants and is aiming to double that to 80 percent within a year.
The company prides itself on personalization, as it relies on algorithms and data gathering to present restaurant deals to a user based on their location and cuisine preferences.
“Lots of companies claim to use big data but just crawl [through] Naver and blogs,” Mangoplate co-founder Joon Oh told TechCrunch. “Mangoplate really is a big data-driven personalization service, it’s like Yelp on steroids.”
The company is also planning to expand into the rest of Asia in 2016. Oh said the company is eyeing markets that share similarities to Seoul, including Singapore and Hong Kong, but emphasized getting a strong footing in the domestic market was a top priority.
Before Mangoplate, there was Naver’s Wingspoon, but the Korean government ordered Naver to shut it down back in 2013. Until then, Wingspoon had been the go-to food discovery service in Korea, but it eventually drew criticism for fake reviews and restaurants abusing the system.
Mangoplate has since filled the void. To address the concerns people had with Wingspoon, Mangoplate apparently has a “number of systems in place to detect specific behavior,” said Lee, including sign-in via Facebook or Kakao to rate and review.
Pictured above: Ships Coffee Shop, 1971. (Image courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library)
by KARIN CHAN
Can the history of a city be told through its restaurant menus? Visitors to the Los Angeles Public Library may ask themselves this question as they feast their eyes on a rare collection of old menus, now on display at the Central Library through November 13.
The exhibit, “To Live and Dine in L.A.,” shares the same name with a book published in partnership with Angel City Press, which includes a foreword by L.A.-based chef and restaurateur Roy Choi.
Written by Josh Kun, an author and associate professor of communication at the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California, To Live and Dine in L.A. explores the history, urban growth and social stratification of Los Angeles through food menus spanning as far back as 1875 to the 1980s.
The collection of menus is the result of a decades-long effort that began when two LAPL librarians began collecting menus in the 1980s; today, the library has amassed around 15,000 menus. Choi was one of those who helped curate the collection of roughly 200 menus for the book and exhibit.
“The menus we saw told us a story, but what were the ones missing telling us?” he told KoreAm by email—adding of the collection, “Expect to think about the haves and have-nots and expect to sit and experience the growth of a city with all its bumps and bruises and how that’s a reflection of today as well.”
Included in the collection are menus from the likes of such ritzy restaurants as Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, which was branded as “Californian Cuisine” in 1981, with its offerings of crab ravioli and Chinese-style duck breast. Conspicuously absent, however, are menus catering to California’s working class: After all, food trucks that stopped outside construction sites or lunchrooms had no handheld menus, opting to write food items on boards or not having them written at all.
Choi told KoreAm that the disparity between the rich and poor reflected in these sampling of menus reveals other aspects of the city’s history. “I found the racial propaganda surprising,” he said.
Indeed, one featured menu is from the Golden Pagoda restaurant, whose cover artwork appeals to “Western stereotypes of Asian culture,” Kun writes in the book. The 1943 menu depicts an image of a pagoda structure and rickshaw driver and uses a font associated with traditional Asian-style calligraphy brushstrokes.
Golden Pagoda (1943)
In Choi’s foreword for To Live and Dine in L.A., he writes that most places he grew up eating in didn’t have menus—such as his home, burger stands and delis. (Fans of the chef may recall he wrote about his youth and L.A.’s food culture in his 2013 memoir, L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food.)
While most people may know Choi as the founder of gourmet Korean taco truck, Kogi, the Angeleno is not only a seasoned chef but also an activist, as he applies his culinary background to help address the still-existent social disparity of food accessibility in L.A.
Since opening in 2013, Choi’s South Central L.A. restaurant, 3 Worlds Café, has partnered with nearby Jefferson High School to sell healthy, all-fruit smoothies, coffee and other items. The mission of the project is to create equitable access to healthy food and foster the development of young entrepreneurs. Choi is also preparing to open his fast food restaurant, loco’l, which will aim to serve healthier and affordable food options in Watts.
When asked what inspired the project, Choi replied, “They are my friends and family. I’m here to feed. That’s all. And I give a f—.”
The Redwood House (1945)
Recognizing that it’s a privilege to be able to dictate what is on the menu today, Choi wants those who visit the exhibit or pick up the book to get to know L.A. better, warts and all.
“You can see L.A., right before your eyes, grow through these menus and ask questions about what is and was and what is and isn’t,” he said.
For more information on To Live and Dine in L.A., visit its official website.
With additional reporting by the Associated Press. All images courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library.
We’ve seen water purifiers that double as a coffeemaker, but is humanity ready for a “ramen water purifier”?
Perhaps the Ramenia 21, an automated instant ramen cooker, is too much power for South Koreans to handle, as they already eat the most servings of ramenper year. Worry no more about overcooked noodles, veggie add-ons and the absolute perfection of a square of American cheese. That perfection is captured in the Ramenia 21.
You don’t even have to take the ramen out of its packaging. Insert the entire thing into a slot, like the video cassettes of yore, and the Ramenia 21 will take care of the rest.
It even detects the brand of ramen and plays the jingle of the brand’s commercial. No one can truly ever get Nong Shim Shin Ramen~ out of their head.
Once the Ramenia 21 has removed the contents from the packaging, its “smart package care” system will dispose of the wrappers in the only way possible–by folding them into ddakjis, or paper disks.
From there, it’s only a few more button presses. Break your ramen noodle block into halves or quarters, then select your noodle firmness (anything other than slightly undercooked makes you a barbarian).
Next, it’s time to tap into the topping combination system to choose which fresh veggies to add on. There’s none of that freeze-dried nonsense. Green onions aplenty, always; carrots when you feel like it; an egg, because the yolk is the best; onions if you’re not going out; sausages if you just don’t care anymore—the Ramenia 21 has everything. Of course, we can’t forget that final square of American cheese. Absolute perfection.
The Ramenia 21 is just that. Instant ramen never looked as good as it does on its packaging, until now.
The system also comes with a laser beam to cut your chopsticks perfectly down the middle. No more unbalanced chopsticks! However, the cutting process takes three minutes. Future Ramenia 21 iterations should have faster cutting speeds.
Oh, but what happens if you’re busy doing with an important task, such as binge-watching on Netflix, during the cutting process? No worries, the Ramenia 21’s drone delivery system has you covered.
The Ramenia 21 can be to ramen what the Keurig was to coffee. In that light, perhaps it’s a good thing that Ramenia 21 doesn’t exist in real life.
It seems as if we have another reason to scream for ice cream.
Chef Roy Choi and Portland-based ice cream company Salt & Straw have teamed up to bring forth a new flavor, and if you know anything about both of them, they know a thing or two about coming out of left field.
Papi’s Korean Fluffernutter joins an already delectable medley of flavors at Salt & Straw. It draws inspiration from the Korean spiced peanuts Choi ate as a child, and his reimagining sounds amazing. The peanut ice cream base is mixed with marshmallow fluff and blackberry jelly, infused with Thai spices and nut chunks, according to food blog Roaming Hunger.
In addition to the Fluffernutter, Salt & Straw founders, Kim and Tyler Malek, collaborated with Border Grill chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger to create a green corn tamales-flavored ice cream, fused with agave and candied corn.
It’s summer, which means it’s time to hit the beach and eat cool summer treats. Of course, in South Korea, nothing says summer treats more than patbingsu, or shaved ice.
This incredibly popular dessert can be found almost everywhere–in bakeries, hotels, specialty shops and street vendors. Traditionally, patbingsu consists of shaved ice and three other ingredients: red bean paste, rice cakes and ground nut powder. Fruits and ice cream are occasionally added for presentation and taste.
But according to Kotaku and Korean forumInstiz, several students at all-girls high schools have been adding a few more ingredients of their own.
Here’s what a traditional patbingsu looks like before it’s mixed:
Simple, cute, classic. Now, this is what these schoolgirls made:
I’m not sure whether I should be more impressed by the number of ingredients or the sheer massive size of the bowl. In the past few months, images of these female students’ hodgepodge of sweets have popped up on various Korean foodie sites like GreedEat and several Internet forums.
The ingredients seem to include tubs of ice cream, Peperos, cookies, chocolate bars and pretty much anything sugary enough to give you a heart attack.
This looks like an explosion of colors and future regrets.
Death by chocolate, anyone?
They really should have added more popsicles.
If you’re looking to create your own gigantic patbingsu, you’ll need a lot of ingredients and some hungry friends to help you finish the meal. Seriously, do not attempt to eat this junk food beast by yourself.
I counted, and there are 20 cups of nutella on that bench. No one needs that much nutella.
You pour everything into bowl like this…
Attack the bowl with your spoons!
Make sure to eat everything.
Lick the bowl clean if you have to. You don’t want to waste precious ingredients.
And you’re done! Good job, you’re a champion.
Many of these female students seemed to have participated in the giant patbingsu challenge to create memories and bond with their fellow classmates. You have to admit, the dessert is a pretty good dish for group study sessions.
When I started posting recipes on YouTube, one of the most requested recipes was for KFC, otherwise known as Korean Fried Chicken. Coated with a sweet, sour, spicy sauce, yangnyeomtongdak is a relatively modern dish in Korea: It’s take-out food, rarely made at home, so my readers had to wait while I perfected my recipe, which is based on what I saw being made in local fried chicken joints in Gwangju.
When refining the recipe, at first I tried not to use corn syrup or ketchup, replacing them with more wholesome, less sugary ingredients, but I was never satisfied with the result. To get the authentic taste, corn or rice syrup and ketchup are essential. Something else is also necessary: frying the chicken twice. Double-frying makes the batter-coated chicken stay crunchy for hours after cooking, while leaving the inside moist. You can use a whole chicken; use a cleaver to cut the breast, thighs, and legs into smaller pieces.
Serves 10 to 12 as an appetizer, 4 as a main course
For the chicken:
2 pounds chicken wings or chunks of chicken, rinsed in cold water and patted dry, tips removed, drumettes and flats separated
1/2 cup potato starch or cornstarch
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg, lightly beaten Corn oil for deep-frying
For the sauce:
2 teaspoons corn oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown rice syrup (ssal-yeot), corn syrup, or sugar
1/4 cup Korean hot pepper paste (gochujang)
2 teaspoons distilled white or apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1. Make the wings: Combine the chicken, potato starch, flour, salt, pepper, baking soda, and egg in a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon or your hand until the chicken is well coated.
2. Heat about 4 inches of corn oil in a deep pot over high heat until it reaches 350°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, test it by dipping one piece of chicken in the oil. If it bubbles, it is ready. One by one, carefully add the chicken to the pot, in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, and fry, turning a few times, until crunchy, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a strainer and shake to drain, then transfer the chicken to a large bowl. Return the oil to 350°F . As it sits, the chicken will become less crunchy.
3. Meanwhile, make the sauce: While the chicken is frying, heat a large heavy pan over medium-high heat. Add the corn oil and garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the ketchup, brown rice syrup, hot pepper paste, and vinegar. Turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the sauce bubbles and becomes shiny, about 7 minutes.
4. Fry the wings again: Fry in batches, turning a few times, until the wings are golden brown and very crunchy on the outside, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the wings to a strainer and shake to drain, then add them to the pan with the sauce and stir until the chicken is coated.
5. Arrange the chicken on a serving platter, sprinkle with the sesame seeds, and serve.
Reputations have a habit of preceding, and it was no different when it came to two of the most established chefs on the West Coast.
“You’re not as intense as I imagined,” Roy Choi quipped to Corey Lee in front of an enthusiastic group of foodies and fans in Santa Monica in late April. “You’re a very calm and nice guy, actually. I was scared, I was ready to say, ‘Oui, Chef.’”
“That’s what I heard about you,” Lee retorted. “‘He’s a gangster.’”
On April 22, the two Korean American chefs met face-to-face for the first time for a chat in Santa Monica, Calif. as Lee kicked off his tour to promote his new cookbook, Benu (published by Phaidon), which is named after his three-Michelin-star restaurant in San Francisco. The recipes are presented as a 33-course tasting menu, and Lee includes several personal anecdotes that reveal the influences behind Benu’s signature dishes.
At first glance, the chefs come across as two distinct players in the business: Choi, a visionary chef who reps L.A. hard and is responsible for single-handedly changing how the world looks at food trucks; Lee, who is renowned worldwide for his culinary skills and knowledge of French, Chinese and Korean cuisines that play out into the unique offering at Benu.
But while their products may seem like they belong to different spheres in the culinary world, Lee and Choi explained there are more similarities to their food—especially when it comes down to how their respective upbringings and backgrounds play out in the dishes.
Corey Lee. Photo by Eric Wolfinger
“I’m not sure if Roy’s food is worlds apart from ours [at Benu],” Lee said in response to a question from an audience member. “I think from a consumer’s perspective, it might be. But from a chef’s perspective, from an entrepreneur’s perspective, I think there are a lot of parallels, and the more I talk to Roy, I realize that.”
“I had an upbringing that doesn’t seem like it would foster a chef’s career,” Lee added. “But I think that for those of us who were born in another country and came over to the U.S., this process of trying to recreate the food culture of our native country here in the U.S. is a very big part of our lives.”
Food writers haven’t found a specific brand to describe Lee’s food at Benu. Some have summarized it as Asian and French fusion or having Asian “influences.” Lee doesn’t subscribe to a certain brand—though he did write a book trying to explain it. At the same time, Lee admits he didn’t intend the cookbook to be as personal as it eventually became.
“When you go to explain your motivations for a dish, or the reasons why you think it’s worth documenting, that’s the kind of journey I thought was really educational for me in writing the book,” Lee explained. “Getting a better understanding of why these dishes were important to me, or where they came from, how they were conceived, and how that relates to my upbringing—a lot of it is tied to Korean food, Korean culture and Korean traditions.”
Be sure to check out our video of the highlights from Lee and Choi’s conversation as the chefs discuss their respective backgrounds, philosophies and influences in their careers—as well as their favorite Korean dishes.
Lee will be in Asia during the month of May, stopping by Hong Kong and Seoul before hitting the final leg of his tour in Toronto. On May 27, Lee will close his tour in Toronto with a conversation featuring Momofuku’s chef and founder, David Chang, who also wrote a foreword in the Benu cookbook.
Below are a few images and excerpts from Lee’s Benu cookbook, which is available on Amazon through publisher Phaidon.
The thousand-year-old quail egg, the first course on the menu. Pidan, as it is known, is usually made with duck eggs, but Lee went with quail eggs for the smaller size and a “whimsical variation” from tradition.
“How pidan was conceived and developed is one of the great mysteries and triumphs so often found in Chinese cuisine,” Lee writes. “And its enjoyment can be a great reward for the adventurous and open-minded eater.”
The beggar’s purse of treasures from the oak is composed of acorn, Iberico ham and black truffle. These are innately connected, Lee says: “It’s such an obvious and natural combination of flavors, but one that’s a product of being Korean, living in northern California, and working in European kitchens.”
Lee didn’t have the fondest memories of growing up with kimchi, and it took him years to reconnect with it. But things have come “full circle” for him, as Benu now makes and serves their own kimchi.
“The most well-known variety, baechukimchi … is what we make at Benu. The flavor profile is based on my mother’s–refreshing, loaded with daikon and green onion, firm in texture, not too sweet or spicy, and just a hint of seafood.”
A view of San Francisco from the Marin headlands. “Benu is very much a restaurant that’s influenced by different cultures,” Lee writes. “The cooking at Benu often explores how Asian flavors, ideas and aesthetics can harmonize with Western ones.”
Lee at a specialty barbecue restaurant in South Korea.
The haenyeo, or “sea women,” of Jeju Island in South Korea. During his visit, Lee and his team had the chance to meet them and photograph the haenyeo as they went about their daily free-dives.
“They are the living emblems of Korean cultural heritage and embody the resilience of its people, and, in particular, the strength and self-sacrifice of its women,” Lee writes. “And for me, their unwavering spirit is much more beautiful and palpable that can be imagined through any folklore.”
Looking for one place to taste over 100 national cuisines? Try Milan.
Expo Milano 2015, which began last Friday and will run until Oct. 31, is showcasing the agricultural and gastronomic contributions of 145 countries from across the globe under this year’s theme, “Feeding the planet, energy for life.”
South Korea is one of many pavilions promoting healthy, accessible and sustainable food in the designated space of 1.1 million square meters in Milan this year. Built in the design of a “moon jar,” a traditional Korean work of pottery shaped like a full moon, the Korea Pavilion is the ninth largest pavilion in the expo. It recently announced that it plans to introduce Korean food, or hansik, to the world as “Food for the Future: You are What You Eat.”
According to Korea’s Expo page, the Korean Pavilion “explores the possibilities of taking its precious heritage of culinary tradition into the future, and demonstrates how to apply these traditions to resolve challenges for the whole of humanity.”
“Our goal is to let the world know Hansik could be a good alternative foods for the future,” said Park Min-gwon, first vice minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism. “We hope to discuss issues regarding sustainable foods during the expo.”
The Korea Pavilion features five exhibitions that guide visitors through today’s food crisis and how Korean food can be a possible solution. Starting with the theme “What Our Bodies Tell Us,” the first exhibit increases awareness of contemporary problems caused by overeating, over-production of processed foods and depletion of food resources.
The following exhibits, grouped under the theme “Hansik: Ask and Korean Wisdom Shall Answer,” illustrate the healthy harmony that comprises Korean food, benefits of fermentation in Korean cuisine and the environmentally preservative practice of underground storage in the fermentation process. The final exhibit, under the theme “Hansik: Food for the Future,” presents Korean food as a reliable and sustainable resource for humanity.
Guests can then taste Korean dishes in the Hansik restaurant, which offers dishes based on the three themes of harmony, health and healing, with an emphasis on natural foods and traditional seasonings. Bibimbap, a mixed rice dish, represents the harmonious aspect of Korean cuisine with its “combination of colors, flavors, and nutrients” in one bowl. The healthy menu includes fermented foods such as kimchi that are rich in probiotics, while healing foods are exemplified by Korean sauces and pastes, or jang, that help boost the immune system.
The expo is “considered one of the three biggest global events alongside the Olympics and the World Cup,” according to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. It will be a huge opportunity for Korea to showcase itself, and, of course, K-pop as well as several other events to spread Korean culture will be held throughout the months of the expo.