Tag Archives: food

Spam

Spam Is Premium, Even If It Doesn’t Make You Feel Like It

by JAMES S. KIM

Pretty much every year around this time, you’ll hear about how spam is a big thing in Korea. We enjoy it (hopefully sparingly) over here in the States, too, so what’s the big deal about the pink substance?

This upcoming Monday is Chuseok, also known as the Korean Thanksgiving, and according to the Wall Street Journal, Koreans spent $354 million on Spam last year. Just for this Chuseok season, 3.1 million Spam gift sets (these do exist) were released into the market.

For those who have a hard time with numbers, like this writer, think of it this way: Spam ranks alongside premium beauty products, fine cuts of beef and imported wine in South Korea.

That’s right. For every new bottle of a magical BB cream or such, someone is looking just as hard for cans of Spam. Ebay Korea said that canned ham gift sets, including Spam, were the second-highest selling gift item in August, after body and beauty sets. Priorities, am I right?

So why the obsession with Spam? Most of us have heard the story: The American military introduced Spam to Korea during the Korean War, and since meat was scarce, Spam was often the go-to product for a starving population. Somewhere along the line, budae jjigae, or literally “army stew,” came into existence with Spam and/or hot dogs as the staple ingredients. Throw in some cultural nostalgia, and you have Spam to go along with the han.

But there are plenty of modern reasons that keep Spam relevant in Korean society and stomachs. This year, for example, Chuseok is a bit earlier than usual, which puts into question the availability and prices of fresh food.

More people also live alone these days, and in order to minimize waste and save time in preparing food, they’ll turn to canned food. Mothers are also busier than ever before, and Spam allows them to prepare a quick breakfast or packed lunch. Koreans are also increasingly taking up camping, and as they are surely finding out, canned food always tastes better in the wilderness.

CJ CheilJedang, the food branch of the parent CJ company, produces official Spam under license. To keep their product relevant for young people, it is also backing a smartphone app that prevents spam messages. The slogan reads “Block Spam messages/calls with Whosecall, and eat delicious Spam.” CJ’s television divisions also have plenty of product placement.

So whether you’re going to work on Monday, celebrating Chuseok with your family or perhaps even camping, have no qualms in including Spam with your meals. Koreans don’t care–except, ironically, in making sure that their Spam isn’t the same as the one in America. Korean Spam doesn’t include tendons, tiny bones and blood vessels, but in the end, it all tastes the same…right?

Image via Wall Street Journal

roychoi

Roy Choi to Launch Healthy, Affordable Fast Food Chain

by JAMES S. KIM

Is there anything this man isn’t doing?

In his latest culinary venture, chef Roy Choi is partnering up with San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson to launch a new chain of fast food restaurants called Loco’l. The chefs made the announcement on Monday at MAD4, the fourth annual Copenhagen conference for chefs, cooks and farmers.

“We want to go toe to toe with fast food chains and offer the community a choice,” Choi told Inside Scoop SF.

“Price point, culture, design, hospitality, relevance and most of all flavor. We will be using all our sciences and knowledge and sixth sense as restaurateurs/chefs to create a concept people love and a menu they crave, but keep it all in the pocket, keep it all affordable and delicious, and speak to what the people want.”

All items on the menu will range from $2-$6 in order to compete with places like McDonald’s and Burger King. The recipes will be prepared by Patterson, who owns the Coi in San Francisco and has appeared on PBS’s Mind of a Chef. According to LA Eater, dishes will include burgers made with a beef and tofu mixture, salads, rice bowls, and “cross-cultural” items like falafel and tacos–the latter of which Choi knows a thing or two about.

For the lucky NorCal folk, Choi and Patterson plan to open the first Loco’l branch in San Francisco in spring 2015, and Los Angeles will get its own a few months later.

“High-level chefs have an opportunity to do much more than just cook for the few people who can afford it,” Patterson said in a blog post on the MAD website. “We can create real change, in this case, by building a better business. As much as thoughtful articles and speeches and books are important in shifting how we think, they are not going to solve the food problems we have in our country.

“If we can open profitable restaurants that are inexpensive and serve delicious food made with real ingredients; if we bring new options to places that currently lack quality food; if we cook with heart; if we create an environment of warmth, generosity and caring; if we value the people with less money just as much as the ones with plenty, we can make a difference.”

At last year’s MAD conference, Choi emphasized social responsibility among chefs to bring delicious, healthy food to people in need. And as busy as he’s been, especially with the recently opened Commissary restaurant at the Line Hotel in Koreatown, where he also has Pot, Pot Cafe and Pot Bar, the chef appears to be doing his part to carry out that vision.

Last year, Choi opened the 3 Worlds Cafe in South Central Los Angeles, which is often referred to as a food desert because of the lack of healthy food options available in the area. With its fresh juices, smoothies and coffee the goal was to bring healthy, delicious options to a place where chefs and restaurants normally kept away from, as well as provide a place for local youth to frequent.

Choi said Loco’l was the beginning of a “ripple movement,” and like the inspiration for its name, it’s going to be crazy.

“Loco–we are crazy to do this and you’re crazy to believe it,” he said. “Local–it’s about the community and everyone, not just the ones that can afford it. Loco’l.”

Snacks

Buzzfeed: Trying Korean Snacks For The First Time

by JAMES S. KIM

It’s no question that Korean snacks are the business, and they take the spotlight in Buzzfeed’s latest food venture. A panel of Americans tried a variety of drinks and munchies one would find in their local Korean supermarket for the first time, and for the most part, they seemed to enjoy them.

The lineup of snacks included the sweet nectar that is Milkis, to the wonderful squid and peanut ball and tteok (rice cake). One panelist confused red bean for peanut butter, but that’s somewhat forgivable.

Has anyone tried the fish sausage? We like our fish and odeng, but we’ve never had it in that form. This panelist’s reaction doesn’t give us much reassurance:

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Check out our own taste test of Korean chips and Korean ice cream bars if you might need any guidance in exploring a whole new world of flavors and calories.

Block Party

We’re Giving Away Free Tickets To The K-Town Night Market & OC Block Party

We weren’t the only ones to have a blast at the first K-Town Night Market in April. Lots of people did. So many, in fact, that organizers are doing another one—this time, down in Orange County. On Aug. 22 and 23, Korean/Asian food vendors and trucks (Seoul Sausage!), entertainers (David Choi! Jason Yang! B-Boys!) and thousands of attendees will gather at Angel Stadium for two nights of belly-filling revelry. While we’re a little sad the event isn’t actually in Koreatown this time, the venue is a major upgrade in terms of parking and breathing room.

KoreAm has partnered with the folks at K-Town Night Market & OC Block Party to give away free passes to the first 250 readers who use the promo code “koream” on the event’s ticket page. One ticket per person, per email. Can’t wait to see you there!

More info about the event can be found on its Facebook page.

A video from the last K-Town Night Market:

And some photos from last time to make you hungry:

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takoyaki
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Photos via K-Town Night Market & OC Block Park

noodle_machines

VIDEO: How Ramen Noodles Are Made

by JAMES S. KIM

If MacGyver were reincarnated as a food item, he would be ramen. The ramen noodle is quite possibly the most versatile food that can be “reinvented” in a variety of ways. These include the famous ramen burger, the ramen noodle grilled cheese sandwich, the “Ramenrrito” (ramen + burrito) and the somewhat forcing-the-issue ramen-crusted chicken nuggets.

But many purists would say ramen in its original form is the best.

New Jersey-based Sun Noodles provides the essential ingredient to a bowl of ramen: the noodles. Potluck Video records the process of what goes into the production, from choosing the proper ingredients to how it is created and packaged away to be eaten by some lucky restaurateur.

The factory churns out over 20,000 servings of noodles a day, made from 40,000 lbs of flour a day. While the noodles aren’t crafted in the traditional manner by hand, the same care and attention to detail starts at the very beginning.

Kenshiro Uki describes how the initial mixing period is important, where “each particle of flour hits each particle of water.” Once that mixture reaches a certain temperature, it is pressed and then cut into over 150 different combinations of noodles based on thickness and consistency, including a few you can see on the Sun Noodle website.

Koreans might see a similarity to how kalguksu is prepared. Kalguksu, which translates to literally “knife noodles,” is also made from wheat flour and, as the name suggests, is cut up before being prepared. It’s completely different from the rock-hard, squiggly squares that come paired with a packet of soup base.

You can view the behind-the-scenes video at Sun Noodles below.

Image via Ramen Udon Noodle 101

pizza-taco-1

Pizza + Korean Tacos = Korean Taco Pizza, Now On the Menu at Pizza Hut Korea

by JAMES S. KIM

Korean and Mexican food seems like a match made in the kitchens of heaven. Chef Roy Choi got the equation right with his Kogi tacos—now, how else can the trend be interpreted?

Pizza Hut Korea takes on the challenge with its spicy Pork Taco Pizza, and while the concept isn’t new, it changes things up with the addition of Korean-seasoned shredded pork. Top it off with cheese, salsa, tomatoes, lettuce and jalapeños, and voilà.

The pizzas are about 10-13 inches, and the proper way to eat it is to obviously fold the slices in half, like a taco.

Finding good Mexican food in South Korea is like finding a nonexistent needle in a haystack, but maybe, just maybe, this could slowly start reversing that trend.

Pizza Taco

Images via Food Beast

Pocheon14

This Crazy, Penis-Themed Restaurant Exists In South Korea (NSFW)

by JAMES S. KIM

This article contains images and content that some may find objectionable. 

We think we know what became of the Spider-Man statue with an erection that was taken down in Busan, South Korea. It may have found a new home at a two-story restaurant and cafe in the city of Pocheon, about an hour and a half outside of Seoul.

The Deulmusae restaurant is a shrine to the male genitalia and it isn’t particularly, ahem, hard to find. The road leading to it is marked with penises, which illuminate at night. The building itself is marked by a giant erect penis that spits out smoke as a chimney.

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Pocheon13Because nothing says welcome better than an erect member.

Deulmusae opened in 1996, but it wasn’t until a Buddhist monk visited the restaurant and felt it had too much female/cold energy (yin) that the restaurant changed its theme.

The owner decided to balance out that energy with plenty of penises. Local artisans have since crafted the ceramic ware, sculptures and all the other phallic imagery. Talk about some serious compensating.

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But aside from all the phallic imagery, one can’t forget about the food. The Deulmusae Course Lunch Set includes corn soup, fried fish filet, pork cutlet and Korean-style hamburger steak. Salad and rice is also available on the side. The haemulpajeon, or seafood pancake, is served on a ceramic plate that includes a labia.

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Deulmusae also has an extensive beverage list, from coffee to tea to cocktails. Cold drinks are served in cups based on gender: Women receive penis cups while males are given vaginae. To top it off, the straws are “strategically” placed.

Pocheon is also apparently famous for its makgeolli (rice wine).

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The restaurant also includes a gift shop, which sells tea cups, pitchers, key chains and even soap.

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There’s also a world map made from ceramic penises. Yup.

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For those looking to visit, check out My Seoul Searching for directions.

Images via Kotaku and My Seoul Searching.

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L.A. Chef Sylvia Yoo Brings It With Churro Ice Cream Sandwiches

by RUTH KIM

Sugar, spice, and everything (n)ice–Churro Borough is the new kid on the block bringing Los Angelenos the perfect summer dessert: the churro ice cream sandwich.

Created by Los Angeles chef Sylvia Yoo, Churro Burough is a guerrilla operation that’s been around since 2011. Inspired by the culture of Los Angeles street food and art, as well as the idea of serving the masses, the dessert pop-up is raiding the streets of L.A. with its handcrafted churro ice cream sandwiches. Their motto? “Pastry propaganda. Guerrilla goodies.” Now that’s bad-ass.

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Yoo, who enrolled in culinary school in New York in 2007, has been around some of the most intense kitchens in the Big Apple, including Jean-Georges and WD-50. After moving back to New York, she attempted to balance working at an interior design firm and as a chef at Red Medicine, but the pressure was too much to handle. She decided to take matters into her own hands.

“When I moved back to LA, it was the beginning of the ice cream boom, with places like Carmela and Sweet Rose opening shop. Working in pastry, ice cream was always my favorite thing to make and eat. I had dreams of running my own business, but I knew I needed my product to stand out,” Yoo told Chow.

Well, she’s certainly made a huge splash in the L.A. ice cream scene, with some claiming that the churro ice cream sandwich could be the “worthy cronut successor”. The perfect crispy exterior of the flattened churro “cookies,” hugging a bed of velvety, delicious ice cream certainly seems pretty irresistible. Daily flavors include vanilla custard, horchata, Mexican hot chocolate, and Spanish latte; seasonal flavors are orange creamsicle, panna cotta, caramel apple pie, strawberry buttermilk, and peach cobbler. According to Chow, Yoo makes all of the products herself. Ice cream shakes with churro dipping fries and Churrons (churro-flavored macaroons) are in the works as well. (Be right back–I’m crying tears of joy.)

Since Churro Borough is a guerrilla establishment, you’ll need to stay posted on their pop-up whereabouts. Yoo and her delectable sandwiches will be at the LA Street Food Festival at the Rose Bowl on June 28 and at Tasting Table’s Lobster Rumble West on August 1.

Photos via Churro Borough’s Instagram