Tag Archives: food

Honey Butter Chips

Honey-Flavored Potato Chips: SKorea’s Latest Snack Crave


Honey butter? You have our curiosity. Honey butter potato chips? Now we’re talking!

We would be talking about how delicious they are, but we don’t know where to get them — and apparently, neither do most South Koreans. Haetae’s “Honey Butter Chips” have all but disappeared from store shelves since it was released in August. It’s become the most popular snack item in Korea, and even online vendors are having trouble keeping up with the demand.

Korea Daily reports that over 5 billion won worth of Honey Butter Chips were sold in October, which is amazing considering a snack item is considered a success if its month sales exceed 1 billion won ($929,000).

The Wall Street Journal also reported that accumulated sales have reached 10.3 billion won ($9.3 million), as of Tuesday. Haetae is running around to keep up with demand, adding night and weekend shifts to raise production by 30 to 40 percent.

Honey Chips

So what do these flakes of gold/potato chips taste like? According to So Sung-su, Haetae’s public relations chief, it’s a combination of “salty, sweet and buttery tastes that suit the palate of many South Koreans.” At first glance, they appear to look like your standard salty potato chips, but apparently there’s more to them than meets the eye.

Note the packaging that reads “gourmet butter” from France. Since everything that comes from France is better, we already know that these chips are classy. Paris Baguette should take these chips with them, along with their world-class breads and pastries.

KoreAm did a taste test of Korean chips earlier this year. We may need to conduct a second round.

Photos courtesy of Korea Daily and Chosun Ilbo

Photo by CandaceWest.com3-26-2014,Bao Las Olas1200 E. Las Olas Blvd. , Fort Lauderdale.

Simon Bai Returns to Asian Roots at Bao

by STEVE HAN | @stevehan

Simon Bai speaks Dutch and Creole. His Spanish is also “all right,” he says. MEGA 94, Miami’s local Latin music station targeting its massive Central and South American immigrant population, is his car’s default radio station.

One of the reasons this 33-year-old, South Florida-based entrepreneur opened Bao, an Asian-themed bar and restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, earlier this year was that he grew frustrated with feeling “so not Asian,” even though he’s a full-blooded Korean. “I wanted something to tell me I’m still kind of Asian somewhere, you know?” Bai says, as he sits across the table from me at his bar. “Like, I wanted to do something Asian!”

Born in Brazil, Bai was raised in Suriname and settled in South Florida after he graduated from Penn State with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2003.

“I’m a little screwed-up in the head,” Bai says, laughing. “I’m not Surinamese, technically. I’m not Latin, technically. I’m not Korean, technically. I don’t know what the hell I am. I’ve lived in the U.S. as long as I lived in Suriname. So, am I American then? I don’t know. I won’t consider myself American until the friggin’ immigration gives me a green card.”

Green card or not, South Florida is where Bai, who’s in the U.S. on an investor visa, feels at home more than anywhere else in the U.S. After finishing college, he landed a job at Motorola, which had a plant near Miami until 2004. That’s when Bai took the entrepreneurial route and started a frozen yogurt and cupcake business amid the nation’s Pinkberry craze. The business took off, Bai says, and that’s what shepherded him into the hospitality industry. He ran a wine bar and then a sports bar, which he sold last year to start Bao.

Opened this past February, Bao (which could mean “treasure” in Mandarin and also refers to a popular bun in Chinese cuisine) is located by the waterway on the strip of Las Olas, Ft. Lauderdale’s hip and bustling shopping and dining district, where even those cruising on a boat could pull up for a cocktail by the water.

What’s more impressive is that the bar, built using wood from the Munguur tree, complemented by Indonesian teak furniture, was mostly designed by Bai himself. He transformed what used to be an old Chinese restaurant into an attractive nightlife destination in only six months.

“I’m the restaurant vulture, the restaurant rehabilitator, or whatever it is,” Bai says. “I always try to find failing restaurants, see if there’s an opportunity, and I’ll go and redo everything. When you grow up in a third-world country, you grow up without resources. So that’s how I approach everything. Every restaurant I buy, I basically gut it.”

Bai’s father, who picked up Portuguese during college in Korea, first moved to Brazil in the 1970s, when an American seafood company with offices in Brazil hired him to communicate with Korean fishermen and ship captains. After Bai was born, his family moved to Suriname, where his father started his own business, exporting shrimp to the U.S. and Japan.

Sensing that the only way to ensure quality education for their two children was by sending them abroad, Bai’s parents sent him and his sister to Miami in 1998. Bai has been in the U.S. since, but still visits his hometown of Paramaribo several times a year to reunite with his friends—with whom he shares fond memories of going “stray dog hunting.”

“We had packs of stray dogs,” Bai recalls. “That’s how third-world it was. But I loved the place. That’s home, where anything is possible.”

Even in Suriname, Bai grew up in a traditional Korean household—attending piano lessons and taking taekwondo throughout his childhood—but today, he only speaks broken Korean (his first language is Dutch and second is Creole). He remarks that this reporter is the first Korean he’s met in person this year, aside from his sister who came to visit him a few months ago. But he proudly says that his upbringing in Suriname, where resources are vastly limited, helped him develop the business mind that inspired his growing hospitality empire.

“I look at different start-ups and I’m like, ‘Why are these guys so spoiled?’” Bai says. “They do rounding, funding and raise all this money. They kind of operate comfortably. I operate like I’m going out of business every single day because, then, there’s that fire up my ass, and I just run. That’s what I do.”

At Bao, Bai’s fifth project, the kitchen is almost fully exposed to the dining area, so that anyone at the bar could watch its executive chef, Mark Rivera, make both authentic and fusion Asian cuisine. Bai and Rivera both take great pride in using high-quality ingredients.

“South Florida’s dining destinations kind of suck,” Bai says. “It’s more geared towards tourists and volume, as opposed to quality. That’s what we’re trying to change. Everything is actually cooked. Everything is fresh grown, which is new. In California, you have more opportunity to go from farm to table. I’ll give you an example. It’s extremely hard to find wild sockeye salmon. We literally seek it. That’s why we also run out of a lot of things. That’s our biggest complaint right now. Grass-fed beef, for instance, they run out of them. We literally seek farms, fisheries, to provide us with better ingredients.”

Bai is even willing to leave money on the table by refusing to serve sushi and pad Thai, just so that they could protect the brand they’re trying to build with Bao.

“If you go down the strip here, there are four Asian restaurants,” says Bai. “They do what sells—California rolls and pad Thai. I don’t even know how much money we lost because we don’t have sushi. The idea behind that is so that people don’t pigeonhole us as ‘that other Asian restaurant.’ When  they talk about us, whether it’s good or bad, I want them to say, “Oh, let’s go to that crazy place where they don’t have your typical Asian dishes.’”

The next goal for Bao is to expand its boundaries. Bai is already in negotiations with two other locations in South Florida, where he hopes to run “express” versions of Bao.

“The current version [of Bao] is fine dining,” Bai says. “We’re a dinner destination. So I’m pushing that lunch aspect, lunch and light dinner. We’ll take the current menu and dumb it down to fast food. You look at the Chipotle model, they’ve got an amazing model, so we’re trying to be the Asian version of that.

“This is my first Asian concept,” he adds. “I wanted to do something Asian [because] I’m friggin’ Asian! I’m trying to go back to my roots.”


Photo by CandaceWest.com.

This article was published in the October/November 2014 issue of KoreAm under the title “Finally Friggin’ Asian”  Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the magazine issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).

The RushOrder team

Online Food Delivery App Taps into L.A.’s Koreatown


Ordering delivery from a slew of neighborhood restaurants, all from the convenience of your smartphone or mobile device, has never been easier thanks to apps like Seamless, Eat24 and other brands.

The latest product to join the online food delivery space is RushOrder, a Los Angeles-based start-up that aims not only to minimize wait times for things like the check or a latte for the busy person on the go, but also to bring small mom-and-pop-type establishments in Los Angeles’ Koreatown into the online delivery fold.

This pairing of Korean restaurant options with the technological ease of ordering menu items online (let alone discovering such a place exists within several miles of your location) is one thing the team behind RushOrder believes separates it from its competitors.

“We’re familiar with these places and the people who go there, so we’re able to bring these restaurants into our system,” said Eric Kim, RushOrder’s chief operating officer. “We’re providing access to users and customers who haven’t had access to these restaurants before. A customer can now order from restaurants that serve Korean blood sausages.”

RushOrder originally was conceived as a way to eliminate inefficiencies of the dine-in experience, such as waiting for a server to take an order or bring the check. The product has since undergone several “pivots,” as the team members put it, by focusing on partnering with restaurants and capitalizing on the growing popularity of L.A.’s Koreatown.

RushOrder launched in February. Though it aims to serve cities all over the country, it’s concentrated in L.A. for now.

Available on Android Google Play and Apple iOS for the iPhone and iPad, the RushOrder app hopes to fill a large gap in the online food delivery space.

“The thing we want to emphasize is Koreatown and how those restaurants are not really on these online platforms,” Kim said. “We want to introduce this older generation of Koreans who own these businesses to technology.”

“On the tech side,” he added, “a lot of online ordering companies haven’t been able to access this market because the people who run it aren’t familiar with this space and the language barriers.”

Kim, a 30-year-old former Wall Street consultant who grew up in Koreatown, credits popular chefs like the Kogi Truck’s Roy Choi and culinary television personality Anthony Bourdain for helping put Koreatown on the map as a food destination, thus making it a prime source of savory dining options for the online delivery crowd.

RushOrder will soon be offering delivery and takeout from nearly 300 restaurants in the greater Los Angeles area, including lesser-known places like Nak Won House, Wako Donkasu, Myung In Dumplings and Jang Teo Bossam, in addition to pizza joints and delicatessen staples.

“The mobile ordering payment space is pretty competitive,” Kim acknowledged. “There are lots of companies like us running around. The challenge isn’t getting the restaurants on board. The important metric is, how fast are they growing orders and users, and are they bringing in business?”

So among the plethora of online delivery platforms that seem to be expanding by the day, is there really room for another product?

“Yes,” says Kim. “Delivery is becoming a much greater part of peoples’ lives. Everyone is so busy these days. People spend less time going out to eat and more time working and keeping themselves busy.”

“Even in a place like L.A.,” he said, “the need for delivery is growing rapidly.” Plus, Kim adds, “The Koreatown community is becoming much more popular in Los Angeles.”

Photo Courtesy of RushOrder


‘Calculus Chocolates’ Offer Sweet Relief for Korean Students


Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.

That is, unless you buy a box from Piaf Artisan Chocolatiers in South Korea. And if your life revolves around studying, like most Korean students during the annual college entrance exam season, a box of Piaf Artisan chocolates might be exactly what you’re looking for.

The latest work from the Seoul-based chocolatier features candies decorated with calculus equations. Assuming the chocolate is delicious, this could very well be the perfect food for thought.

Chocolate 1

“I hope these can bring a smile to their faces as they get themselves prepared for the exams,” creator Ko Eun-su told the Wall Street Journal.

Ko, who left a seven-year career as a computer engineer to pursue his passion in chocolate-making, explained that he took the project “very seriously.” But the feedback wasn’t quite what he expected.

“[Customers] said people cracked up when they got these [chocolates],” he said.

The calculus chocolates are sold in box sets of four, nine and 15, and they will run you 13,000 won ($12), 25,000 won ($23) and 39,000 won ($36) respectively. Each box also comes with a helpful booklet explaining the equations.

Chocolate 4

Chocolate 5

You can check out the rest of Piaf Artisan Chocolatier’s creations at their Facebook page.

Images via Piaf Artisan Chocolatier

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 5.35.32 PM

LINK ATTACK: Jamie Chung, Hallyu Beauty Storm, Kim Jong Il’s Former Bodyguard

North Korean Defector: ‘I Was Kim Jong Il’s Bodyguard’
“When Kim Jong Il would arrive in his vehicle, 60- to 70-year old advisors would run away and throw themselves onto the grass. They had dust on their clothes but they wanted to hide from him,” said Lee Young-guk, who was a former body guard to the late Kim Jong Il for 10 years. “They are scared because even when he was happy he would be rude and could chop off their heads.”

Skin Care Products from South Korea Catch on in the United States
Although the beauty market has long been led by European countries, South Korean beauty products are starting to become a popular trend in the States.

Vietnamese Translation Errors Could Affect Prop. 46
“An error in translation for voter materials for Proposition 46, which would require drug and alcohol testing for physicians, could be affecting the way Vietnamese Americans vote on the measure.”

The Super Jamie Chung in Big Hero 6
KoreAm‘s sister publication Audrey Magazine interviews Jamie Chung, the voice actress behind the speed demon GoGo Tomago in Disney’s latest animated film, Big Hero 6. 


The Odd Friendship Between North Korea and Its First American Surfers
Julie Nelson was one of the first people to ever surf in North Korean waters and led the reclusive country’s first-ever surf camp, which showed North Koreans what a surfboard looks like and even taught some locals on how to swim.

OC Korean American Voter Turnout Increased Twofold Since June
“The number of Orange County Korean American voters who participated in Tuesday’s general elections increased about twofold since June primary elections.”

Son of South Korea Ferry Owner Is Convicted of Stealing Millions
“The eldest son of the South Korean business mogul who controlled the company that ran the Sewol ferry, which sank in April, leaving more than 300 people dead, was convicted of embezzlement on Wednesday and sentenced to three years in prison.”

Asian American Horror Thriller The Unbidden Launches Kickstarter
The Unbidden follows the story of four women haunted by the ghost of a tortured man, who knows their dark secrets from their past and seeks vengeance. Starring an all Asian American cast with Tamilyn Tomita, Julia Nickson, Elizabeth Sung, Amy Hill, Jason Yee and Karin Anna Cheung, this psychological thriller delves into the issue of domestic violence and the morality of retribution.

7 Deadly Spicy Korean Ramens to Try
Think you can handle spicy food? Koreaboo lists seven of Korea’s spiciest instant noodle brands.

South Korean Monk Tends to Souls of Dead Enemy Soldiers
A South Korean Buddhist monk cares for the graves of 769 North Korean soldiers in a forgotten cemetery along the SFXI Highway that runs from Seoul to the barbed wire fences of the demilitarized zone.

Japanese Swimmer Denies Stealing Camera at Asian Games
Naoya Tomita, a Japanese swimmer who was accused of stealing a camera during the Asian Games in South Korea, denied the allegations earlier this week, stating that an unidentified male forcefully put it in his bag.

The Unbelievable Story of a Woman Who Taught North Korea’s Elite Undercover
Suki Kim, an American journalist born in South Korea, talks to Huffington Post about her surreal experience teaching at the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

Heard in Seoul: Views on Reunification
Korea Real Time hits the streets of Seoul and asks South Koreans about their thoughts, hopes and concerns for a possible reunification with North Korea.


A Journey to the Heart of Korean Cheese
“Imsil, in North Jeolla Province, was where Korea’s first cheese was produced in 1964 by Belgian missionary Didier Serstevens, who wanted to bring the community a sustainable income…”

South Korea Tries to Re-brand DMZ as Rare Animal Sanctuary
The South Korean government pushes for the construction of a wildlife sanctuary in the middle of the DMZ as part of a trust-building strategy between the two Koreas.

5 Most Innovative Korean Restaurants in NYC
Korean cuisine has been growing steadily popular among New York foodies. Here are five innovative Korean restaurants in NYC you don’t want to miss.


Why Most East Asians Are Lactose Intolerant


It’s been several hours since you enjoyed that delicious milkshake, and now your belly protests with rumbling, cramping — probable harbingers of flatulence and watery diarrhea quickly heading down the pipe, your pipe.

You could digest milk as a kid, so what happened to you? Why did you lose such a useful biological power?

Let’s start with some basics. Lactose is a sugar found in mammalian milk — the milk of cows, humans, even East Asians. It’s composed of two simpler sugars linked together.

Enzymes are proteins that behave like chemical factory workers in your body and are typically named with the suffix -ase. A particular enzyme will perform a specific function, like joining two molecules or splitting one apart. Lactase enzymes in your small intestines break down countless lactose molecules into glucose and galactose, which are small enough to be absorbed by your gut lining.

Unless you don’t have enough of this enzyme, that is. Most human children feature lactase in their intestines, which allows them during their breastfeeding years to digest milk produced by their moms. But some of us will experience a drastic decrease in the amount of this enzyme, often around age 5. This reduction is known as lactase nonpersistence. If the lactose isn’t reduced for absorption, it remains in the intestines, pulling in water from the rest of the body (hello, diarrhea) and being converted by our intestinal bacteria into unpleasant stuff, including lots of hydrogen gas.

Many East Asians and Native Americans, up to 90 percent in some ethnic groups, become lactose-intolerant after the early childhood years as their genes direct a slowdown in the production of lactase. A nearly opposite ratio of lactase nonpersistence exists in people of northern European descent, who can digest dairy throughout adulthood. Why the difference?

Those human cultures that relied on dairy as an important source of nutrition created a survival pressure on its members. Those individuals who could absorb lactose were more likely to survive and pass on their genes, including those for lactose digestion. The individuals who had trouble absorbing lactose experienced diarrhea, malabsorption of other nutrients, and were therefore more susceptible to disease and earlier death, reducing their chances to establish a lactose-intolerant family.

There are other ways to be lactose intolerant. Some persons have a genetic issue preventing production of lactase enzymes, even in infancy. Others may temporarily develop lactose intolerance during an illness affecting the bowel. Lactose intolerance is not the same as allergy to milk proteins, which is a problem of the immune system, not of lactase deficiency.

So how do the lactose intolerant navigate their way through a dairy-laden world? You can consume just small amounts of dairy at a time. You can veer toward cheese and yogurt, which tend to contain less lactose than milk. If you want milk, there is the option of buying milk pretreated with lactase that has broken down lactose into its constituent sugars; since you now have two sugars in place of every lactose molecule, lactose-free milk tends to be sweeter than regular milk, a bonus for those who have to pay extra for the lactose-free variety.

And you can buy over-the-counter lactase enzymes to consume along with your favorite dairy item, though be aware that the pills might not perfectly deconstruct every molecule of lactose present in your food — in other words, you still might experience some of the symptoms of lactose intolerance, though hopefully at a lesser intensity.

Lastly, the lactose intolerant can simply avoid dairy altogether. Today there is a multitude of dairy-free options that allow us to enjoy the taste of our favorite dairy items without suffering as some of our ancestors would have.

Dr. Sean Chung is an internal medicine physician based in Southern California.


KoreAm put together a list of some dairy-free alternatives to some of your favorite foods. 

This article was published in the October/November 2014 issue of KoreAm under the title “Dare to Have Dairy”  Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the magazine issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).


KFC SKorea’s New Double Down Makes You Feel Like a King


It’s not often you see fast food from around the world outdoing the sodium-laden, artery-clogging and calorie-loaded fast food of the United States. But globalization is sometimes a wonderful thing, and its latest product hails from KFC South Korea.

The Zinger Double Down King is the latest in the KFC Double Down evolutionary line, which had its humble beginnings in 2010 with two fried chicken fillets acting as buns to encase cheese and bacon. Now, the Zinger Double Down King (Zinger refers to the spicy chicken available at KFC) includes a beef patty and barbecue sauce.

This fearsome construction of beef, pork and chicken carries 750 calories, but on the bright side, it’s all yours for a very lucky $7!

Image via Tumblr

If you take your cheat days seriously, be sure to check out the other iterations of the Double Down. The Zinger Double Down Maxx, released last year, feature bacon, cheese and a hash brown between the fried chicken buns. It is now apparently a permanent menu item due to popular demand.

Looking for other Asian fast food treats (abominations)? Be sure to check out Burger King Japan’s burger with black cheese and bun and McDonald’s Japan’s response, the black “Squid Ink Burger.”

Image via KFC South Korea


Chef Corey Lee’s Benu Receives Three Michelin Stars


San Francisco’s reputation for excellent cuisine soared as two more of its restaurants were awarded three stars by the 2015 Michelin Guide to Bay Area restaurants, which was released earlier today.

As of yesterday, Chef Corey Lee’s Benu and Joshua Skenes’ Saison joined Bay Area’s restaurants the French Laundry and the Restaurant at Meadowood in the esteemed three-star category.

Michelin’s international director told Mercury News what set Benu and Saison apart were a “dazzling and distinctive fusion of local ingredients, Asian inspiration and Northern Californian gastronomic sensibility.”

Lee opened Benu in August 2010 and was given two stars by Michelin in October 2011. KoreAm had the opportunity to talk to him then about the food he serves, as well as his journey to becoming one of the most well-known chefs in San Francsico. You can read the article here from the November 2011 issue of KoreAm.

Expect to hear a lot more about Lee and Skenes and their cuisine in the coming months. Lee, a French Laundry alum, opened Monsieur Benjamin, a 90-seat bistro, over the summer, and he is putting together a cookbook. Skenes also has one on the way, and he plans to open a hand-pulled noodle restaurant with Umami Burger founder Adam Fleischman in 2015.

Mercury News also noted the rise of Asian-inspired restaurants on the Michelin list. Along with Benu and Saison, sushi restaurants Kusakabe and Maruya joined the one-star roster. Seven out of the 13 newcomers to the 2015 Michelin Bib Gourmand honors, which is bestowed on excellent restaurants where two courses and a glass of wine costs $40 or less, were Chinese, Japanese or Asian-inspired. You can find the full list of the 2015 restaurants here.

According to SF Gate, it’s the first time in history that San Francisco proper has had a three-star Michelin restaurant, let alone two. The French Laundry and the Restaurant at Meadowood are both in Napa Valley.

If you’re looking to make a reservation at the newly-christened Benu or Saison, do it quickly and expect to pay a good amount. Saison was already among the most expensive restaurants in America, and Benu could understandably raise their prices.

The West Coast now boasts four Michelin three-star restaurants, although unfortunately for Southern Californians, they’re all in the Bay Area. Chef Roy Choi is quick to defend the Southland, however.

The 2015 Michelin dining guide for San Francisco, one of just three U.S. regions to have its own guide, goes on sale today. The Michelin Guide discontinued its Los Angeles version two years ago.

Photo by Vivien Kim Thorp