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Korean Food a Hit at… Murray State University, Kentucky?

No, it’s not one of those puff pieces from the KT or the Chosun Ilbo. It’s an article from Restaurants and Institutions magazine, which would be different because R&I is a U.S. based industry journal and its readers are the owners and managers of restaurants and cafeterias across North America. Although the increasing penetration of Korean food into the mainstream is featured in the article, the article’s larger theme is that ethnic Asian food in general is becoming more accepted in the States.

Per the article:

The new Korean menu at Murray State University in Murray, Ky., is a hit, and the best proof is the empty plates. Dishes come back bare when students sample recipes such as beef bulgogi, seaweed soup and spicy chicken. To meet demand, the kitchen has more than doubled production of the recipes since the items debuted in August.

“It’s amazing how many people are trying the Korean items,” says Director of Dining Services Richard Fritz… Consumers have turned many mainstream Asian dishes such as stir-fries and pad Thai into American staples, but there is still plenty to explore in Asian cuisines… Understanding which lesser-known Asian dishes are likely to translate well across audiences and mixing in their components among familiar recipes…

Interesting piece. You can read the rest here.

  • user-81

    Don’t be fooled. Asian colonizers from the Orient, usually in the form of ESL students, exchange students and graduate students, are the driving force of this trend toward Asian food. The plates wiped clean? A dead giveaway that it was Koreans doing the eating.

    http://www.murraystate.edu/international/esl/index.htm

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Good point U-81… However, this isn’t always the case. I remember the lonely Sorabol eatery in the Cerritos Mall food court go out of business in a city (Cerritos, CA) that was over 25% Korean.

  • thekorean

    I lived in Cerritos (my parents are still living in La Palma), and I clearly remember that. Sorabol went out of business because 1. the food sucked balls, and 2. there are plenty of Korean food options that are far, far, FAR superior in Cerritos.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    #3,

    Did you go to JFK or Oxford (the wannabe Whitney)?

    I don’t know if the food sucked balls at Sorabol. This one girl that I didn’t like worked there so I went to Great Khan’s Mongolian Grill instead.

    But as far as Korean fast food, Sorabol and Busy Bee were the only games in town (Cerritos and the Mid-Cities, 562)…

  • thekorean

    Actually, I went to Cerritos High. I was too dumb for Whitney. (Although my mom used to teach Korean there — go figure. My brother and I joke that we sacrificed so much so that our mother can get into a good school.) I took the exam for WHS when I moved to the US, but not being able to speak/read/write anything more than basic English at that point probably doomed my chances.

    But back to food. Isn’t the idea of “Korean fast food” an oxymoron? If I wanted fast Asian food, I’m going to Panda, Great Khan, or something of that ilk. I feel like Korean food has to be enjoyed at a restaurant, with a lot of banchan along with the main dish. IMHO, Korean restauranteurs are better off packaging Korean food as a gourmet item like Thai food rather than cheap fast food.

  • user-81

    Good point U-81… However, this isn’t always the case. I remember the lonely Sorabol eatery in the Cerritos Mall food court go out of business in a city (Cerritos, CA) that was over 25% Korean.

    Maybe they would have done better if they called it “Sora Bowl”.

    thekorean, the better food options in most Korea-heavy communities is called “home”. Why go out for Korean when your mom will make it? Non-Korean Asians will help with the customer base, but that’s not always enough.

    My point is that Murray, Kentucky is not California. Corn dog-fed whitey isn’t going to go for it much. But university cafeterias are a different situation because they have more and more Koreans who are stuck there with no mom around to cook AND they have other Asian students in the same situation who would rather eat other Asian cuisine than another heavy American meal. A lot of Chinese and Japanese students would rather eat Korean than American.

    The ESL colonizers will change America forever!

  • user-81

    Wangkon, I do think it’s an important trend. Even if Korean and other Asians are pushing the Korean food in universities in Hickville USA I guess some locals will try it and some will like it and want more. It could be the start of Korean food being the next thing after Chinese, Japanese, and Thai.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    U-81… you’d be suprised. I found a great Pho place in Irvine on the advice of a white lady, from Santa Barbara, who can’t live without it!

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    TK,

    That’s okay. I went to Artesia. I have two cousins who went to Whitney. I found Whitney kids to be ones who peaked intellectually in middle school. I don’t think you’ll ever have one of their alums get a Nobel Prize or a CEO position at a Fortune 500 company. Whitney is an Asian parent hood ornament and pretty much nothing else.

    School of Dreams my ass…

  • user-81

    U-81… you’d be suprised. I found a great Pho place in Irvine on the advice of a white lady, from Santa Barbara, who can’t live without it!

    WK, … Nope, can’t do it… looks too much like wjk.

    Wangkon936, I know there are SOME non-Asian folks who will eat “new” Asian food. But they’re not enough for an unfamiliar cuisine to establish a beachhead. Enough locally placed ethnics who can’t easily get it at home are what will bring unfamiliar Asian cuisine (including Korean) to American shopping centers and strip malls. Viva la ESL students!

  • http://orientem.blogspot.com/ The Western Confucian

    Bibimbap was big at my university, SUNY Buffalo, back in the ’90s. It was cheap and filling, two important criteria for university students.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    Why is Kentucky so appealing to Koreans? It seems like half of the Koreans who’ve lived in the US that I know here in Korea have lived there.

    As for Korean food being popular on university campuses…

    I’m sure the students welcome the variety. It sure beats having to eat the same old low-grade crap that university cafeterias usually serve.

  • http://yeomso.blogspot.com/ The Goat

    @11

    I agree 100%. I ate at a franchise called Kobe Beef a lot during my university days. The price was great and the quantity was outstanding.

    There are a few Korean foods that could do this as well. I don’t see why it can’t succeed given proper placement and a little marketing.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    # 12,

    I haven’t heard that Kentucky is a hot bed of Korean immigration or study abroad, but if it is so, perhaps because of this?

    http://www.golfkentuckylinks.com/

  • kerplunk

    This is a great post.
    I count as Korea’s three technological contributions to human civilization as moveable metal type, the turtle ship, and food.
    Even a bland , greasy poor imitation served up in a university cafeteria will open the window to this wonderful Korean discovery.

    WangKon936, there is no such thing as real pho on this continent. If you like this dish, get on a plane.

    Western Confucian, Bibimbap in my book is over rated. its rice in a bowl with other bits. Big deal. pilaf, rissotto, sound familiar?

    The goat, Kobe beef, what was that? Japanese style beef bowl?

  • Sonagi

    IMHO, Korean restauranteurs are better off packaging Korean food as a gourmet item like Thai food rather than cheap fast food.

    In downtown DC, there’s a Korean couple peddling cheap, delicious bowls of bibimbap and a few other Korean dishes out of a trolley. They do a roaring business and got a nice write-up in the WaPo. There’s a huge need for healthy fast food, and a doshirak with brown rice or no rice for low carbers would sell very well.

  • exit86

    Wasn’t metal moveable type created by Pi Sheng in China in 1048??????

  • kerplunk

    exit86, AKAIK, China developed moveable ceramic type around then that was less durable, but the metal version emerged some 200 years later in Korea. They have yet to pay royalties. ;)
    Not that it detracts from the rest of my argument that Korea invented the turtle ship and food.

  • Maximus8

    “I count as Korea’s three technological contributions to human civilization as moveable metal type, the turtle ship, and food”

    Food???? If there is something that comes in the end of a “best world food list” is korean food, please. Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Lebanese, Thai, Indian, Middle-East, Mediterranean, Greek, Brazilian, Portuguese, German, Austrian, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. (not necessarily in that order), then, Korean. I’m talking in average, c’mon: either people don’t know enough korean food OR really don’t like it. It’s not something that you eat with mixed feelings: either you truly love it (koreans and other few people – compared to people that like other foods), or you hate it.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    What does it matter? Metal moveable type didn’t transfer out of Asia into the larger world…

    As a matter of fact, Korea’s cool ancient technology… metal moveable type, armor clad galleys, water clocks, arrow firing armored carts, etc. will be credited to others (i.e. EUROPEANS) because their technology spread to other nations and became the basis for improvement of other technologies.

    Credit should go to those with the initiative to spread and improve upon. So what if the Chinese stepped foot on America first? Give the credit to Columbus who’s discovery set-off the age of mercantilism…

    Did the invention of metal moveable type set off a social revolution in Asia? No. However, Guttenberg’s invention helped set-off the Protestant Reformation, which did in fact start a social revolution and did change the world. Unfortunately, Koreans like to keep their salt in the salt shaker… probably one of the BIG reasons why Korea is a tiny country with a food culture that’s less well known than Thailand or India to the rest of the world.

  • kerplunk

    Good point Wangkon, full props to kazaa, e-donkey and bit torrent for making all those wonderful movies over the last 6 years.
    However, I disagree that the illusiveness of Korean cuisine on the world stage is due to any (supposed) lack of salt and more to do with other matters such as marketing.

  • Sonagi

    Unfortunately, Koreans like to keep their salt in the salt shaker… probably one of the BIG reasons why Korea is a tiny country with a food culture that’s less well known than Thailand or India to the rest of the world.

    Korean food doesn’t need extra salt because it gets artery-stressing amounts of sodium from soy sauce, soybean paste, and red pepper paste. Indian food can sometimes be salty, but the Thai food I’ve eaten in Thailand and elsewhere didn’t seem so.

  • aaronm

    21, errrm, fish sauce, soy sauce… FOUR FLAVOURS????

  • abcdefg

    On the topic of Nobel prizes and contributions to the world, this year was a rather grand year for Japanese physicists. Two Japanese won it and share it with an American who himself, BTW, is of Japanese ancestry..

    Koreans will never fare that well in a year in Sweden. Or if we ever do, expect fireworks. I’ll set off a few candles myself. Too many Koreans have been wasting their time and mental energy in the seminaries and praying to false gods, methinks.

    BTW, I haven’t eaten Korean food since about a half a year ago. Whoa, merci, merci me!

  • SomeguyinKorea

    “the turtle ship”

    How so?

  • SomeguyinKorea

    “So what if the Chinese stepped foot on America first?”

    There is very little credible evidence of this. Besides, there were already millions of people in America when some argue that Chinese sailors made the trip.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    Let me rephrase that…There is no credible evidence that ancient Chinese sailors ever set foot in America.

  • R. Elgin

    I really believe that a person could start a mom and pop den-jung enterprise down in Chellado (Hanam, Kangjin, etc.) and export all of it to America and Europe, doing well in the process *if* they could manufacture according to the local specifications, which might be the best around.

    The most expensive part of this process would be land (~200,000 – 300,000 USD) marketing and time. They would have to grown their own bean locally, which is important since there is already a shortage of certain types of soybean in Korea.

  • cmm

    beef bulgogi, seaweed soup and spicy chicken…

    Beef bulgogi is either grilled sweet marinated shaved roast beef or sweet marinated beef and noodle soup. This is hardly representative Korean food, but rather the dish that is most similar to foods to which the western palette is accustomed. Spicy chicken… can be had at KFC from time to time. The seaweed soup (perhaps 미욕국) is a little surprising.

    When Kentucky kids start devouring kimchi jjigae, doenjang jjigae, and garlic by the clove, etc., then I’d find this more than a puff post.

  • user-81

    Besides, there were already millions of people in America when some argue that Chinese sailors made the trip.

    So what? Like the Chinese, the Native Americans didn’t transfer the knowledge of their presence out of the Americas into the larger world.

    Credit should go to those with the initiative to spread and improve upon, like the Spaniards and Portuguese who used their knowledge of the existence of North and South America to multiply their empires. Unfortunately, the Eskimos, Aztecs, Mayas, Olmecs, and Iriquois liked to keep their salt in the salt shaker.

    In conclusion, even if they were here first, the Native Americans should not be given credit for discovering America. That honor should go to the Europeans.

  • kerplunk

    Wow, I’ve never eaten at a Eskimo restaurant, much less even heard of an Olmec or Iriquois restaurant.
    How do they get salt in their diet then? Do they have little dipping dishes or do they just drink sea water like my grandpa used to?
    “Native Americans should not be given credit for discovering America”
    “Like the Chinese, the Native Americans didn’t transfer the knowledge of their presence out of the Americas into the larger world.”
    Are you saying nobody knew that all the little chinese peopleses were there?
    Pretty ethnocentric (and limited) view of history that one.
    As is “Native Americans should not be given credit for discovering America”
    So the most recent group to colonize a given land mass is the ‘discoverer’? Or that one needs to take out an billboard in Times square announcing one’s arrival? Or that the discoverer is required to eliminate the pre-existing population?
    By this logic Gays discovered San Fran, Koreans down town LA, Romsfeld Iraq and Afghanistan, and Jews Auschwitz.
    In conclusion, even if it was a good try, nobody should think the logic to your argument is very good.

  • user-81

    Sorry kerplunk I should have whipped out my ;)

  • kerplunk

    Good point Cmm. And when they start wolfing down hongeohoe, ganhoe, soju and chongukjang, they can call themselves korean. Excuse my poor romanization.

  • kerplunk

    damn, and here I was all upset thinking everybody was taking my initial comment seriously.

  • http://sungnyemun.org/wordpress/ dda

    western palette

    palette…? of colours?

  • http://sungnyemun.org/wordpress/ dda

    미욕국

    A soup insulting America? Or 미역국…?

  • user-81

    A soup insulting America?

    Any French soup.

  • kerplunk

    I think it was already, how you say, “clair comme dans le cul d’un negre”?

  • http://yeomso.blogspot.com/ The Goat

    @15

    Late getting back but pretty much. Basic fried meet/mushrooms in some sauce with LOADS of veggies (sprout mix) and rice.

    Best $3.25 money could buy (prices circa early ’90s)

  • Maximus8

    “However, I disagree that the illusiveness of Korean cuisine on the world stage is due to any (supposed) lack of salt and more to do with other matters such as marketing.”

    “How do they get salt in their diet then? Do they have little dipping dishes or do they just drink sea water like my grandpa used to?”

    Is it just MY impression, or you didn’t get the idea of “keeping the salt in the salt shaker” ???

  • kerplunk

    No, I was just running with Wangkon’s poor choice of metaphor.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    #30,

    By your logic the Native Americans that were brought back for the amusement of the court discovered Europe.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    #38,

    Maudit raciste.

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  • user-81

    SomeguyinKorea:
    By your logic the Native Americans that were brought back for the amusement of the court discovered Europe.

    That’s not “my logic”. I was turning earlier statements that first inventors don’t deserve credit if they don’t register a big splash in Europe on their head.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    # 41,

    It was actually a metaphor I learned from a Christian minister and it was regarding evangelical work. You know, Jesus said, “… you are the salt of the earth…” (Matthew 5:13), which means that his followers had to be different, set apart from others. Out of the salt shaker and into the world is a reference that was used to mean that one needed to share (not pester or force upon, mind you) their beliefs with others who are not familiar with those beliefs.

    So how this relates to Korean food culture is that Koreans tend to be less sharing or welcoming to non-Koreans who show an interest in their food. A lot of non-Koreans complain about this when they visit Korean restaurants. The service is spotty at best and rude at worse. Sometimes they are given strange (i.e. ridiculous) excuses such as “we are out of noodles” or “we are out of rice.” Thus, Koreans like to keep their “salt” in their salt shaker and act as their own worse enemies when it comes to making their food better known to others.

    Any ways, maybe it was a poor choice in metaphors…

    Is it just me or is the Western world in general becomeing more ignorant of Biblical literary influences? Time Magazine did a nice article on why the Bible should be taught in public schools not for the religious content, but because an understanding of the Bible gave people a better understanding of Western culture.

  • user-81

    I got the salt in the salt shaker meaning. But when other people started taking it literally I started thinking I was reading into a metaphor that wasn’t really there. Thank you, WangKon936.

    What I don’t get is kerplunk’s French, which looks like it says something is as clear as a Negro’s anus. If so, that doesn’t seem like a nice thing to say whatever it means. :$

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  • kerplunk

    Yes, the metaphorical phrase is not politically correct if read literally due to its etymological roots.
    I was merely trying to point out to DDA that cmm’s point was clear (to a native speaker) despite spelling errors.
    Can I use this opportunity to personally apologize to anybody that may have been offended by the above phrase. All languages are a product of their respective cultures and societies, and merely reflect the inequity of their existing power structures.