Sweet, spicy, savory, tangy and fermented flavors come together in the mouthwatering specialties of Korean cuisine. As American palates become more accustomed to Korean flavors, we’re seeing a mix of fusion-inspired tacos, burgers and fried chicken dishes alongside more traditional bibimbap, japchae and kalbi.
This combination of authentic and approachable is helping to solidify Korean fare as one of the most influential global cuisines on American menus today. Condiments and sauces featuring the flavors of gochujang, kimchi and Korean barbecue are especially popular and surprisingly versatile; try them on sandwiches, pizza, wings and rice or noodle bowls in order to introduce your patrons to new flavors in a familiar format.
MENU INSPIRATION FEATURING
CUSTOM CULINARY® PRODUCTS
Introduce your patrons to the unique flavors of Korean cuisine through a mix of authentically inspired dishes and “safe experimentation” menu items they already know and love. Serve up bold Korean-inspired dishes with ease, thanks to unique ready-to-use products from Custom Culinary®.
Sweet 'n' Spicy Korean Fried Chicken
Crispy chicken wings dressed in Custom Culinary® Korean-Style Sweet Heat Sauce, garnished with toasted sesame seeds and scallions.
Short-grain rice braised in spicy Custom Culinary® Budae-jjigae (Kimchi Stew) Broth*, topped with fiery chicken, crispy SPAM, chili squid, enoki mushrooms and roasted kimchi. Finished with a drizzle of kewpie mayo, slivered scallions and toasted sesame seeds.
Spiced Honey Toast
Custom Culinary® Gochujang Hot Honey* studded with toasted fennel, sesame seeds and poppy seeds, drizzled over thick-cut grilled sourdough spread with farmer’s cheese, roasted squash and chervil.
Bulgogi Dip Sandwich
Thinly shaved charcoal-grilled bulgogi stuffed into a crispy French roll and topped with kimchi, submerged in a savory Custom Culinary® Doenjang* (Soybean Paste) Soup and served “wet.”
Sweet, tangy Custom Culinary® Soju, Plum and Ginseng Chutney* in a champagne glass, layered with a shot of sweet plum wine and topped off with prosecco. Garnished with a lotus flower petal.
Korean BBQ Pizza
Woodfired pizza crust loaded with melty mozzarella, kimchi and shredded beef prepared in Custom Culinary® Bulgogi Marinade*. Finished with fresh scallions and a drizzle of Custom Culinary® Ssamjang Sauce*.
Crazy for Korean Cuisine!
In the “When Life Gives You Citrus” blog, I talked about the fantastic opportunity several chefs and marketing teams from Custom Culinary® had to visit South Korea a few years back as part of the WACS Congress. A significant portion of that trip was spent in Seoul, the capital city of that beautiful country. Living just outside of NYC, I have a biased opinion regarding exciting cities and NYC's reputation for being the “City that Never Sleeps,” but during my trip to Seoul, I humbly admit I discovered a formidable international opponent for the title.
If you ever get the chance to visit Seoul, I’m confident you will discover one of the most energetic and vibrant cities in the world, with a food scene and culture to match. As you might imagine, we spent a significant amount of time learning as much as possible about the famous foods and ingredients of this culture and eating and experiencing as much as humanly possible while we had the chance.
We, as chefs, are fortunate to work at Custom Culinary® as we are genuinely interested in the authenticity of our global food offerings and go to great lengths to ensure we get it right. Our slogan is “Be True to The Food.” When we go on such a food discovery mission, we take it seriously. The first thing I generally do on these trips is to visit several grocery stores to discover what the public themselves have at hand to arm their home food arsenals. On our first day, we saw two prominent grocery outlets, and what we found was truly amazing. Going to a grocery store in Seoul is like going to an amusement park for foodies. I could spend this entire blog writing about that experience alone, if not write a whole book. As that’s not feasible, I will tell you that the kimchi section alone was eye-opening. Without exaggeration, there were 30 to 40 different varieties available, showcasing a vast array of vegetables far beyond Napa cabbage and radishes.
Of course, we ate at several Korean BBQ establishments to look at these world-famous dining venues firsthand. During one of those dinners, I tasted calf lung for the first time. It was not my cup of tea, but I tried it nonetheless for the experience.
Trekking through the city under the bright neon sunshine of the late-night sky, we went from street cart to street cart, dining dive to dining dive, tasting it all. We tried everything from Sannakji “LIVE” baby octopus [NOT A GOOD IDEA] to Beondaegi, steamed silkworm pupae served in a cup. My favorite “bizarre” food was Gejang, or marinated raw crabs. Yes, you read that right. Marinated raw crabs! This dish is so popular that an entire alley is dedicated to this delicacy.
Now, suffice it to say I genuinely don’t expect to see the above on American menus any time soon; however, Korean cuisine is steadily making its way onto menus across the United States and becoming more mainstream. A good example is a small multi-state chain called SGD DUBU (So Gong Dong Tofu & BBQ). They have several locations in New York, New Jersey and Illinois (one of which is only about 3 miles from my home). The menu is quite simple but perfectly delicious! A few of my favorites include Korea’s iconic, ‘Bibimbap’ a combination of steamed rice with assorted, sautéed, and seasoned vegetables served on a traditional Korean hot stone plate, ‘Kalbi’ (BBQ short ribs), and Sundubu-jjigae (silken tofu stew).
As you know and count on, Custom Culinary® is always ready to help you quickly explore the world's flavors. Our continually expanding portfolio of products comprises a full line of globally inspired sauces, marinades, food bases and broths. I genuinely hope you take the opportunity to experiment with our Bibimbap and Korean-Style Sweet Heat Sauces! Harnessing these tasty speed scratch options will help you prepare a host of Korean classics or create international “mash-ups” of your own.
Writing this blog has made me so hungry for Korean. I’m on my way to SGD DUBU for lunch. I love the 6-complimentary kimchi dishes you get while you wait.
So, until next time, get creative with help from your friends and colleagues at Custom Culinary®.
Michael Smith, WCMC, CEC, AAC
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Here’s the truth: Being true to the food isn’t only about the food. It’s also about smart, simple ways we can improve the world around us.
We've Got Seoul And Soul
If you’re a regular on our blog or social media platforms, you know our focus this month is Korean cuisine, or as we like to call it, Seoul Food.
*Products are customized; please contact your Custom Culinary® representative for more information.
Fern Glazer, “Consumers embrace bold flavors of Korean cuisine,” Nation’s Restaurant News, September 6, 2018.
Laura Zolman Kirk, “Inside the Rise of Korean Cuisine,” QSR, April 2019.
Leigh Kunkel, "How Korean Flavors Amplify the Menu," FSR Food Newsfeed. January 2019.