A recent piece in the Korea Times about Korean food globalization hits a lot of key points that are easily debatable. The distinction of this piece is that it’s based on interviews with Korean restaurateurs outside of Korea. One particular passage struck me:
Another issue is side dishes. Koreans have several side dishes before the main cooking comes to the fore, but the time-honored tradition works as a stumbling block in globalizing hansik.
A flurry of tiny bowls of beans, finely sliced potatoes, two kinds of kimchi, on and on crowd the table, which some claim are too heavy as an appetizer.
“A majority of Korean restaurants offer quite a few side dishes in advance so that customers eat many of them before the main dish is served,’’ said Choi Yon-suk, the owner of Woo Chon in Manhattan.
“In other words, they start to have the main dish only when they are half full. Understandably, they are not crazy about the main dish and chances are that they do not return. We need to do something to change this.’’
Another downside is that they make hansik look like low-priced, second-string food, which attracts customers with quantity rather than quality.
Yet, restaurants have a dilemma ― many of their clients have become quite accustomed to the side dishes. Accordingly, they are feared to migrate to other alternatives like Chinese food without them.
I have heard this a few times. When I read articles interviewing Korean restaurateurs or Europeans, they recommend cutting back on side dishes. But when I read blogs, along with Facebook and Twitter posts (try a search for “Korean Food” on Twitter), I repeatedly hear praise for the bounty of side dishes that load on the Korean table.
Where do you side on this?