"You have to watch It's Okay to Not Be Okay," a friend declared, back in June 2020. Holed up at home with nothing but cats for company, I obliged and thus fell down the rabbit hole of Korean dramas on Netflix and Viki. My love for Korean drama has opened up a whole new world, and interestingly, this world includes even food.
If you're imagining the cuisine to be just ramyeon, think again. Whether it's a cold noodle dish (naengmyeon) or a rice and seaweed roll stuffed with marinated meats (gimbap), there's a lot to explore. And it's even more fun to cook. While kimchi - the popular side-dish of fermented vegetables - has been on food-trend lists since 2016, the past few years have seen a growing demand for Korean food in Indian restaurants, ingredients, and even spicy ramyeon instant noodles. But while Netflix reports having seen a 370 per cent increase in KDrama viewership from 2019 to 2020, and KPop groups like BTS and BLACKPINK have ravaged the charts across the globe and in India, there aren't too many accounts charting the increased interest in Korean food.
Scene from Itaewon Class | Source: Netflix
Celebrated stand-up comedian, writer, and proud ARMY (the name of popular KPop boy group BTS' fandom) member, Supriya Joshi, who's been a part of the Indian KPop fandom for a couple of years, agrees that being a fan has led to a desire for Korean food. After the discovery of the KPOP music group, Super Junior and a KDrama called, Let's Eat that centres around food, it didn't take Joshi too long until she started hunting down Korean recipes to try herself. "The more K-Content you consume, the more you want to consume Korean food. Frankly, it looks so delicious and you're extremely curious to know what it tastes like," she admits.
Scene from Let's Eat | Source: Netflix
And if there are fans like Joshi, who're seeking an outlet to explore their newfound interest in the cuisine, there are people like Sahil Dewani, who're trying to fulfil it. Founder of Supper, a DIY food delivery service that has several Korean dishes on its menu, Dewani explains that KDramas have had a strong impact on the way Indians perceive Korean food. "It has definitely led to an increased demand for Korean dishes," he says, adding that a lot of customers called them asking if they can make a dish called bibimbap (a bowl of warm white rice topped with namul or kimchi and gochujang, soy sauce, or doenjang), which was shown in a stone pot in a lot of KDramas. "A lot of our customers are even sold on our chicken wings because the wing sauce is made out of gochujang," he reveals.
Scene from Crash Landing On You | Source: Netflix
It's natural to immerse yourself in the cultural backgrounds of the object of your affection. With Korean food and culture specifically, it's resemblance to Indian cuisine, plays an added role in making it more attractive. In North-East India and cities like Delhi, this has clearly taken hold in deeper ways than Mumbai - as evidenced by years of ardent fans in the North East, and the existence of dozens of Korean restaurants in the capital.
Only just entered this world? Here's a beginner's list of all the places you can look to, to fulfil your Korean food cravings:
Supper, Mumbai: Feel like cooking Korean food, but don't want to deal with the shopping? Supper has your back. Try out their Dakgangjeong Chicken to truly understand why Korean Fried Chicken is such a rage.
Sun and Moon Korean Restaurant, Mumbai: Take it from Joshi, who swears by this inconspicuous little joint tucked away in the lanes of Lower Parel. Whether it's ramen, gimbap, Korean fried chicken or soju (rice-based alcohol), this restaurant makes delicious and authentic Korean food.
Hengbok, Mumbai: Want that authentic experience of Korean barbeque on your table? Head to Hengbok, and remember to order their gimbap while you're at it!
Gung the Palace, Delhi: If you're in the capital and planning on heading out for a carefully monitored lunch, head to Gung the Palace for a Korean barbecue.
Busan Korean Restaurant, Delhi: Looking for Korean food and good pictures to take back as memories? Head here, and make sure you try out their Bibimbap!
Korikart: Check korikart.com out for all the Korean food ingredients you want to order - from any part of India. Happy bonus: they also have sections for Korean beauty, fashion and even pet care.
Whether you're a fan of KPop or have lost your heart to a Korean actor, settle in for some more adventures of the foodie variety. And believe me, there's more than enough to explore. Just remember to cue up your watchlist before you dig in.
Sroojana is an award-winning creator of fandoms. Her first love is her mother's rum cake, and her second love is baking cakes just like it. Controversial opinions range from liking citrus flavours more than chocolate, and pineapple on pizza - she WILL fight you on this, as long as you're not asking during a binge-session of Korean shows or food.