Traditionally Korean cuisine consists largely of rice, vegetables, seafood, and meat. It is especially well-known for offering a large variety of side dishes (banchan) to eat along with the main course. Because of its composition, Korean food is widely perceived as healthy. Besides traditional cuisine, convenience and trend foods have also become a strong force in the growing South Korean food market. A shared common trait is that they profit from the popularity of Korean culture and the Korean wave (Hallyu) in pop culture. Bolstered by this, Korean food has experienced a surge in interest since the early 2010s and worldwide growth like no other cuisine.
With rising awareness, popularity, and accessibility, the share of people who tried Korean cuisine globally naturally increased, with more than three in four respondents in a survey stating to have eaten it. With more people becoming acquainted with Korean food, more food products made their way onto the global market.
As for popular products, foods and beverages promoted or consumed by celebrities were well-liked by fans, and managed to increase the popularity of a brand or item. This was not only true domestically but also internationally. Moreover, food that frequently appeared in dramas or other TV shows attracted even more attention. This includes Korean Barbeque, Korean-style fried chicken – which was also chosen as the most preferred Korean food overseas – and street food such as Tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes).
Korean food online trends
Through the internet, viral social media challenges can spread far and wide, and of course, Korean food is no exception. The number of online videos about Korean food increased, be it traditional food recipes or trend videos with new ideas or more modern twists, like vegan recipes. Mukbang videos have been around since 2009 in South Korea when they started being broadcasted on AfreecaTV. In these videos, the host would eat a meal while conversing with the audience via streaming to give a feeling of eating together. In recent years, the term mukbang videos are also associated with eating unusually large amounts or combinations of food, going so far as to become a challenge of sorts. One of these viral challenges included eating Korean spicy instant noodles (ramyeon). Such products have gained a certain notoriety thanks to this, and became sought after even in countries that were not accustomed to Asian-style instant noodles. Another recent trend was the infatuation with Dalgona, a traditional snack made from sugar that had appeared in the Korean Netflix hit series Squid Game. Dalgona coffee, a time-consuming method to make sweet coffee at home which emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, also quickly spread throughout social media as a novel recipe.
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