In recent years, Korean pop culture has led to a wide range of Korean cuisine sweeping across France. Korean restaurants and coffee shops with vowel themes have sprung up on the streets of Paris.
Pushing open the door of the cafe “Caque” in central Paris, it’s like entering a huge dessert box. The walls were painted candy pink. In addition to white chocolate in the shape of a lollipop and cookies in the shape of a bear, the store also serves a variety of cocktails, blue, green, purple wine liquid with chanti cream, cookie crumbs and pink syrup.
The concept coffee shop is a gathering place for French Korean Wave fans, and it houses humanoid boards of Korean stars. At the moment, on the eve of a well-known South Korean men’s group’s Paris concert, more than 20 fans from all over France met here. They sat around, blowing balloons and eating sesame biscuits, Seoul’s most popular by far.
| South Korea’s “soft power”| Not long ago, Hwang Hee, former Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism of South Korea, visited “Cake” coffee in person and exchanged views with French young people who love Korean pop culture. “The relevant departments in South Korea have given me a lot of support.” Savana, a 28-year-old coffee shop owner, said with a smile. She has received assistance from the Korean Cultural Center, the Korean Embassy in France, the Korean Cultural Content Promotion Institute and the Korean Trade and Investment Promotion Corporation. “In November 2022, the Korean Trade and Investment Promotion Corporation paid for me to visit Seoul and visit cafes there to find some products suitable for import into France.” Savannah said. That same year, the young owner published his own cocktail recipe in a book and opened a second shop in London. “I want to go to the bathroom.” She said firmly.
Korean-themed coffee shops are not uncommon in France, such as Le Ha Coffee in Lille, 750 Coffee in Bordeaux, and Cawa Coffee in Lyon. These cafes have many Korean specialty desserts for sale, such as snapper yaki. This is a fish-shaped cake with red bean paste as the filling. Korean restaurants have sprung up in France. According to statistics, in the past 20 years, the number of Korean restaurants in Paris alone has increased from 40 to 200, and there are more than 80 in other parts of France.
The Korean meal flow is not a flash in the pan, but a huge wave. Korean cuisine is a part of South Korea’s soft power. In July 2022, the Korean Food Festival sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Agriculture was held at the Louvre. As the flagship project of the country’s cultural export, the food festival is highly symbolic. The event was crowded with guests, mostly French young people under the age of 25. They line up to buy skewers dipped in sweet and sour sauce and net-red smoothies, and can make laver rice by hand. The strong appeal of Korean cuisine to young French foreshadows that it may one day become a permanent part of the French diet.
The influence of Korean pop culture is enormous, and Korean food is closely linked to it. “There will always be scenes of celebrities eating in Korean movies and TV dramas, and fans all over the world will follow their example.” Belgian Korean-born chef Sang-hoon Dejebler says he promotes Korean food culture in Europe. “For example,’Squid Game,’ which became popular all over the world, made sugar cakes with decorative patterns become popular. In 2019, the film ‘Parasite,’ which won the Palme d’Or Award, also made instant noodles with fried sauce and udon popular.” He went on.
| Love fermented food| Today, fermented foods are making a strong return to high-end dining, another strength of Korean cuisine. De Gebler’s two-Michelin-star restaurant in Namur, Belgium, is called “Wind of Time.” He used the ancient fermentation techniques of his hometown in cooking. “We have five hectares of farmland and all kinds of vegetables. Every winter, we use traditional Korean methods to make fermented foods, such as pickled cucumbers, soup soy sauce and chili sauce.” Very well, he said. And of course, kimchi, a classic Korean cuisine that is fermented with cabbage, chili and garlic to ignite the palate.
William Ledouille was one of the first French star chefs to add pickles to the menu. “Pickles can be used as seasonings, to add flavor, and instead of salt and pepper.” I’m not going to use salt and pepper anymore.” Ledouille told us in his dining room kitchen. His restaurant is one of the most Asian restaurants in Paris.
Born in South Korea and adopted at the age of seven by a couple in the Haute-Loire province, Pierre Sang is now dedicated to presenting authentic Korean cuisine to the French. He will add pickles to his dishes to awaken the taste buds of diners, especially with pickles and peas. Sang’s restaurant is affordable, with a Korean-style vegetarian bibimbap for 12 euros.
Price grounding is also a big advantage of Korean food. “For a long time, the standard of living of the Korean people was very low, and today they still like the ‘food of the old’. Buddhism and vegetarianism have a great influence on Korean food. Many street foods are also popular in France.” said Dejebler. A Korean restaurant in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, called Dongnei Restaurant, is a good example. The restaurant is plainly decorated with no decorations on the walls. There were only a few simple wooden tables in front of the open kitchen. The No. 1 menu costs 15 euros and consists of three courses, each of which is enough to make a meal of itself. The first dish is kimbap, which is made by the chef on the spot by wrapping carrots, cucumbers and pickled radishes with rice. The second is Fried rice cakes, each rice cakes are filled with flavor of chutney juice. The last one ends with fried sweet potato chips. The dishes at Dongnei Restaurant are fresh and delicious, sweet and spicy, and have a variety of tastes. Because they are vegetarian, the price is also affordable.
| Fatty Liver and Miso| In recent times, Korean cuisine seems to have taken over the French table in more subtle ways. Perception Restaurant is a new Korean restaurant in Paris. The menu looks like a Parisian bistro, but it has unique flavors, such as beetroot pie flavored with Korean raspberry wine, sesame salmon with Korean pickled celery, chocolate ice cream decorated with seaweed, etc.
“I want as many people as possible to discover the Korean elements in my dishes after they eat them.” “Perception restaurant” manager and chef Rong Shuyuan said to us in the kitchen. He studied in South Korea, then went to Le Cordon Bleu International College to refine his cooking skills and opened his own restaurant in Paris with the help of Ledeuil. “The cooking skills of Korean food and French food are very different. For example, there is no such thing as gravy in Korean food.” He said,”But they have something in common, such as a variety of flavors, a love of seasonings, and a patience to leave the delicacy to time.” For example, I would marinate some game for 48 hours to give it the best taste.”
Paris Octave is a fine example of French and Korean cuisine. Chef Juliet Zhu, a Korean-born chef who has lived in France for 23 years, has a rich resume and has worked with French star chefs Joe Lubson and Le Deuil. Mr Taft restaurant decoration simple but elegant, playing soft jazz music, each table with tulips. However, don’t be fooled by these French elements, the restaurant dishes are actually very personal. Zhu provided us with vegetable dumplings as an appetizer. Before eating, she said, drip a small tube of Korean seasoning soy sauce. Next was an extremely delicate fatty liver. “I’m in the middle of it.” I used this sauce instead of salt.” Zhu said. Then came a fusion of Korean and French dishes, such as mussel soup with grilled scallops, green algae and three vegetables (pointed cabbage, Roman cauliflower and Brussels sprouts). The “duo” on the taste buds makes us feel that French cuisine has been sublimated in the hands of this Korean chef, and also makes us believe that this “Korean food flow” will capture the hearts of more French gourmet gourmets.