Thursday, June 16, 2011

On the Road . . . Korea: Foreign Food

Normally, I shy away from American chains and American food while in other countries. However, it does always fascinate me how American food gets translated into “foreign food.” For instance, Coke tastes different being sometimes sweeter or sometimes because of use of different types of sugar. Lay’s Potato Chips adds flavors like “roasted chicken,” “prawn,” and “ketchup” to the roster; McDonald’s assimilates local tastes into its menu: e.g. bacon and onion in the rolls in Prague.

In Korea, foreign food borders between the familiar and the uncanny. In Incheon Airport, Ronald and a plumper Colonel Sanders were there to greet me. However, the Colonel had added a new chicken sandwich and Ronald has Bulgogi Burger, or a shrimp burger. In walking in Gangneung, I also found other shadows of foreign food. There is pizza with shrimp and some with corn. There are hot dogs that come plain, original, dansk, chili dog, steff, cheese dog, Viking, and barbeque, and a tagline of “More meat Better Taste Delicious Food.” I also found American style pretzels and stuffed pretzels. In these, the Korean changes include “almond,” “corn,” “hot,” and “sweet potato.” Baskin Robbins also makes an appearance, offering “honey granola” and “green tea” and a hot option of ice cream and waffles (which I really wish they sold in America). 
The chain I took the most time researching was the Dunkin Donuts. I am usually a Krispie Kreme girl by temperament, but my curiosity won over. On the surface, this could be a fancier version of your local Dunkin: coffee, donuts, bagels, and breakfast sandwiches remind you of the usual accoutrement. Take a step closer and the face of similar begins to show its cracks.

Bubble Tea in the form of Milk Teas, Lattes, and Sweet Potato flavor are one difference. Then, the donut selection reveals quite a unique selection. There are carrot, broccoli, spinach, and plain tofu donuts . A little sweet and a little savory with a really distinct lightness of the dough (the carrot and plain being the clear flavor winners). Then, there are little round bundt looking donuts with a texture that is a lot like banana or zucchini bread and that are topped with things like crunchy pepitos. There are many chocolate donuts, and one with a crunchy baked cheese topping just begged to be tried. The final donut of note was a tomato and glazed twisted donut that border between genius and disaster, not quite accomplishing either. Although the donuts are a mixture of taste triumphs and taste confusions, Korean Dunkin Donuts is a pretty exciting foreign food twist. If my Dunkin started selling Bubble Lattes (which are just pure happiness), Sweet Potato Bubble Tea (which are also fantastic), and tofu donuts (a light and tasting alternative to overly dense donuts), I’d probably go more. 

This was the first trip in a while that made me really think about the idea of “foreign food.” Even when in England, Ireland, Prague, and France, foreign food is still fairly recognizable. Foods to me that felt exotic become mainstream and what I feel is mainstream becomes denatured of its “foreignness” to fit local palettes. Putting red bean paste in a donut or serving a shrimp burger is just a way of making the “exotic” familiar much in the same way that America created General Tsao’s to make Chinese food more appealing. As Dunkin Donuts in Korea showed me, donuts are as Korean or as American as and me.

Other Favorite "Foreign Food" Pics:

Print Friendly and PDF


Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


Copyright © 2011 KM Robbins. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission. All rights reserved.
Blogging tips