Korean food is booming, after the success of Korean drama Squid Game – Netflix’s most popular TV show to date.
In its first month, audiences spent a record 1.6 billion hours binging the nine-episode thriller. Meanwhile, they saw many Korean foods peppering their screens, from dalgona candy to the junk food tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cakes).
Viewers did not stop there. Google searches for ‘Korean cuisine’ rose five and a half times in the UK. ‘Dalgona’ also went up sixteen and a half times, according to meal kit service HelloFresh.
It is no surprise then that food vendors are thrilled about Squid Game being confirmed for a second season.
Sang Min Kim is the owner of Seoul Food. He recently opened his independent shop Seoul Food in central London in addition to his two other nearby restaurants.
“Especially in London, there is a lot more interest in Korean cuisine and culture. That’s why we opened.”
Sang Min even planned a dalgona candy challenge inspired by Squid Game for their opening. The challenge went viral on Tiktok, as fans recreated the show.
“People who watched Korean soap operas, or like BTS and Korean singers, are thinking about Korean food and so are coming in to try it.”
Chef Tim Anderson regularly experiments with Korean food and thinks that “Squid Game is the thing that might push Korean food over the edge.”
“We may have Korean high street chains or more Korean ingredients in supermarkets.”
Dr Niki Alsford, Professor of Asia Pacific Studies, suggests that this is all part of a wave of interest in Korean culture – known as Hallyu. We are also now reaching what he calls Hallyu 2.0.
As audiences start engaging with Korean cinema, music and more, businesses are now hoping to inspire a long-term connection with their country’s cuisine.