Food columnist continues disparaging Korean-style fried chicken

Food columnist continues disparaging Korean-style fried chicken

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By Lee Hae-rin

Korean food columnist Hwang Kyo-ik, who created a stir by saying Korean-style fried chicken is not tasty due to the small size of the birds, has raised a question about its global popularity.

He referred to a survey about Korean food, conducted by the Korean Food Promotion Institute and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs of 8,500 people in 17 major cities around the world who have tried Korean food, released Sunday.

According to the survey, 30 percent said they like Korean-style fried chicken the most and intend to eat it again. Chicken was followed by kimchi at 27.7 percent, bibimbap (rice mixed with assorted vegetables) at 27.2 percent and tteokbokki (rice cakes stir-fried in spicy sauce) at 18 percent.

Hwang raised the question whether fried chicken can be considered a “Korean” food, saying no traditional Korean ingredients are used ― chicken breeds were from the U.S. and the U.K., the feeds were grains imported from the U.S. and the oil used to fry comes from beans or corn from the U.S.

“Are we really proud of the reality that fried chicken now represents Korean food? Are we proud that a dish of American origin overtook all other Korean traditional delicacies and scored highest among foreigners? Should we be proud of such a non-Korean food, without any Korean ingredients, to be consumed as Korean cuisine abroad?” he wrote on Facebook, Sunday.

Hwang says that the global popularity of Korean fried chicken comes from major chicken franchise companies’ overseas promotions, rather than an authentic Korean food culture.

“One’s gastronomical perception of a foreign culture is largely influenced by travel and cultural experience. Korea is the densest country in terms of fried chicken restaurants by population, and most Korean dramas show fried chicken on screen as product placement. That is why so many people overseas perceive Korean chicken as a signature food,” Hwang told The Korea Times, Monday.

Food columnist continues disparaging Korean-style fried chicken

Food columnist Hwang Kyo-ik / Korea Times file

Hwang has been criticizing the relatively small size of Korean chicken for several years. “The international standard for chicken is around 3 kilograms, and that is the most economical and efficient size. There are government studies that prove larger chickens taste better. Yet, Korean poultry industry insists on producing 1.5-kilogram chickens to maximize profit,” Hwang said.

In response to Hwang’s critique, the Korea Poultry Association issued a statement Nov. 24: “The ministry’s report (which Hwang quoted) shows minor differences on flavoring substances from an academic perspective, but a chicken’s size does not largely change or manipulate its taste.”

The association also stated that the “small” size of Korean chickens was to meet a specific demand by Korean consumers and the local food culture, where one consumer tends to eat a whole chicken, either as fried chicken or as samgyetang (chicken ginseng soup).

However, Hwang claimed that it is the large poultry companies that determine the size of a chicken.

But it seems many of the public do not agree with Hwang, as sarcastic and critical comments have dominated online discussions.

“He says fried chicken is not Korean because all ingredients were from other countries. Then is bulgogi (Korean barbecue) also a foreign food if it uses beef, garlic, soy sauce and other ingredients all from other countries?” one internet user wrote.

“If you like 3-kilogram chicken, you can go to another country that serves 3-kilogram chicken,” another wrote.

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