Korean food is unpopular and considered overpriced in the U.S., a survey shows. But it is widely popular in China and Japan, where it is seen as cheap.
The straw poll was conducted among 2,000 foreigners, 500 each in China, Japan, the U.S., and Vietnam, by consulting firm Accenture for the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
With Americans, Korean food ranked only eighth in popularity among 12 cuisines -- Korean, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Thai, Vietnam, and others. They enjoyed Italian and Mexican food most, followed by Japanese and Chinese. Asked why they do not enjoy Korean food, the biggest group of 18.5 percent cited a limited menu, followed by sanitary issues (15.3 percent), spiciness (13.2 percent) and price (12.5 percent). Americans in the upper income bracket earning no less than US$8,700 per month said Korean food should taste more Korean, while those in the lower income bracket with an average monthly salary less than $2,900 thought that flavor and ingredients should be adapted to American palates.
The consultants recommended that upmarket Korean restaurants in the U.S. should adhere to traditional flavors while cheaper restaurants would be well-advised to adapt to local tastes.
Asked which dish comes to mind when they think about Korean food, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese selected kimchi while Americans said galbi or grilled beef ribs.
In Asia, Korean food was one of the most favored dishes. In China Korean food was the most popular foreign cuisine over Japanese or Italian dishes. It was the second favored foreign dish in Vietnam and the third in Japan.
In China, a Korean meal cost an average of $8 per customer, the lowest price among 11 foreign cuisines surveyed and only a quarter of French meal, which was $37. Accenture pointed out that there are scores of Korean restaurants run by a Chinese without a proper knowledge of the cuisine and serving poor-quality dishes. It warned that the perception of Korean food as low-price and low-quality might persist.
The image of Korean food was not much better in Japan, where a meal cost on average $10. But In Vietnam, Korean meals were the second most expensive with an average $5.60 per person, following Italian food with an average price tag of $5.94.