By Honorary Reporter Nsikak Ekere from Nigeria
Photos = Ugonna Anieke
In a world of rapid trends, Korean culture has become a global sensation. With the rise of Hansik (Korean cuisine) in France, Ugonna Anieke, a French entrepreneur, opened the online content and media agency K-phenomen to introduce Korean culture like food to the French public. The agency mainly organizes Korean cuisine-related events in Paris including pastry workshops and conferences on culinary trends in Korea and Asia for French companies.
The following are excerpts from a Jan. 9 interview with her via Zoom.
Briefly introduce yourself.
I set up K-phenomen in 2011 to highlight Korean culture. I share articles on Korean food on my blog and social media. Our agency has also collaborated with many Korean companies and institutions like the Korean Cultural Center in Paris, AT Center (a Korean government agency promoting Korean cuisine in France), the Korean cable news network YTN and Paris Dabang (Korean-style cafe in Paris). We offer services like Korean cooking classes, business events and conferences on culinary trends in Korea and Asia.
How did you get interested in Korean cuisine?
I discovered Korean cuisine at age 16 while watching K-dramas. Korean cuisine seemed to have a variety of dishes that are aesthetic and well-balanced. This drove me to write about Korea on my blog and social media from 2011, making me one of the few to write about Korean restaurants, cuisine and cafes in Paris at the time. My work also became a reference for French magazines. I was further motivated after discovering that Korean cuisine, like Caribbean cuisine, has lots of flavors. That’s why I often say my two favorite cuisines are Haitian (my mother’s Caribbean cuisine) and Korean.
How did Korean food grow popular in Paris?
There weren’t many Korean restaurants in Paris in 2010, but thanks to Hallyu (Korean Wave), more people grew aware of Korean cuisine. They learned about it through Korean dramas, for example, so it made them want to eat at Korean restaurants or learn to cook Korean dishes. Fabien Yoon, a French TV personality in Korea, told me in a 2016 interview that the next culinary trend would be Korean, and eight years later, it’s booming.
You released a guide to the top Korean restaurants in Paris.
“Les Meilleurs Restaurants Coreens de Paris” (The Best Korean Restaurants in Paris) came out last month in a digital edition; the print format will come out this year. As a foodie, I love Korean cuisine so I made this because for many years, I always got the question, “Can you recommend places to eat good Korean food in Paris?” The visuals feature around 60 of the best Korean restaurants, cafes, grocery stores and other eye-catching Korean experiences in Paris.
This guide covers more than just the best Korean restaurants in Paris.
It’s helpful because it lists several Korean places one can explore on the same day. To spend a 100% Korean day in Paris, the guide has explanations and beautiful photographs to show you how through photos of the dishes and atmosphere. The end has my insights on Korean culinary culture and interview stories about the restaurants.
What are your favorites among Korean dishes?
Mango bingsu (traditional shaved ice) is my favorite dessert. It’s a simple and ultra-fresh dessert I love to eat in Paris in summer. My favorite dish is kimchi bokkeumbap (fried rice) and I list in my guide the best version I tried in Paris. I also love omija (schisandra berry) tea.
Where are the hottest spots for Hansik in Paris and which foods are the most popular?
The interior of one Korean restaurant in Paris was inspired by Korea’s pojangmacha (street food kiosk) culture. Its signature dish is cheese dakgalbi (spicy stir-fried barbecue chicken), which has chicken marinated in gochujang (red pepper paste) on one side and cheese on the other. This combination creates an explosion of flavor in the mouth.
Korean cafes are also trendy in Paris. Everyone talks about a cafe with delicious pies and a drink with the traditional confectionery yakgwa (deep-fried honey cookies). Another offers bingsu.
What are your plans for promoting Hansik?
I want to continue introducing Korean food and cafe concepts in France and organize more events related to Korean cuisine. To hold more events, I hope to open my agency’s own venue next year.
*This article is written by a Korea.net Honorary Reporter. Our group of Honorary Reporters are from all around the world, and they share with Korea.net their love and passion for all things Korean.