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Taking the country’s flavors around the world

Sept 25,2017
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Chef Judy Joo of Jinjuu, right, plans to introduce new sauces inspired by Korean cuisine under a new brand in the United States and then across the world. At her restaurants, she introduces trendy food, such as fried chicken, and cocktails adorned with other elements in Korean culture, such as a cocktail which has a card used in the Korean game called hwatu as a garnish. [THE FORKS & SPOONS]
Chef Judy Joo of the restaurant Jinjuu in London and Hong Kong is teaming up with Lucia Cho, president of Kwangjuyo Group, which runs Michelin-starred restaurants in Seoul and makes porcelain and premium distilled soju, to make sauces.

Their goal: to make flavors often used in Korean cuisine be everyday staples in kitchens around the world.

“There is no internationally well-known brand for Korean condiments,” Joo told the Korea JoongAng Daily last week during a visit to Seoul. “Everybody knows Kikkoman for Japanese products, but nobody really has a go-to brand for Korean products.”

Two sauces are being developed: one is a hot sauce based on Korea’s hot pepper paste gochujang, and the other is a sauce based on black garlic, the caramelized garlic that has become a sensation among foodies around the world. The brand name for the product line has yet to be released. The two sauces will hit the U.S. market early next year before being released in other countries. The two women’s goal is to place their products in general stores, not ethnic Asian markets. They want a Korean product to be as ubiquitous as Tabasco or Sriracha sauce - a taste of Korea that can be combined with many dishes from different cuisines.

“I want to go big with it,” said Joo, who is also releasing her own dry spices alongside the products she’s making with Kwangjuyo Group. “I’m not trying to get people to cook 100 percent authentic Korean food, but if I can get someone [who has little background with Korean food] to order gochujang [hot pepper paste] off of Amazon, that’s a success.”

Besides launching these sauces, Joo has been working on other ways to spread Korean culture such as making a cooking show or decorating cocktails with Korean design.

At her restaurants in London, she came up with specialty cocktails with her team, many based on premium Korean soju, such as Hwayo. She then employs small objects that are part of entertainment culture in Korea. For example, she uses flower-patterned cards from games such as hwatu as a garnish for a cocktail.

“We are trying to raise awareness of Korean drinks as most of the world doesn’t know what soju is,” she said. Educating food and beverage experts in cities overseas is one of the best marketing tools to create more demand for Korean products. Increased demand can inspire more big alcohol distributors internationally to import Korean liquors to countries overseas.

Joo is also in the process of making the third season of her show “Korea Food Made Simple,” which was previously shown on the Cooking Channel. She said many people have sent testimonies of what they tried at home following her recipes, complete with photos.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]