More than just kimchi

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WHAT do ramyun, chigae, chimek and samgyupsal have in common?

These popular Korean dishes are some of Malaysians’ most favourites, not to mention the most searched Korean food items online by Malaysians recently.

Thanks to the Korean wave – the global popularity of South Korean culture, which includes music and film – that swept through Asia since the late ‘90s, the interest for everything Korean continues to surge.

Korean food, in particular, is now a staple in Malaysia, with restaurants and Korean grocery stores steadily popping up in town.

More interestingly, a recent search trend by online marketplace 11street showed a commonly recurring word among the searches was “spicy”.

“Indeed, ‘heat’ is something both Malaysian and Korean cuisines share, which goes to exemplify our common love for spicy food,” said Bruce Lim, 11street’s vice-president of merchandising, during the presentation of the local Korean food trend searches recently.

“Two years ago when we decided to open a Korean supermarket in Kuala Lumpur, we were motivated by the growing Korean community in the area. We wanted to bring a piece of home closer to them but we certainly did not foresee the steady stream of Malaysians frequenting our store,” said Matthew Lee, group managing director of KMT Trading Sdn Bhd, an importer and distributor of Korean products in Malaysia.

K Market, a subsidiary of KMT Trading, is a partner of 11street that offers Korean food items to Malaysian shoppers, including halal products.

According to 11street, the sale of Korean food items on its platform has doubled since its inception in April 2015, with the 26 to 35 age group contributing on average 40 per cent of total Korean food sale this year.

Other sought-after items by Malaysian shoppers are Pepero, a cookie stick dipped in chocolate; kimchi, a fermented Korean side dish made of vegetables; toppoki, a type of soft rice cake; banana milk, red pepper powder for making kimchi and vinegar health drinks.

“Malaysians are always on the lookout for good deals and great prices, and we aim to bridge the gap between demand and supply, by bringing in the latest Korean food trends for the enjoyment of Malaysian shoppers,” said Lim.

To prove just how similar Koreans and Malaysians’ tastes are in food, local chef Norzailina Nordin was invited to showcase a selection of delectable dishes that combined Korean and Malaysian flavours.

Among the unique Korean-Malay fusions that got the thumbs up at the event were Nasi Goreng Kampung Kimchi, which cleverly combines kimchi in this Malaysian staple; Char Kuey Teow, which creatively uses toppoki in place of the usual rice noodles; Kimchi Sambal, which replaces belacan with kimchi juice to perfection; and the crowd favourite, the Banana Milk Sago, which uses banana milk instead of the regular condensed milk.

For more information on Korean food items, visit

Nasi Goreng Kampung Kimchi


2 tbsp oil

1 tbsp kimchi juice

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

500g cooked and cooled rice

80g kimchi, thinly sliced

80g kangkung, cut into 3cm

40g crisp-fried anchovies

Blended ingredients:

5 bird’s eye chillies

4 shallots

1 tsp chopped garlic

1cm dried shrimp paste, roasted


1. Heat oil, sauté blended ingredients until aromatic.

2. Add kimchi juice and soy sauce. Stir well.

3. Mix in rice, kimchi and kangkung.

4. When kangkung is soft, add fried anchovies.

5. Stir and serve garnished with roasted seaweed.

Banana Milk Sago


2 litres water

200g green sago

400ml banana milk

Palm sugar syrup, to taste


1. Bring water in a pan to a boil.

2. Then lower heat to medium.

3. Rinse sago under running water then add to pan.

4. Stir often until sago is transparent, remove and strain under running water.

5. Then spoon into wet moulds. Set aside to cool then chill.

6. Serve sago with a drizzle of banana milk and palm sugar syrup.