When Arum Jung moved to Auckland in 1996, there were only two Korean restaurants in the Auckland CBD.

Neither sold her favourite spicy dishes like agujjim, bibim naeng-myeon or galbijjim.

"Back then, when we craved for such things, Mum had to cook it at home with spices and ingredients that were sent from Korea," said Mrs Jung, an executive officer.

However, this changed when the population of New Zealanders with Korean ethnicity spiked from 930 in the early 90s to nearly 30,200 in 2013.


There are now 35 Korean restaurants in the CBD, according to the Korean Restaurant guidebook.

However, if Korean cafes, dessert outlets, pancake, dessert and food court stalls were included, the number would be more than 40.

Once, Korean restaurants here served mainly barbecued meat, but now the range covers everything from traditional soup and stews, hoddeok pancakes, kimbap rice rolls to the newest craze, patbingsu, a shaved ice dessert with sweet toppings.

In an effort to get customers grilling the correct way, Faro restaurant of Lorne St has on its menu instructions in English on how to grill, eat and use the right dipping sauces.

"Eating Korean is not like your typical Kiwi barbecue, so getting the method right is important to get the best out of the meal," said manager Joe Kwon.

University of Auckland Korean studies specialist Changzoo Song, who has done research into the Korean restaurant scene here, said tourists and international students in central Auckland also contributed to the increase in demand for Korean food.

"They tend to be more globalised in their taste," he said.

"Thus Korean restaurants would do better in the CBD than elsewhere. In particular, a lot of their customers are young Chinese."

Dr Song said several factors, including South Korea's economic rise, popularity of Korean drama and pop culture and the increasing globalisation of food culture, in addition to Korean migrants, had contributed to the popularity and proliferation of Korean restaurants.

"I'm not sure if the popularity of Korean food would ever reach that of Japanese, Thai or Indian here but it has been growing fast," he said.

Beautician Jennifer May, 34, said she first stepped into a Korean restaurant about six years ago after watching the Korean drama Jewel in the Palace, which was aired in New Zealand.

"At first it was purely out of curiosity, but now I can plainly say I am hooked on it," Miss May said.

"The flavours, including kimchi, sort of grows on you."

South Korean Consul-General in Auckland Chang soon Cha said many locals are also recognising the health benefits of eating Korean.

Koreans generally use less oil in their cooking, but tend to use a generous amount of chilli pepper and garlic.

"The popularity of Korean foods such as bulgogi, bibimbap and kimchi are on the rise, and it's not only because of their great taste," Mrs Cha said.

"Most of them are low in calories and made from healthy ingredients."

The Korean Society of Auckland celebrates Korean Day today at the North Shore Events Centre, which runs from 10am to 5pm.

Besides a festival market and cultural performances, including by the Busan Metropolitan Dance Company from Korea, the event would also be where New Zealanders could get a taste of Korean cuisine.

Mrs Cha added: "Food is just like art or music. It is part of our culture and a powerful tool for communicating with people."

Teen golfer says being the youngest can be tough

Teen Korean-Kiwi golfer Bohyun Park says it can be tough being the youngest at a family dinner.

In Korean culture, respect for elders is considered to be very important, the 13-year-old says.

"Even if you're starving, as a sign of respect I have to let my dad and others more senior than me eat first," she says.

"On top of that, as the youngest, I've also got to serve them."

Other rules she has to keep include not talking with her mouth full and not using her chopsticks and spoon at the same time.

It is also not okay to leave any traces of food on the spoon, and chopsticks and spoon must be returned to their original positions at the end of the meal.

After dinner, Bohyun has to wait until the seniors leave before making a move.

"There are a lot of rules, but I am used to it," she says.

Bohyun's favourite Korean dishes include kimchi, a traditional fermented Korean side dish made of vegetables with a variety of seasonings, and bulgogi, marinated meat cooked using traditional grilling techniques.

Five places in the CBD offering different Korean food:

• Faro, 5 Lorne St: Traditional Korean grill serving gogigui (barbecued meat) using the Korean method of cooking beef, pork, chicken prepared at the diner's table on charcoal grills.

• Teolbo, 4/18 Beach Rd: Specialises in sundaeguk, a type of blood sausage stew served with cow or pig intestines and other organs.

• Snowman Cafe, Chancery Square, A107/18: Serves patbingsu, a shaved ice dessert with sweet toppings such as chopped mango, cookies, and red bean paste.

• No.1 Pancake, Cnr Lorne and Kitchener Sts: Hoddeok, Korean-style pancakes with flavours including beef, chicken, ham or vege, all with cheese, or chocolate or cinnamon sweet pancakes.

• Madis Kimbap, 9 Wakefield St: Create your own kimbap, or Korean version of sushi, a popular light meal served with danmuji or kimchi.

Eating Korean-style

• Use chopsticks or a spoon each time, and not both at the same time.
• Don't talk with your mouth full.
• Hold your drink glass with both hands.
• Elders eat before juniors, and juniors should use two hands to serve their seniors.
• Taste soup and stew first, followed by rice and the side dishes.
• Never refill your own glass, refill others and let others refill yours.
• Going Dutch, or sharing the bill, is not Korean-style.

(Source: Korea Tourism, Korean Consulate Auckland)

Korean Day


Saturday Apr 2, 10am to 5pm

Where: North Shore Events Centre

What: A celebration of Korean culture and food with performances, market stalls and demonstrations.