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Cuisine Tops Taiwan's Growing List of Favoured South Korean Imports

Despite the demand for Korean cosmetics and fashion, it's the country's cuisine that Taiwan truly has an appetite for.

Photo: Seoul food: Korean cuisine is now tickling Taiwanese taste buds as never before. (Shutterstock.com)
Seoul food: Korean cuisine is now tickling Taiwanese taste buds as never before.
Photo: Seoul food: Korean cuisine is now tickling Taiwanese taste buds as never before. (Shutterstock.com)
Seoul food: Korean cuisine is now tickling Taiwanese taste buds as never before.

Korean culture has made a huge impact across Asia over recent years, with the country's cosmetics, beauty trends, fashion items and television output all finding favour across the region. In Taiwan, however, it is Korean cuisine that has, arguably, become the country's most sought after export.

A clear indication of this came in July of this year when Street Churros, a highly popular Seoul-headquartered fast-food chain, chose Taipei as the site of its first Asian outlet outside its home country. Prior to its soft opening in early July, the company staged four promotional events in the city, successfully stirring up local interest in the brand. Since its official launch, the queues outside its new outlet are said to have been nearly 100-metres long on a daily basis. Its appeal is also said to extend to many of Taiwan's foremost artists and models, a number of whom are believed to have made discreet visits to sample its menu for themselves.

Some two years before Street Churros opened its doors in Taiwan's capital, however, another South Korean catering company – Caffe Bene, the country's largest coffee chain brand – had already proven a hit in the city. Just over a year later, it was joined by Palsaik Korean BBQ, a barbecue restaurant chain already hugely familiar to the hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese tourists who visit Korea every year.

Over the following 18 months, the floodgates well and truly opened, with a number of Korean restaurants and fast-food chains launching in Taiwan, including Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, Mapo Galmaegi, ZOO COFFEE and Chicken Soup (Darkhanmari). Today, with many of these recent arrivals still opening new sites across the territory, Korean cuisine has been firmly established as one of the preferred options for Taiwanese diners.

The spate of new arrivals has not ended, however. The latest Korean food company to arrive in Taiwan is Isaac Toast & Coffee, a popular breakfast restaurant that also trades as Korean Mei & Mei. In August this year, the company opened its first Taiwan outlet in Taipei's Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall shopping district.

The popularity of its food exports, however, has not precluded the country's other business sectors from targetting Taiwan. Quite the contrary in fact. Over the last two years, Innisfree and Banila Co, two of Korea's leading cosmetics brands, have made a real impact on the Taiwanese market. Their success has been matched by a number of the country's more competitively-priced clothing brands – most notably H:Connect, SPAO and MIXXO – many of which have opened outlets in Taiwan.

Not so long ago, Taiwanese consumers had to resort to online purchases to acquire Korean cosmetics and clothing, while Korean food could only be enjoyed by those willing to take the 2,000 mile round trip to visit their northerly neighbours. Now, though, with so many Korean brands freely available on the high streets of Taiwan, it seems like downtown Seoul is never more than a brief bus ride away.

Lillian Kao, Taiwan Office

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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