Cheesin' for Cheese: The Growing Popularity of Cheese in Korea
There has been a longstanding perception that Koreans are not so much into dairy products.
But since the early 2000s, Koreans have been adding cheese to a variety of popular Korean dishes, such as gimbap, dakgalbi and ramyeon.
This trend, along with the growing number of people traveling abroad, has made Koreans fall in love with cheese.
Today, restaurants and shops that specialize in cheese are crowded with guests, proving the popularity of what was once disdained here as something stinky.
Cheeseflo in Hannam-dong serves all things cheese -- from appetizers to main dishes and desserts.
At the entrance, some 15 different types of artisanal cheese and other charcuterie options are neatly displayed in a refrigerated case.
More than half of the cheese products are Cheeseflo's own creations. The restaurant develops and introduces one new type of cheese on a quarterly basis. The names are also witty, such as "Brie de Hannam," "Jindallae" or "Itaewon blue."
Choosing the cheese plate option, a staff member will kindly assist guests to try out and choose two to four options.
The restaurant takes special pride in its halloumi cheese salad, which comes with a generous chunk of lightly toasted halloumi cheese.
The robust texture of the cheese enhances the flavorful Mediterranean-style salad.
The delicately prepared cheese ice cream with crispy nurungji -- Korean scorched rice -- chips on the side, is a must-try dessert.
Ristorante Il Chiasso
Ristorante Il Chiasso is an Italian restaurant located in one of the restaurant and bar alleys of Noksapyeong in Yongsan District.
The restaurant is well known for its signature parmesan risotto, which nearly all guests going for the first time try out.
Upon ordering the risotto dish, the owner-chef presents at the table a whole wheel of parmesan cheese on a cart.
Warm rice is then placed in the wheel, while the cheese is ground and stirred with the rice, which is part of a performance for guests to enjoy. The risotto has the deep, savory taste of parmesan, which ends with a salty, buttery finish.
Those who want to enjoy a glass of wine over a light dish can go for the piatto di prosciutto. The unique salty plate of dry-cured Italian ham can be enjoyed with a choice of burrata cheese or mozzarella di bufala cheese on the side.
Burrata cheese at Il Chiasso has a very milky and fluid taste, which the owner-chef highly recommends to cheese lovers.
Meanwhile, the mozzarella di bufala has a slightly sweet and sour kick that goes well with light red wine.
Fromagerie Le Meunier
Fromagerie Le Meunier in Bangbae-dong's Seorae Village is a cheese specialty shop which opened last July.
The shop sells French cheese made by Rodolphe Le Munier, a descendant of generations of cheesemongers.
In 2007, he was awarded the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France, an honor recognizing trade professionals in France.
Their specialty cheese can be found in high-end restaurants and five star hotels globally, including Paris, London, New York, Tokyo and Dubai.
Around 30 different types of cheese are on display, most of which can be sampled before purchase.
Tomme trois laits, beaufort dete and adarre are some recommendations made by the store's manager.
The tomme trois laits is made of three different types of milk, while the beaufort dete is hard cheese made with milk from grass-fed cattle. The adarre is slightly soft in texture and is made from sheep's and goat's milk.
Source: Kim Hae-yeon, The Korea Herald, 2023