Major Fast Food Franchises Getting on the K-train

by Isabel Bang

Ever since Korean food became the new “hip thing” worldwide, we started seeing cafes and restaurants incorporating Korean sauce and spices in their menu - like Gochujang (chilli paste) or the Bulgogi (Korean BBQ) sauce. Having our neighbourhood cafes come up with these fusion dishes was pretty fascinating itself, but I was more amazed to see major fast-food franchises doing the same. Yes, and I mean that it’s happening in New Zealand, not in Korea. 

Wendy’s released their “The New Korean BBQ Range” last week (May 21st 2021) including four burgers and a loaded fries menu. The so-called “Korean” thing to note in this range is the sweet pickled red onions and the Korean BBQ sauce, which I’m assuming they attempted to mimic the Bulgogi sauce. 

Wendys NZ

Overall, the burgers initially have a sweet flavour pulling through from both the BBQ sauce and the pickled red onion. Every time I see a Korean fusion dish with “Korean BBQ Sauce” in it, I would most of the time taste the very strong sweetness before anything else. This would’ve probably been an unavoidable decision in order to make the unique taste of Korea fit into the Western palate. Nonetheless, as someone who expected something similar to the Bulgogi burger that can be found in Mecca’s Korea, it wasn’t an as exciting experience - when international borders opened up and when we get to fly over to Korea, TRY THE BULGOGI BURGER THERE! Regardless, the burgers themselves were a good meal as Wendys’ burgers always are. It's not only Wendy’s that's taking advantage of the K-food wave, but Pita Pit as well.

Pita Pit NZ

Pita Pit is also having a limited time offer of their new menu “Korean BBQ Pita” and the “The Taste of Korea Pita”. Both menus offer a choice of protein between grilled steak, chicken breast, and prawns, and has the sweet and savoury Korean BBQ Sauce in there. The “Korean BBQ Pita” is your normal pita where you choose the rest of the fresh and grilled ingredients yourself, while the “The Taste of Korea Pita” is one where the team designs your pita for you. In this, you will find the same choice of protein and sauce, along with brown rice, fried egg, cucumber, mixed red cabbage, carrot, and red onion. You can optionally have kimchi added in the pita or can skip it out if you’re not used to fermented ingredients just yet. With Gochujang (chilli paste) added BBQ sauce, rice, fried egg, and the mix of healthy veggies, it seems like Pita Pit aimed to reinterpret the famous Korean Bibimbap (Mixed Rice) into a pita. The idea of Korean food putting healthy & delicious first corresponded well with Pita Pit’s values of pursuing healthier meals for their consumers - resulting in a one-of-a-kind menu that would defs be worth a try! 

Burger Fuel NZ / Burger King NZ

Even in the past, franchises such as Burger Fuel and Burger King have been trialling out Korean menus as well. Sad that these menus were all limited-time offers though 😭 Maybe one day we’ll get the real Korean style burgers (maybe even spicy ones!) in New Zealand that will stay for good! With K-culture and K-food gaining more and more attention, I don’t think it’s that far away 😉 Meanwhile, if you’re looking for more Korean fusion food, check out TMI Vol. 010 for my short review on Tiger Burger in Grey Lynn 🐯

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