Fiesty ladies who spit out words spicier than kimchi, hot guys whose look is steamier than macchiato – Korean drama is not for the faint of heart, or stomach.
In most Korean dramas, you’ll find a common theme that is prevalent throughout the show. If you’re a foodie like me, you’d be glad to know that a lot of K-dramas are revolved around food. Whether it’s hot ramen or sumptuous breads, you’ll be pouring over the scenes of good-looking actors bickering over equally good-looking foods.
Here’s my list of top 5 Korean dramas about food…and love.
1. Flower Boy Ramen Shop
Genre: Comedy, Romance
A struggling college student called Yang Eun Bi dreams of becoming a high school teacher. She gets a shot at teaching at an all-boys school, but her accidental encounters with the Cha Chi Soo, son of the largest conglomerate (who is the owner of the school) messes up all her plans.
Soon, she finds herself caught between a love triangle between Cha Chi Soo (who is 5 years younger than her) and a mysterious stranger called Choi Kang Kyuk, who claims to be the owner of her father’s ramen shop. Watch their love triangle blossoms over bowls of steaming hot ramen.
I was expecting this to be another cheesy high school fling, but it surpassed my wildest imagination. Not only is it funny, it has comedic timing. All the actors portray their characters genuinely, especially the lead actress, whose “sexiness” (as put by one of her pursuers) is shown through her hot temper.
For a ramen drama, the dialogue is incredibly witty, engaging and relatable to real life. During one episode, I was bursting in tears, and then in laughter until my sides hurt. Trust me, you’ll be craving for ramen after watching it.
Genre: Romance, comedy
The story centers around an Italian restaurant called La Sfera, where a kitchen assistant Yoo-Kyung aspires to become a top-rated pasta chef. Just as she is about to be promoted, the executive chef is replaced by the tyrant Hyun Wook.
Hyun Wook is determined to fire all the female chefs in his kitchen, so that he can eventually date Yoo Kyung. Cooking up a relationship is not easy, especially when the restaurant owner has his eyes on Yoo Kyung. Hyun Wook’s old girlfriend also shakes things up as she comes back to his kitchen, determined to win his heart back.
Set in modern day Korea, this down-to-earth comedy feels more natural than all the other ones I’ve watched. The characters show their flaws, making them more personable throughout the movie. You see the sweat and tears of the characters working hard on not only their pasta, but their complicated love lives as well.
The charm in this drama is that it is credible, with a dash of wit, like when the restaurant owner chants his slogan “Customer is King”. That’s because he frequents the restaurant as a customer, not revealing to his employees that he is actually their boss.
3. Jewel in the Palace/Dae Jang Geum
Genre: Historical Drama, Romance
This award winning drama is based on a true story of the first female physician of the Joseon Dynasty. Jang Geum is the main heroine of the series. She is a bright and beautiful young lady whose perseverance leads her to become the head chef in the kitchen, and then onto a royal physician. Watch her love blossom as well, over banquets of traditional Korean cuisine.
The show epitomizes the Korean nature of perseverance and has won numerous awards for its theme of traditional Korean culture, food and medicine.
This was the first Korean drama I’ve watched, mostly because of my mother who said that it was an educational insight into ancient Korean culture. I was a bit confused at first by the complex plot, but soon found myself enthralled in the palace drama.
Plus, there’s a lot of gourmet food in it. In fact, they hired a lot of professional food stylists to replicate the traditional food suitable for an emperor. That’s why every time the female lead cooks, her hands are chubby, because they are actually the hands of an elderly professional chef who specializes in traditional Korean cuisine.
Only downside about this drama is that it’s a tad too lengthy, especially towards the middle when you get tons of flashbacks of the previous episodes (I guess to educate new viewers who just joined in), that take up a bulk of the episode. I’d suggest fast-forwarding some of it to get to the meatier parts.
4. Coffee Prince
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Han Kyul is the heir to a large food conglomerate, who is given two challenging tasks by his grandmother: 1. Settle down with a girl, and 2. Turn around a coffee shop that is about to go bankrupt.
Poor Eun Chan on the other hand, is a hard-working girl who has to work numerous jobs to pay off her debts, even posing as a guy to do so.
One day, Han Kyul happens upon Eun Chan and mistakes her for a guy. He hires her to be his gay lover in order to avoid an arranged marriage by his grandmother. Eun Chan accepts the offer to make some money, and begins to work at the coffee shop. As their relationship brews over steamy expresso shots, Han Kyul begins to question his own sexual preferences.
An oldie but goodie – this is a must-watch for any rookie to K-drama. The pace of the drama is just right – not too long or too short – for you to start appreciating Korean drama. The actors in this one portray their characters well, and here you’ll get your first take of the typical bickering (but loving) Korean couple.
5. Bread, Love and Dreams
Genre: Drama, Romance
The story starts in the past, when a maid gives birth to her child Tak-gu. He is actually the legitimate son of a large food corporation, Gu Ill Joong. Gu’s wife is so jealous that she conceives a son with the manager of the company (yes, it gets even weirder). 12 years later, Tak-gu appears to announce himself as Gu’s son, but he is driven out of the house by Gu’s wife.
Tak-gu ventures to a bakery where he meets his mentor and his true love. He is determined to become the world’s best baker, but things get complicated when his step brother is added to the mix.
Personally, I found this drama to a tad too mushy at times, especially when the female lead throws temper tantrums with puppy faces and droopy tears. It’s always a problem when the evil characters are portrayed too evil, making the good guys seem too good. But I did get a kick out of the intense bread making contests.
Whatever your flavor, these dramas will arouse your appetite. Whether it’s cooking up plates of pasta, or main characters working on complicated relationships, you’ll feel the heat. Not only does the people who make the food look good, the food itself is not bad either. Now that’s what I call Seoul-food.