Yes, Korean-Italian Fusion is a thing. At least, when it comes to pasta. Korea is just like Japan and China a country with an old noodle tradition, older than the Italian use of pasta. It’s a tradition of long noodles. This might explain, why Korean supermarkets only offer spaghetti from Italy. And most of the restaurants stick to spaghettis as well.
I’ve been coming to Seoul since 2011 and believe me, finding a good pasta wasn’t easy back then. Even if I love Korean food like crazy, after a while I need a bit of homy taste. And that is pasta in my case. At the time, the Korean concept of Italian pasta was serving a few spaghetti in a sea of sauce. More a soup than a pasta dish. The choice of sauces usually contained white and red seafood variations, cream sauce and ragú. The interesting aspect was and still is: Sauces are prepared in the wok. This gives the pasta dish this absolutely amazing roast aroma of an open fire place with a some more garlic and spice than in Italian cuisine. If you get lucky and the pasta itself is still al dente, you are up for an amazing fusion experience.
The second stage of fusion is serving this in the traditional Korean earthenware pot, the ddukbbaegi (). A restaurant in Pohang, a harbor city in the southern parts of South Korea by the Japanese sea, has made this into their signature dish. A new branch just opened in Incheon (close to Seoul). This style of serving pasta has its pro’s and con’s. It enhances the hearty taste that comes with the wok preparation. But you should be eating rather quickly, since the pasta tends to get a bit soft because of the continuous heat from the ddukbaegi. Still it’s a very flavorful fusion. You can follow the guys on Instagram under ddukbbaegi_italia. The owner Ungab Jung developed his pizza recipe together with Italian chef’s, so there is a lot of passion in that place.
Apart from the fusion style you can also find pretty authentic Italian places in Seoul, like the tiny restaurant Plate 946, instagram: plate946. The owner of this place travelled Italy for a year and brought back the best of Italy: ragú (type of bolognese sauce). The chef’s passion is meat. And he knows how to serve it. This fairly new restaurant does what I like best: it concentrates on the good things. No fuzz, just great food! In this case, there are three pasta dish and two or three steak variations of Black Angus meat. And believe me: The ragú this chef creates is better than most of the ragús I can get in Italian restaurants in Germany. Even for Italian gold standard, this dish is amazing.
The fusion aspect here is the meat. Black Angus is not a typical Italian choice and also the menu with it focus on that type of meat is special. But it definitely works. The combination of pasta and steak is just great. In Korea you wouldn’t serve course in the Italian order, pasta as primo, meat as secondo. Rather you’d have everything on the table and share. Though I’m not sure if anyone survived taking just a bite from my plate of ragú in this restaurant. It’s simply too yummy to be shared. So if you ever get tired of Korean BBQ or sashimi, I suggest you try Korean-Italian fusion varieties!