Korean pop culture is changing the way Filipinos eat

Korean restaurant franchises like BB.Q Chicken are capitalizing on our local fascination for K-drama and K-pop.

While we are not all into the shows and the music, I don’t hear anyone complaining about the (really good) fried chicken.

Korean food is not something that just popped up in the Philippine dining scene over the last few years. Many of us grew up eating kalbi jim (beef stew) and mandu (pork dumplings) with hot rice. We have gathered around a smoky grill searing slices of marinated pork belly and beef ribs while consuming copious amounts of banchan (small plates of appetizers) accompanied, of course, by endless pours of soju.

However, the global popularity of Korean pop culture—most notably their music (K-pop) and drama series (K-drama)—has catapulted their cuisine to the forefront of our consciousness.

There’s actually no chicken barbecue at BB.Q Chicken but there’s a whole lot more of Korean-style chicken like Galbi, Gang-Jeong, Golden Original and others.

We watched real life couple Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin wrestle with their sexual tension in the popular K-drama series Crash Landing on You (CLOY) as they devoured crispy fried chicken at their local BB.Q Chicken joint. We were captivated and misty-eyed, not only from the tear-jerking storyline but also suffering major FOMO from that mouthwatering meal.

The local clamor for the Korean culinary tradition of chicken and beer was enough reason for the owners of BB.Q Chicken to dip their feet in the Philippine market in 2022, opening their first branch at Bonifacio High Street Central in BGC.

The response was staggering, to say the least. “People would wait in line for up to 3 hours,” imparts Tanya Sarenas, vice president of BB.Q Chicken Philippines. “Filipinos have been seeing their favorite Korean actors eating in BB.Q Chicken in CLOY and other K-drama shows, so now that the brand is finally here they want to see what it’s all about.”

BB.Q Chicken’s second branch in BGC recently opened at The Shops on 7th Avenue. Its fifth opened even more recently at Evia Lifestyle Center in Las Piñas.

They now have five branches Metro Manila with two in BGC. Their newest just opened at Evia Lifestyle Center in Las Piñas.

The interiors are just as you would experience in the South Korean stores: with soothing sage and browns, and elegant curves on their walls and tables. It is the kind of place that encourages one to linger and enjoy the company of friends and family, over generous plates of food meant to be shared and with several rounds of beer.

The star, of course, is the fried chicken—served simply seasoned; sprinkled with their signature chili powder; or cloaked in their sticky secret sauce, among other fun and flavorful variations and in different levels of spicy.

Pasta with seaweed

While the name says “BBQ,” there is no barbecue here. BB.Q stands for “best of the best quality” and when you bite into their freshly cooked fried chicken you will most likely agree. The claim is that their fried chicken is “crispier, juicier, and more tender than anything you’ve tasted before,” a result of combining tradition and modern research and development in their own Chicken Academy.

The education on Korean gastronomy ensues with food you will only find in a casual dining franchise born in Seoul. There are revitalizing bowls of sundubu jigae, hot and spicy soup with tofu, vegetables, fish cakes, and meat or seafood. Sarenas takes pride in their salads that are generous and fresh, with a price point many establishments in their segment cannot contend with.

They have noodle dishes for everyone, such as the bulgogi pasta that kids will love and their dakbokki that is a rich and warming option for those looking to soak up their many shots of soju. New on the menu are their gimbap or Korean sushi rolls, a fun alternative to the hearty bibimbap, which is also on their extensive menu.

Dalgona ice cream

Everything here is generously-portioned, executed well, and priced competitively, truly giving the competitors in the highly-saturated casual dining market a run for their money.

When asked what sets them apart from all the other fried chicken brands, some already largely revered in our chicken-loving country, Sarenas confidently replies, “because this is Korean fried chicken and we do things differently. When we say that we are the ‘best of the best,’ we do not take that lightly. It truly is the best fried chicken, the best Korean food, the best value for money.”

With the world currently embracing Korean pop culture so enthusiastically, this is not difficult to believe. Just like how a well-written drama series tugs at your heart strings or an adorable, hiphop-dancing, cleverly curated girl band makes you twerk, BB.Q Chicken is easy to love because it is probably the best you have had in a while.

The new lifestyle.