While its oddly soft texture, green hue and rough exterior may have been unsettling at first, the avocado is now being praised locally for its nutritional value. It is noted especially among the younger generation to be full of vitamins, great for the skin, low in cholesterol and beneficial to dieting.
For its health benefits and delicious, buttery consistency, the green fruit is being incorporated into more meals. On Instagram, the Korean-language hashtag for avocado already has over 342,000 posts.
According to the Korea Customs Service, Korea imported $2.4 million worth of avocados in September 2017, up more than threefold from $752,000 spent on the pear-shaped produce a year earlier.
Avocados also now rank sixth in terms of most popular imported fruits sold at Lotte Mart outlets.
The path to popularity is being forged partly by the restaurant industry. Since avocados remain on the pricey side, it’s only natural for people to hesitate before purchasing them at the market. Yet, as eateries have been using them in their dishes, people have become more inspired to cook with avocados at home, too.
There is even an establishment named Avocado Cafe in the Mangwon neighborhood of Seoul that serves a variety of healthy, avocado-packed choices. Thanks to Korea’s late venture into avocados, some restaurants, including this cafe, have been more inclined to emulate popular Western culinary creations like avocado quinoa salads, avocado banana smoothies and avocado chicken wraps.
Koreans also seem more responsive to using avocados in traditional cuisine, such as bibimbap.
At Rose Dining Table in Seongsu-dong, Seoul, a popular menu item is the salted pollock roe avocado bibimbap. Modeled after the traditional dish starring seasoned vegetables atop warm rice, the soft avocado makes the mixed rice meal all the more coherent and savory. This specific dish has over 25,000 affiliated hashtags on Instagram, as people catch on to the concept and create their own versions at home.
Avocado has been the latest “it thing” in terms of sweets as well. For instance, Starbucks has reintroduced the avocado blended frappe seasonal beverage. First released in 2015, the drink, only available in Korea, has returned with a few upgrades like a dark green “peel” rimming the glass and chocolate “pit” meant to make the drink look more realistic.
On Instagram, nearly 13,000 people have posted about the beverage, and many describe it as a tart yogurt smoothie with chunks of refreshing, frozen avocado. There are many captions on Instagram along the lines of “I can’t even imagine a summer without avocados,” and “It hasn’t been that long since I’ve been introduced to avocados, but why am I eating so many now? Guacamole is so good on bread -- I finished it all!”
By Serena Soh, Intern reporter (firstname.lastname@example.org)