With Korean lifestyle trends crashing Berlin, we checked out the most popular. From food, fashion, beauty and film, we’ve scoured the city to help you get your Korean fix.
Interested in creating your own interpretation of Bibimbap? Whether you want to throw a Korean themed dinner party, taste some soju, or try a traditional Korean snack, we’ve tracked down the best Korean markets in town. Right on Alexanderplatz next to Alexa, Asia-Markt Lee (Dircksenstrasse 101-103, Mitte, Mon-Sat 9-20), a two-generation Korean owned grocery store run by the Oh family, has supplied Berliners with Asian produce for 12 years. With around 5000 products spread over the 500m² store, you can find all your Korean essentials. Besides Korean instant Ramen or Ramyeon in flavours like spicy chicken or shrimp (96 cents), they stock all the sauces you need for a convincing ‘K-dinner’ including Sempio soy sauces (€2.50), and the maesil cheong (plum extract syrup, €8.50) that Korean housewives use to balance spicy dishes. If unsure just get yourself a jar/tube of gochujang (€3.25), it’s the chili paste, ubiquitous in Korean dishes – used plain or mixed with nuts and sesame oil, it’ll make any of your concoctions taste convincingly Korean! Ever considered steaming some Korean blood sausage for dinner? Head to the frozen aisle to grab a Sundae (€9). Or try drinking like a Korean: they are the biggest drinkers in Asia, with men downing five bottles of soju/13 cans of beer per week – and that’s only the average. Asia-Markt Lee sell Hite beer, Jinro soju (€3.75, 350ml) or the fermented sparkling rice wine makgeolli (€2.30). Don’t forget to grab some garaetteok (Korean rice cakes) – fry them with spicy tobokki sauce to make your own Tteokbokki! And if you want the perfect Korean rice, they also sell a €330 rice cooker by Korean brand Cuckoo which sings when your rice is ready.
Samill Sangsa (Breite Straße 46, Mon-Fri 9-19:30, Sat 9-16) in Zehlendorf is arguably Berlin’s oldest K-store and so authentic you might forget you’re even in Berlin. Run by an older non-German speaking Korean couple, the tiny 35m² store’s narrow aisles are packed to the brim with Ramyeon, seaweed snacks, Danmuji (pickled radish) and a variety of preserved products, like Japchae (glass noodles), frozen Sundae, tea, and typical (canned) Korean sides like perilla leaves in soy sauce. You can even buy ready-made kimchi!
For a more Insta-worthy shopping experience head to Kimchi Princess’ Super K-Market in Kreuzberg (Manteuffelstraße 47, reopening on Nov 4, Mon-Sat 13-20) located directly across from the restaurant. Here you’ll find essentials such as Ramyeon (€2) and gochujang (€5.50) or shrimp crackers (€1.50), but also Kimchi Princess signature products including house-made kimchi (€5), t-shirts and bags with slogans like ‘Koreans cook it better’ or the Kimchi Princess cookbook (€25). Last but not least the Kimchi Princess Soju (€20, 350ml), made from bio-rice and locally sourced winter wheat, it is produced in Düsseldorf’s Isae, the only soju distillery in Germany.
Meal kits for the curious
Wanna cook Korean, but not too partial to the shopping part? Agonising around aisles of your Asiamarkt trying to make sense of the writing on the package and that you’re not mistaking doenjang (soybean paste) for gochujang (chili paste)? Zoom Fresh, the brainchild of an American-Korean couple, might be the solution. Edward Bae and Heejoo Suh have been selling their Asian Kochbox meal kits since February last year, currently offering four Korean recipes – some with surprising ingredients. Budae Jjigae or ‘Korean ArmyStew’ (€15 for two portions) has its origins in the post-Korean War food shortages when locals mixed U.S. army products like canned pork meat with traditional Korean ingredients. In your kit, you’ll find a few of those canned goods – baked beans, Spam(!) and sausage, also instant Ramyeon, upgraded by some fresh vegetables which you’ll simply need to pan fry and smother in gochujang sauce – of course! There’s also a kit for a perfect home-made Bibimbap (tofu or beef, €15 for two portions), the meal is paired with house-made radish kimchi. You can order a Kochbox on their website or go pick it up at Stargarder Straße 29 (Mon-Fri 12-20, Sat 10-20). For the even more k-cuisine curious, Zoom Fresh has just started in-house cooking classes, this month – Korean BBQ! The classes for up to nine people take place twice a month and teach participants how to prepare, cook and eat various Korean delicacies (with alcoholic drinks included).
Fashion and design
Want to get the Korean style? Knok (Hasenheide 54, Kreuzberg. Mon-Sat, 11-19), a Korean design concept store, exemplifies the trendy and increasingly cross-cultural impact of Korean design. Owner Haelan Kim opened the store a year ago offering clothes from coveted Korean labels like Acid House and Andersson Bell as well as home goods, accessories and art. Reflecting the diasporic story of its owner, Knok also sells accessories from Korean-American label Chrystie NewYork and photographs of Seoul by Berlin-based cityscape photographer Martin Leuze. As South Korea increasingly sets trends worldwide — Kim lists black-and-white techno gear, jackets buttoned only at the top, and voluminous outfits as Korean exports seen on Berlin streets — Knok allows you to browse a curated collection of Korean cool. Prices range from €4 to €400, with a t-shirt setting you back about €50.
For skincare aficionados, South Korea is a kind of El Dorado, a land where people have family aestheticians along with family doctors. And its unique brand of beauty is rapidly making its way into the Berlin mainstream, with stores like Keauti (Oranienburger Str. 32, Mitte. Tue-Sat 12-19). Owner Anna Stolper sources her products directly from Korea, drawn to a beauty industry that combines a long tradition of herbal medicine, or hanbang, with cutting edge innovations, like hydrogel masks. Shoppers at Keauti can scale the ten steps of Korean beauty, literally, on a staircase that spells them out: oil-based cleansing, water-based cleansing, exfoliation, toner, essence (a lightweight serum), ampoules (a more concentrated serum), sheet masks, eye cream, moisturiser, and sunscreen. If that seems like a lot, fear not: Keauti offers five-step packages, focusing on the steps Stolper finds truly essential, starting around €100.
For an instant pop of Korean style, eyewear store Yun Berlin (Rosenthaler Str. 11, Mitte. Mon-Sat 11-20) is bringing the country’s minimalist aesthetic to Berlin. With 160 frames to choose from, founder Jiyoon Yun’s designs are inspired by Korean concepts of beauty and fashion that she brought to Mitte when she founded the store in 2015. But it’s not just the designs that are influenced by Korean lifestyle; with only 20 minutes production time for a set of glasses, the store can live up to what Yun calls the “chop-chop culture” of Korea. Prices range from €99 to €199.
Sweet street treats
Sung-Hye Hong aka Hodo Cookie Lady supplies homesick Koreans and curious internationals with traditional hodoogwaja (walnut cookies) at the Kulturbrauerei market every Sunday from noon ’til 6pm (€4.50 for seven pieces, €8.50 for 14). A Berliner since 2013, the 31-year-old from Dongducheon near the North Korean border uses an industrial-grade waffle iron from Korea to give the sweet dough balls filled with red bean paste and a walnut their characteristic shape. She teaches uninitiated customers how to eat them, too: all in one!
Travelling to Korea without leaving the comfort of a Berlin cinema is made easy by the Korean Cultural Centre. On the last Thursday of each month, their “Filmkreis”, running since 2016, features gems old and new, always with English subtitles. The screenings start at 6pm in the Centre’s “Godo Space” theatre and are typically followed by a discussion led by film critics from radio station rbb Kultur or newspapers Die Welt and taz. Heads up: this month’s edition is actually cancelled in favour of the Korea Independent Film Festival kicking off at Babylon Mitte on October 31 through November 5. This too is organised by the film fans at the Kulturzentrum, who are also co-organising a retrospective of Korean cinema at Arsenal. Running October 19-31, Spring on the Korean Peninsula focuses on the period between 1935 and 1962. Still need more? Check out the last screenings of EXBlick’s Korean Cinema Fortnight at Lichtblick Kino, we’re showing Bong Joo-ho’s Parasite on October 31.