Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Favorite Japanese and Korean Food-Centric Dramas

Yes, I waste a lot of time watching Asian dramas online, and I know I'm not the only one among my food-blogging friends. What better way to combine our enjoyment of these dramas and food than watching tv series with stories centered around food and restaurants? Here are some of my favorites (and the title links to where you can watch it! You can also watch all the Korean ones on DramaFever):

Gourmet (Korean)
Synopsis (from Hulu):
Based on the graphic novel by Heo Young Man, 2008 South Korean drama "Gourmet" chronicles the happenings behind the scenes of renowned traditional Korean restaurant Woo Nam Jung. The story centers on the rivalry between brothers Lee Sung Chan and Oh Bong Joo.

My 2-cents: I really enjoyed this because it's centered pretty heavily on the food and cooking rather than cheesy love stories. It's a traditional Korean restaurant so it delves pretty deeply (and philosophically) on Korean food and cooking traditions with some great food shots! The story itself is good, as well, not your typical Korean cinderella love stories.

Buy it on Amazon: Gourmet / Sik Gaek - Korean Drama (6 DVD Digipak) All Region with English Subtitles

Osen (Japanese)
Synopsis (from
Handa Sen is the "okami" (proprietress) of a long-standing restaurant in one of the lower parts of Tokyo. Though she is normally airheaded and loves to drink, she has an impressive mastery of a wide range skills, from cooking to ceramics to calligraphy. While the drama follows various events surrounding the restaurant, one of the series' highlights is its illustration of Japanese food and culture.

My 2-cents: I like this for similar reasons as I like the previous one. Centered around a ryotei, a traditional Japanese fine dining restaurant, it talks about preserving traditional methods of Japanese cooking and food production. There's an episode about making miso, another about fresh-shaven bonito flakes, and more.

Buy it on Amazon: Osen (Japanese TV Series, English Sub, All Zone DVDs, Complete Series Episode 1-10)

Honorable mentions:
Bambino (Japanese)
Synopsis (from
Shogo Ban (Jun Matsumoto) is a cocky, arrogant and fiercely driven youngster, who aspires to become a first-class chef. After enjoying success as a junior chef back home, Ban is ready to flaunt his skills when he comes to train at the prestigious Trattoria Baccanale in Tokyo, but his pride is shattered upon finding himself completely helpless in the cutting-edge kitchen.

My 2-cents: What I like about this drama is that it shows how harsh the working conditions are in a busy restaurant, it doesn't present the culinary world in an idealistic and romantic manner.

Shinya Shokudo/Late Night Diner (Japanese)
Synopsis (from Set in a small restaurant in the corner of a shopping district. The unusual eatery is only open after midnight, and its standard menu consists of just a single choice. However, the customers still come for the amusing chatter and the proprietor's willingness to cook any dish that they request. This drama depicts the lives of the restaurant's patrons, including a yakuza, an unsuccessful actor, a group of office ladies, a newspaper delivery boy, and a stripper.

My 2-cents: Every episode is a little slice-of-life story of a customer, accompanied by a particular dish, usually some sort of simple comfort food. It made me crave ochazuke so bad one night!

Kimchi Family (Korean)
Watch on DramaFever
Synopsis: Lee Kang San and Lee Woo Joo find themselves taking over the management of their family's traditional kimchi restaurant, Heaven, Earth and Man, when their father sets off on a journey one day without their knowledge. Ki Ho Tae coincidentally arrives at the restaurant in search of the missing pieces of his past. Together with the other restaurant employees, long-time customers and a growing circle of friends, they work towards their individual goals while finding warmth and family through their sharing of food and support of each other.

My 2-cents: This one has a bit more action and "mystery" than the others, rather than just food. Every episode shows the two main female characters as little girls making a different type of kimchi with their late mother. I never knew there were so many different types of kimchi!

Buy it on Amazon: Kimchi Family / Fermentation Family (NTSC All Region, Korean TV Drama, English Sub, Complete Series 24 Episodes 6-DVD)


Kathy N.

Omg but have you seen the Korean miniseries "Jewel in the Palace"? It's supposedly based on a legend. Girl is raised on Palace grounds, facing a series of misfortunes; learns how to cook royal cuisine, medicinal/herbal cooking, etc.


Hi Kathy,

I have actually seen it (not that mini with 70-something episodes though lol). I like the beginning but they focus more on the plot rather than the cooking, and then she switches to being a doctor halfway! No more food ... :P


Awesome. It's been a long time since I've dipped my toe in these very addictive waters. Considering I watch most of my tv/movies at night, seeing some of my favorite food could prove to be very maddening!

Wandering Chopsticks

I'll just wait until Hollywood runs out of ideas and remakes them all into English. :P


Nooo, how can you get a true sense of the Korean/Japanese culture from a Hollywood remake?

Kung Food Panda

I don't know if you can find it, but this is my favorite cooking/food drama:

Protocol Snow

I'm excited about trying Gourmet and Osen and your descriptions make them sound perfect. I'm a little tired of all the love stories and dramas =P

Are there similar Chinese / Taiwanese dramas that focus on food?


Thanks KFP, I haven't seen that! I'll have to look for it.

Protocol: There are some of those that are food-related, but in my opinion they quickly fall into the routine romantic comedy plots again.


Wow! An awesome list. I have already finished Osen in three days (and I absolutely loved it!). I am going to try out your other suggestions. :-)


Awesome! I'm always looking for shows like this. I watched Osen in one sitting!<3 Not only that but halfway through the series an actor I really like popped up. Yo Oizumi. He's on a show (Onigiri) Hungry Hoppers that they play on NHK on the weekends. Love it! Thanks again! :D

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