Korea takes over the world

The explosion of fascination with Korean food is now more felt here in the Philippines—this restaurant could show you why

Sometime in the mid-’90s, South Korean entertainment, particularly music, and dramas started gaining popularity in Asian countries such as Japan and China. Around this time, the term Hallyu, which means Korean Wave or K-wave in short, was coined to describe the growing interest in Korean culture. Among those heavily influenced was the Philippines.

As adventurous eaters, Filipinos were also captivated by the unique flavors of Korean products and food. Among the K-dishes Pinoys have taken a liking to are the samgyeopsal, gimbap, kimchi, and chapchae, to name a few.

Traditional Korean cuisine, Hansik, is renowned all over the world for its exceptional use of fresh local and seasonal ingredients to create a range of delectable dishes shared with friends and families. Filipinos now obsess over these delicacies almost as much as they admire the K-pop sensation and programs, which helped market Korean cuisine in the first place.

Anthropologist and historian Arnel Joven explains that Korean fare is appealing to Filipinos in terms of phenomenology. Korean food presented in series and shows entices people to try it.

Today, several Korean food establishments are popping up in the Philippines, especially in Manila, one of which is Kiwa Express, a quick-service casual Korean restaurant that recently opened at Ayala Malls Manila Bay.

The offshoot of Kiwa Korean Grill at Solaire Resort boasts authentic, premium, but affordable Korean cuisine. It promises to bring premium Korean offerings not yet offered by other restaurants.

Dr. Shim takes pride in the Kiwa Galbitang, the Korean version of bulalo. The hearty, nourishing beef stew is a gateway to the world of Korean food.

“I’ve been operating Kiwa Restaurant at Solaire since 2015 and there has been this growing demand from Filipino regulars wanting easier access to my authentic Korean food,” says Dr. David Shim, CEO and owner of Kiwa Express. "It is true-to-heart Korean food. Not fusion. Not localized. And we offer high-caliber and quality Korean cuisine at a very affordable price... the quality is identical to the food that they would sample from Kiwa at Solaire.”

GRAND OPENING The ribbon-cutting ceremony for Kiwa Express at Ayala Malls Manila Bay led by (from left) Kiwa Express general manager France Eusebio, Ayala Malls group operations manager Reyna Aguilar, Kiwa Express CEO and owner Dr. David Shim, Ayala Malls Manila Bay operations manager Veronica Valdez

Key to the success of his brand is its unapologetic authenticity. Kiwa Express menu features items handpicked by Dr. Shim, classified as the chef’s special recommendations or Kiwa signature dishes.

From the vast selection, Dr. Shim takes pride in the Kiwa Galbitang, the Korean version of bulalo. “I will guarantee you that it will make you very happy,” he enthuses. The hearty, nourishing beef stew is a gateway to the world of Korean food. Beef short ribs are stewed slowly in aromatics resulting in a clean, delicate broth that is a feast to the senses.

Other must-tries are the Kimchi Jjigae, a warming, spicy stew that highlights signature kimchi, as well as the Doenjang Jjigae, Jap Chae, and Shrimp Tempura.

Portion sizes are priced according to individual servings. There are also family-sized options for diners who come in big groups. To make ordering easier for customers, packaged meal sets are also available.

“I observe the food being served to the general public is too much fast food and instant food. It is too salty, sweet, deep fried, and harmful to your health,” says Dr. Shim. “Korean food offers a healthy alternative as it uses generous portions of vegetables.”

FEEL AT HOME The modern and cozy interiors of Kiwa Express at Ayala Malls Manila Bay

Kiwa Korean food is not instant or ready-made. It is delivered via on-site preparation and cooking as Dr. Shim hopes to provide a healthier alternative for the Filipino people.

Kiwa Express at Ayala Malls Manila Bay is the first of many branches already in the works. “This restaurant is our launch pad, the model on which new branches will be based. When this clicks, we already have other upcoming outlets.”

Kiwa Express is on the third floor, Building B, Ayala Malls Manila Bay on Macapagal Boulevard corner Aseana Avenue in Paranaque City. (02) 7004 7472