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The Rise of Korean Food and Ramen in America

Like the rest of America, at Yelp we’re big fans of Ali Wong’s newest rom-com, Always Be My Maybe. The movie got us thinking about Asian representation in film, as well as on our taste buds, so we decided to look at Yelp data for answers. 

It’s clear that certain Asian cuisines are experiencing a rise in popularity, with Ramen, Hot Pot and Szechuan in the lead, and Korean as the rising up-and-comer. On Yelp, the abbreviation “kbbq” (Korean BBQ) has increased around fourfold in the last decade among reviews of Korean restaurants, and Kimchi Fries have grown from almost non-existent in Yelp reviews in 2009, to popular in both non-Korean and Korean restaurant reviews. These two data points support what we’re seeing on Yelp, and in our local communities — that Americans are growing more familiar with Korean cuisine. 

The demand for Korean food in the U.S. is growing faster than the supply, with the category experiencing over 34% growth in relative demand* since 2012, while the share of restaurants has only increased 12%. Categories such as Ramen, Hot Pot, Szechuan, and Taiwanese are also experiencing a rise in popularity, while more established Asian categories such as Japanese and Thai are declining.

The Rise of Ramen

Ramen is on a meteoric rise, experiencing 193% growth nationwide since 2012, while Poké, which experienced an even larger growth period since 2012, peaked in 2017 and is now declining. In New York, demand for Ramen has risen over 250% since 2012, and in Houston and Dallas, the category has grown even more drastically (2,000% and 4,000% increase in relative demand, respectively).

Americans are Craving Korean 

There is no denying that Korean culture and cuisine are on the rise across the nation. Whether it’s Kpop group BTS performing on Saturday Night Live, or the trend-to-staple evolution of K-Beauty products, Korean influence is here to stay. Since 2012, relative demand of Korean food has grown almost 140% in Phoenix, 80% in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Boston, 70% in New York, and 50% in Atlanta, San Jose, Chicago, and Houston. In fact, most of this growth has taken place within the last three years! 

The Korean items mentioned the most** in Yelp reviews are Bulgogi, KBBQ, Banchan, Bibmimbap, Tofu Soup (Sundubu-jjigae), Kalbi & Galbi (beef or pork short ribs), Soju, Kimchi, Seafood Pancakes, and Rice Cakes. 

What are some of your favorite spots for Korean and Ramen? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @yelp!


*Relative demand is a category’s share of U.S. page views across all food and restaurants on Yelp 

**Based on one and two-word phrases in 10,000 randomly chosen reviews of Korean restaurants in the U.S., with the requirement that the phrase not appear in 10,000 randomly chosen reviews of food and restaurant businesses in the U.S. that aren’t Korean restaurants.