|Shake Shack's Culinary Director Mark Rosati holds Shroom Burger during a media presentation at a Shake Shack restaurant in Seoul on July 19, 2016. / Courtesy of SPC|
By Kim Jae-heun
Mark Rosati, Shake Shack's culinary director, instantly "fell in love" with Korean fried chicken on his first trip here in 2015. He came with his team to explore the local culture and cuisine before entering the market.
"It was a year before we opened our first Shake Shack in Seoul in 2016. I was told to check out the fried chicken scene by friends who have local Instagram food blogs and I immediately fell in love with all the different styles," Rosati said in an interview with The Korea Times. "I enjoyed the experience of eating fried chicken in Korea because it's such a fun, sharing experience, especially with beer."
Inspired by the flavors, techniques and ingredients of Korean cuisine ― especially gochujang, a fermented red chili paste ― Rosati took it to use for Shake Shack's new chicken burger.
"We wanted our U.S. guests to taste and try the sauce as we love how well it works with our chicken and the rest of the elements within the sandwich. We put the full focus on Chick'n and do a Bites version for the Korean-style menu in the U.S. instead of a burger," Rosati said.
Interestingly, Shake Shack's Korean-inspired chicken sandwiches are served with white kimchi, which is not a common combination here. Rosati said his menu items are not traditional and instead offers his take on Korean chicken.
"To make our slaw, we teamed up with Choi's Kimchi from Portland, Oregon, to use their tangy white kimchi. We like how the white kimchi provides great visual contrast between the gochujang glazed chicken and bun," Rosati said.
The gochujang sandwich was first introduced in Korea last October and Shake Shack decided to bring it to the U.S. following its popularity here.
The fast food restaurant launched a slightly tweaked version on Jan. 5 in the U.S., and sales have exceeded Rosati's expectations for the first three days.