Pizza. Is there anything more American than this Italian dish, made larger, greasier, and altogether tastier when it was adapted to the palates of the free and the home of the brave?
Well, turns out other countries can do that, too, as I discovered when chewing on alpaca and aji-based pie back in Peru. However, that’s nothing compared to South Korea’s spin on things.
Gaze upon that if you will. That is a pretty typical “Potato Pizza” here. Right of the bat you probably notice the potato slices and corn, which are very common toppings. The corn doesn’t bring much to the table, but the potato slices are actually pretty genius, especially when paired with bacon. That white stuff on top of them is mayonnaise, which is squirted on, then baked with the pizza. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I find it to be a nice, tangy complement to the potato.
The crust is stuffed with another go-to option in most Korean pizzerias, and one that sharply divides the foreigners I’ve talked about it to here. The key ingredient is sweet potato, made into a sweet mousse. The sweetness is an interesting pairing with cheese and tomato sauce, but surprisingly, not a bad one, although a little of it does go a long way.
More extreme than this is Domino’s latest creation, which poses the question “why not take the sweet mousse idea, and extend it to cheesecake?” The result, a pizza with two layers of bread sandwiching what is essentially cheesecake filling, and topped with cheese, mango, onions, green peppers, and shrimp (you’re more likely to see seafood toppings here in Korea, too, although this is hardly unprecedented). The result, as crazy as it sounds, is actually pretty good, although I wouldn’t want to make a whole meal of it.
You might raise your eyebrow at the fact that Dominos, the favorite choice of poor, drunken undergrads in the U.S., is the chain attempting something so adventurous, but they, and Pizza Hut, look much different abroad than at home. Both in Peru and South Korea, they’ve answered the challenge of higher-priced ingredients, like pizza cheese, by going upscale with their offerings and charging a premium. The result is often not half bad, although I’m not sure how well the sausage, sauerkraut, sweet pickle, and mustard-ribboned “Deutsch Fillet” would do in the States. Actually, if you want a wild ride down pizza lane, go ahead and give Dominos South Korea’s site a whirl.
This is just the tip of the pizza topping iceberg here, and you’re liable to find all kinds of strange toppings in the different domestic pizza chains of South Korea. For example, this is verbatim from Wikipedia: “The super-deluxe “Grand Prix” at Mr. Pizza has Cajun shrimp, bell peppers, olives, and mushrooms on one side, and potato wedges, bacon, crushed tortilla chips, and sour cream on the other side. Its potato mousse-filled cookie dough crust is sprinkled with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and raisins, and can be dipped in a blueberry sauce that is provided.” Now, I haven’t personally eaten that pizza, but now that I know it exists, you can be sure I will. Of course, all that weirdness is the beauty of pizza, and the likely reason why it’s so popular worldwide. No other foodstuff is quite as adaptable to the many, many different tastes you find across the globe, and yet so likely to still turn out pretty damn delicious.