|▲ Pixiu F&C / CEO Jeonghyun Kim
Malatang originated from Sichuan Leshan China but most popular in Beijing. Mala is a spice used to prevent food from decay and it means tongue-numb spicy that comes from nutmeg, hua-zhao, pepper, dried clove and star anise. It can compare with Korean Jjamppong, a spicy seafood noodle soup. The broth is made with pork bones added with more than 20 spices topped with a variety of vegetables, dried tofu and glass noodle. Depending on restaurant, you can either order or choose ingredients you want to add.
More people traveling overseas can mean more cultures they bring. Talking about food, South Korean went wild for Vietnamese rice noodles last year and it moved to malatang as one of the hottest exotic foods this year. Numerous malatang restaurants hurried to open a business but as is always the case, 37 out of 63 health and safety inspector screened restaurants got busted for breaking the Food Sanitation Act.
Pixiu F&C CEO Jeonghyun Kim opened Pixiu MalaHongtang in Sangam-dong in 2017 when most Koreans were oblivious of its existence. Kim’s partner Junyong Choi visited all malatang restaurants in China during his 2 to 3 years stay in the country from 2013. Choi noticed that they were too exotic to be loved by broth loving Koreans and he thought it might need some moderation.
He used beef leg bones for broth instead and moderated it with chili oil, weak spice and peanut paste topped with fresh vegetables, noodle, meatballs, lotus root, yam and potato; thus born was malatang for a single person that can be adjusted for how spicy and what kind of meat she or he can add.
Pixiu MalaHongtang only uses ingredients approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. In addition, the head office checks up whether branches are following hygiene and customer services guidelines and manuals every 15 days to maintain ultimate operation environment possible throughout the year. One of the differences Pixiu (means dragon) MalaHongtang offers is that dinners can pick up ingredients of their choice and weigh them on a scale to pay the amount. Kim says:
“The inspector checks ingredients first when on tour of branches because fresh ingredients are most important to give clean and clear impressions to dinners.”
Within 2 months of opening Pixiu MalaHongtang in Sangam-dong, this exotic restaurant saw 10 dinners in wait for a whole day every day and JTBC, MBC and SBS aired this malatang fever that made South Korean gourmets rush for the taste. Taking the momentum, Kim started franchise in 2018 and is expecting to see 50 branches nationwide this year already within a year.
“I’m planning to increase the number to 100 by the end of the next year and I’m positive considering the speed and popularity at the moment. And I’m well aware of importance of win-win management to grow together. All sources are directly supplied from head office while other goods are free to purchase on their own choice. This way, we can prevent monopoly by head office as is always the case in the franchise industry.”
Meanwhile, Kim is working on opening a branch in Dallas US soon.
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