Thanks in part to the popularity of Korean television costume dramas such as Daejanggeum, otherwise known as The Jewel in the Palace, Korean food is now fashionable in Hong Kong. The country's cuisine has long been a popular import however. Hong Kong got its first real Korean restaurant when Arirang opened its first branch in 1964, and there are now 20 or so at various locations in Kowloon and on Hong Kong island. In addition to the ubiquitous Korean barbecue there are staple Korean dishes that have proven enduringly popular. Korea shares with China a belief in food as medicine, and chicken with ginseng soup is one notably healthy option served in many Korean restaurants and widely enjoyed. Kimchi, the nation's signature spicy fermented vegetable relish, is more of an acquired taste, and the hot, pungent dishes do not suit all palates. But not surprisingly, given the popularity of Thai, Sichuan and other spicy cuisines, they have a following. Kimchi is usually served as a side dish. Although the word is often thought to refer solely to fermented cabbage, it can also be made using various other vegetables, including radishes and cucumbers. Recipes vary seasonally, but garlic, ginger and chilli pepper are typically present. Arirang - the word has no direct translation but is to do with beauty - is the title of a well-known Korean folk song. There are now branches at Times Square in Causeway Bay and at The Gateway in Tsim Sha Tsui. Still popular with Hong Kong residents of all nationalities after more than 40 years, but including a considerable number of Koreans among the clientele, the two Arirang branches are known for a combination of dishes normally reserved in Korea for formal dining, and for simpler hearty barbecue, rice and noodle options. The house policy has always been to offer as broad a range of national dishes as possible in a friendly and informal atmosphere. By far the most popular way of eating at the Arirang restaurants - and at many of the group's competitors - is to order Korean barbecue to cook at the table. Meat or seafood barbecues are served with an assortment of side dishes including of course kimchi. Popular choices include the seafood combination, beef combination and meat combination which includes beef, pork, chicken and lamb. The popularity of Korean barbecue in Hong Kong can give the impression that it is one of the country's signature dishes, but although most Koreans will eat it occasionally, it is hardly a staple of the national diet. It is Mongolian in origin and encountered more often in Korean restaurants outside the country than at home. Arirang's strengths are not limited to barbecue dishes however. Regulars also go for the black cod slices in a sweet and spicy sauce and the seafood pancakes. Korean beer, soju and plum wine are all available to accompany the meal. One of Arirang's main competitors is Sorabol, which celebrates its 13th anniversary in Hong Kong next week and has branches in the Lee Theatre Plaza and in the Miramar Shopping Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui. The atmosphere is similarly relaxed and many of the same dishes are available. House specialities include the healthy chicken with ginseng soup, but it is also known for its stone pot rice and vegetable dishes. This is a reliable place to come for bulgogi (barbecued beef - the word means 'fire meat') and sliced mutton, as well as a variety of seafood dishes. The restaurant is also known for the quality of its kimchi. Many of the ingredients are flown in specially from Korea. Not far from Sorabol, on the 5th floor of The Lee Gardens at 33 Hysan Avenue, is Go Gu Jang. Specialities include marinated squid, barbecued beef short ribs, seafood stone pot rice, and sauteed oysters with Korean sauce. Most Korean restaurants in Hong Kong are probably best suited to family and group dining, but if there are just two people looking for a different kind of ambience the smart decor and attentive service at Kaya at 8 Russell Street, Causeway Bay might well suit. The restaurant offers the same sort of Korean barbecue experience as most others in town, but manages it with a little more style. Staff are also good at finding out how individual diners might like to have the experience fine-tuned. Milder versions of usually highly spiced dishes can be requested. Beef dishes are popular orders, as are king prawns. Other Korean restaurants which attract a mixed local and Korean clientele include Koreana in Elizabeth House, Myung Ga in the World Trade Centre, Secret Garden in the Bank of America Tower and Korea House Restaurant at 119-121 Connaught Road in Sheung Wan.