Italian cured ham gets long awaited invitation to dineIt’s commonly known that, just like cheese, ham goes well with wine. Here in Korea, finally ham manufactured in Italy can be served in restaurants and households alike.
The Italian Embassy last week held a press conference announcing that after years of negotiations, 47 Italian companies that manufacture salumi ― Italian-style salt-cured meats ― have gained approval from the Korean National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to export the product to Korea. The meat went on sale from Thursday.
The varieties that will be imported to Korea are prosciutto crudo mortadella, prosciutto otto, pancetta, coppa and culatello.
The Italian embassy is hosting free tastings of the products at 18 Italian restaurants and wine bars in downtown Seoul until Dec. 13.
“I’m very glad that Italian salumi has been introduced to Korea,” said Giuseppe Pezzulo, who heads the Italian Embassy’s trade promotion department. “We hope it will bring even greater opportunities for spreading the popularity of Italian cuisine.”
The Italian embassy said it may also promote the product on television in the future.
“We will see how Korean consumers act and then get the funding for television advertising from the Italian government and the salumi association,” Mr. Pezzulo said. “However, this will only happen if there is strong demand from Korean consumers.”
The products will at first be sold only in Seoul with availability expanded to other parts of Korea in five years.
“It takes time to get accustomed to Italian salumi,” Mr. Pezzuolo said.
The Italian embassy expects 90 percent of sales to be to restaurants and wine bars.
Mr. Pezzuolo said the products have been modified slightly to meet Korean customers’ tastes.
“I have stayed here long enough to understand Korean’s culinary habits,” he said. Mr. Pezzulo has been in charge of the Korean office since May 2003.
“Even before production, I asked the manufacturers to make the salumi less salty. Yet because no preservatives are used in Italian salumi, it is necessary to use at least a minimum amount of salt. If not, the salami will not be properly seasoned and will lose its taste,” he added.
Nicola Levoni, president of Istituto Valorizzazione Salumi Italiani, an evaluation center, said Italian salumi can be trusted since all manufacturers must follow strict regulations in choosing the type of pig used and the location of the farm.
“We use pigs that weigh between 160 and 180 kilograms, which are about 9-months old,” Mr. Levoni said.
The hams, taken from the hind leg of the young pigs, are seasoned for 400 days and the bones removed after the curing process is complete.
Mr. Pezzulo said that although imported ham from the United States and Australia is already available to Korean consumers, their products are different from those manufactured in Italy.
The biggest difficulty in arranging the import agreement, he said, was the strict Korean regulations.
“The Korean authorities visited Italy before giving approval to each of the manufacturers,” Mr. Pezzulo said. “This is why the process took so long.”
Italy prides itself on its 2,000 years of salumi production.
According to the Italian embassy, there are 2,150 salumi manufacturers in Italy. Last year Italy earned 7.1 billion euro ($9.4 billion) from salumi sales, with exports accounting for nearly 10 percent.
by Lee Ho-jeong
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