South Koreans have waited 16 long years for a savory, crispy bite that would satisfy their taste buds and right an infamous wrong. This week, they finally could fill a bowl with the cereal they wanted all along: green onion-flavoured Chex.
Kellogg’s Korea’s limited-edition flavour released this week, complete with a catchy ad and an apology for the wait, has taken on surprising cultural significance for an odd culinary experiment.
In 2004, the company advertised a public vote for a new product: chocolate-flavoured Cheki or green onion-flavoured Chaka.
Chaka led by an overwhelming margin, but duplicates were said to mar the online vote and Cheki was declared the winner.
Many South Koreans saw the outcome as more than a marketing mishap.
“It’s kind of representative of bigger issues in South Korean society,” said Raphael Rashid, a Seoul-based freelance journalist who writes about South Korean politics and culture. “South Koreans are used to or have experienced, you know, like years, if not decades, of dictatorship.”
The chocolate victory was “kind of reminiscent” of that, he said.
The light-hearted commercial for green onion Chex–featuring a popular South Korean singer declaring, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry that the green onion flavour arrived so late” and “the promise must be kept,” with scientists in white gowns in a laboratory labouring to develop the perfect flavour. The video has racked up more than 900,000 views on YouTube.
South Korean Twitter has been rejoicing by uploading photos of their Chex. Some, feeling adventurous, sprinkled green onion cereal pieces as garnish on South Korean signature dishes including kimchi and spicy ramen noodles.
Like Americans, South Koreans typically eat their cereal with milk, but some say green onion Chex tastes better alone or with a drink like beer or soju.
Rashid acquired a box online. It has an “artificial onion background taste,” he said, reminiscent of onion ring snacks that are popular in Korea.
“It doesn’t taste great,” Rashid said, rinsing his mouth between bites. “And I think Kellogg knows that it probably doesn’t taste great either.”