The Unusual Condiment Costco Korea Members Are Making With Hot Dog Toppings

There may be more than 800 Costco stores located all over the world, but it's safe to say that whatever Costco has to offer depends entirely on what country the warehouse you're visiting happens to be in. As retail analyst Walter Loeb writes in Forbes, each country's Costco will carry items that are favored by locals, so expect to see Vegemite in Australia and bulgogi beef in Japan and Korea. He adds that "Typically 65% of the merchandise mix is bought locally and specific to each country. The remaining 35% is mainly Kirkland brand non-food merchandise that can be found in U.S. stores as well."

Store shelves aren't the only place where we see localization happening; offerings at the Costco food court are tailored to meet local tastes as well. While most food courts carry the usual classics like pizza, churros, and hot dog and soda combos, localization means you can find a bulgogi bake and a fried chicken sandwich at Costco Taiwan; strawberry soft serve at Costco Japan; jacket potatoes at Costco UK; and torta de bacalao at Costco Mexico, per BuzzFeed.

But there's one thing that diners in Costco Korea look out for that isn't on the menu, and the dish is so popular it even has its own name.

Costco Korea's food court is all about the kimchi

While chopped onions, ketchup, and mustard are offered as hot dog toppings at Costcos all over the world, they mean more in Korea because they are the key ingredients for what's become known as "Costco kimchi." The Los Angeles Times says this pungent side dish appears next to just about everything that's ordered in Costco, from pizzas to hotdogs and bulgogi rolls. The makeshift onion salad is said to be so popular that Costco Korea goes through 20 times more onions than Costco in America does — which works out to about 200 tons worth of onions spread out over 13 locations. It's so popular it even spawned its own mini YouTube documentary, called "Costco Kimchi."

One local tells the LA Times that Costco's American food "tastes better when I eat the onions with the pizza or sandwiches. It's less greasy." Another told the publication that the concoction "suits our taste, and onions are also very healthy for us." Costco's conclusion? It's a manifestation of Koreans' need for side dishes at every meal, known as "banchan." 

Regardless of why Koreans need their onion salad, it's good to know Costco hasn't stopped offering free onions — which sounds like it may be an even bigger loss leader than the ultra-cheap hot dog combo.