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East meets West in food

Tteokgalbi jeungpyeon burger, vegetable pickle

Publication Date : 03-09-2013


Taking the best of each culture, star chef Kang Leo elevates Korean cuisine to new level


Celebrity chef Kang Leo, who has worked in the kitchens of some of the world’s most acclaimed restaurants, set out on a different course when he opened Hwa Soo Mok by Kang Leo on Mt. Namsan earlier this year.

Studying the royal cuisine of Joseon for a number of years now under the guidance of Han Bok-ryo, president of the Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine, Kang gained enough confidence in his Korean cuisine to launch a contemporary Korean restaurant.

Kang’s new direction was highlighted at a dinner prepared Sunday evening for the international participants of the Culture Communication Forum, a three-day event organised by the Corea Image Communication Institute, and other guests, including Secretary of Education and Cultural Affairs Mo Cheol-min and Korea Culture and Information Service director Woo Jin-yung.

The six-course dinner started with octopus ballotine and “tangpyeongchae” with vegetable salsa, spicy soy sauce and yuzu foam.

Using a cooking technique that is favoured by Michelin-star restaurants of France on a prized seafood ingredient in Korean cuisine, Kang concocted a delicate appetiser that heralded a dinner that combined the best of East and West. The “tteokgalbi jeungpyeon” burger, a grilled short rib meat patty sandwiched between slices of rice wine cake, was a playful interpretation of a hamburger, a food most commonly associated with the West here.

Renowned wine critic James Suckling, who recommended the wine to accompany the dinner ― Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 and Chardonnay 2011 ― said Korean food goes well with all wine, except the sweet and tannic ones.

“Koreans have sophisticated palates because they taste different flavours all throughout the day,” said Suckling, who cautioned against intellectualising wine too much. “If they (Koreans) would simply open a bottle, everything will be fine.”

“Chef Kang has trained abroad and when he came to me to learn about royal cuisine, he said he felt the need to also do hansik if he wanted to promote his cuisine,” said Han of the Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine, who reviewed the evening’s menu for Kang.

Of the current movement to modernise Korean cuisine, Han said, “As with anything, you need to start somewhere. I think it is significant that Kang is showing this gathering of people from around the world how Korean cuisine can be used.”

“The dinner event will contribute greatly to promoting the unique charm of Korea, where traditional culture and modern culture coexist, to the world through the influential guests from around the world,” said Seo Jeong-hyup, director-general of the Tourism Policy Bureau of Seoul Metropolitan Government which hosted Sunday‘s dinner.


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