Korean Cuisine
Korean Cuisine

Tradition And Asian Fusion In Korean Cuisine

Korean food isn’t just about kimchi, bibimbap, chapchae and bulgogi. There’s more.

While samgyeopsal has been well-received in the Philippines, have we ever wondered how Koreans actually prepare their food? Are there similarities between their cuisine and ours?

“We use a lot of fermented (ingredients). I know we could find fermented stuff around the world; but we ferment (livestock) animals, vegetables, seafood,” one of the respectable chefs in Korea’s culinary industry, chef Jang Jinmo, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Jang said fermentation is actually a key to make the food taste better and distinct.

“We use a lot of fermented (ingredients). It gives deep flavor and balance (things) together,” he said.

The 34-year-old chef said he used to think Korean food isn’t good.

He said he didn’t study Korean food, and studied French cuisine when he was in Canada.

“I came back to my country to see the Korean culture. Before I started to cook, I thought Korean food is not good. But since I came back, I found good things, a lot of treasures in Korean culture,” Jang uttered.

The “culture taste”, he said, is something that is really good.

When he was studying French cuisine, he said he discovered that their key is acidity, and still balances everything with this key.

For Koreans, Jang said they try to touch everything, but make variations, especially when something is too salty, for instance.

Almost all Korean chefs go on a long journey to be able to cook good food, he added.

Jang visited Manila last week, and prepared some dishes, giving Filipinos a glimpse and “a taste of Korea’s finest”.

Paired with red wine, a Korean style marinated beef with mushroom puree was served as the main course.

“In Korea, we usually marinate beef in soy sauce. To give it a little more taste, I put a lot of fermented bean paste, which has a lot of Asian flavors,” he added.

After marinating the beef with an Asian flair, he grilled it and served it with mushroom,” he said.

Back when he was a kid, his mom had always cooked Korean barbeque with mushroom, so he had adopted this style.

“We (Koreans) usually eat beef with fermented pickles and veggies. Since it is autumn season now, I wanted to make it (dish) look like (there are) fallen leaves). So I dehydrated the leaves a little bit, and served these together,” Jang said.

The beef served was tender and has a smoky flavor.

Jang said the smoky flavor was probably due to the leaves that he used.

Prior to the main course, fish was also served. It was well-cooked and did not taste fishy. Paired with white wine, the fish course is actually enough to make one feel he or she is full.

“When I was young, and basing it in the Korean culture, I ate a lot of raw fish, Korean barbeque. So I twisted these (food) a little bit and served these to you,” he said.

The chef with 10 years of culinary experience said he noticed some similarities with Korean and Filipino food. He specifically mentioned the two countries’ pork dishes.

Jang said the pork belly in the Philippines is steamed first before deep frying. This is somehow similar with how Koreans cook pork belly — grilling and then deep-frying it.

During his short stay in Manila, he has tried Filipino dishes such as sinigang and adobo. “Sinigang and crispy pata are really good,” he said.

Filipino food has more flavor and more spices than Korean food, Jang said.

Meanwhile, for the dessert, mousse cake, red bean mousse wrapped in white chocolate, and mango cream, were served.

This dessert, called Sam-ak, tasted fine though it was obviously loaded with sugar. The white chocolate gave the vibe of a “kinder surprise” chocolate, as there was a red bean mousse inside. It tasted like a mochi wrapped in white chocolate.

The dessert was paired with a fermented rice drink, a not so sweet beverage.

Seafood soup with winter melon and scallops, as well as raw fish, gochujang, pickle, fresh walnut as appetizer, were also served. The appetizer has a bit of spices on it, while the soup was meticulously prepared since it was neither salty nor bland.

Jang used Filipino ingredients in all the dishes he prepared, and gave these a Korean variation.

He runs two restaurants in Korea, and would open another restaurant in December.

He studied in Canada, and worked shortly in the United States and Australia, before returning to Korea to open his own restaurant in 2014.

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Fermented Pickles