Rice connects cuisines of Italy, Korea

By Im Eun-byel
  • Published : Nov 20, 2019 - 14:58
  • Updated : Nov 20, 2019 - 14:58

Rice was the focus of a culinary event jointly organized by the Korean Food Promotion Institute -- affiliated with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs -- and the Embassy of Italy in Seoul at the Korean Cuisine Culture Center in central Seoul on Tuesday.

Italy and South Korea have very different culinary cultures, but rice is an important ingredient in both. 

Participants pose for photos at the Korean Cuisine Culture Center in central Seoul on Tuesday. (Korean Food Promotion Institute)

“I think rice is a great ingredient that works (harmoniously) with the body for both Italians and Koreans,” Ven. Sunjae, president of the Korean Food Promotion Institute, said at the event, organized as part of World Week of Italian Cuisine, a celebration of Italian culinary culture around the world. Now in its fourth edition, the week runs Monday through Sunday this year.

“Food is culture. In Italy, we often say that we are what we eat. It is meaningful to be part of an event that connects different cultures through food,” said Federico Failla, the Italian ambassador to Seoul.

For the Seoul event, the organizers invited Italian chef Palma D’Onofrio, a celebrity on Italian TV who travels around the world showcasing the country’s culinary arts.

“It is a big challenge for me to talk about rice in Korea. Italy is more known for pizza or pasta, but actually our rice dishes have a long tradition,” D’Onofrio said, citing arancine (rice ball), sartu (rice cake), tiella (oven-cooked rice with potato and vegetables) and risotto as examples of famous Italian rice dishes.

D’Onofrio demonstrated how to cook two different types of risotto -- mushroom risotto and risotto omaggio. 

Mushroom risotto (Korean Food Promotion Institute)
Mushroom risotto (left) and risotto omaggio made by chef Palma D’Onofrio (Korean Food Promotion Institute)

A small exhibition at the event showcased fermented products from Italy and Korea. While the Korean section displayed fermented rice products, the Italian section was filled with fermented dairy products.

But that may change in a few years.

“With the inflow of immigrants and integration of diverse cultures, young chefs are now experimenting with rice, for example, making rice vinegar. It is not common or traditional, but there are contemporary chefs who are trying to ferment rice,” D’Onofrio told The Korea Herald in an interview before the event.

According to the organizers, Italy is the largest producer of rice in Europe, around 1.44 million tons per year. Though rice growing originally began in the south of Italy, it is now more concentrated in the northern regions.

The rice varieties grown in Italy are different from those found in Korea. Arborio and carnaroli rice are often used to make risotto, as they are short-grained varieties and are high in starch.

Chef Lee Jong-Kuk also took part in the event, showcasing unique Korean dishes made with rice.

By Im Eun-byel(