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India bites into Korean cuisineBy
Published : Sept. 15, 2011 - 19:01
MUMBAI ― Korean cuisine was introduced to Mumbai, India, for the first time Wednesday night.
The Korean Food Promotion, jointly organized by the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and Corea Image Communication Institute, kicked off with a gala dinner at the historic five-star hotel.
Korea Consul General Lee Seo-hang, publisher and editor of Upper Crust magazine Farzana Contractor, food critic Rashmi Singh and Groupe Aeropolane CEO Akshay Sahay, were among some 200 Indian and Korean guests in attendance.
The five-course dinner featuring contemporary Korean cuisine with a twist was prepared by Bae Han-cheol, Gangdong University professor and former executive chef of InterContinental Hotel in Seoul, and Park Hee-don, executive chef of Suwon Ramada Plaza Hotel. The guests were also treated to a martial arts dance performance by Y-Kick, a taekwondo performance group from Korea.
The Korean Food Promotion was the brainchild of The Taj Mahal Palace executive grand chef Hemant Oberoi. The renowned chef was in Korea last November to attend C20, a forum on culture held on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Seoul, and during a visit to the Blue House, told first lady Kim Yun-ok that he would organize a Korean food promotion event in India within the next year.
Oberoi kept his word and the Korean Food Promotion is being held at The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai from Sept. 15-17 and at The Taj Mahal New Delhi Hotel where the promotion will be held Sept. 21-24.
While this was the third Korean food promotion event organized by CICI, a non-profit organization aimed at promoting Korea’s image abroad ― similar events were held in Paris and Washington two years ago ― the latest event was co-organized by the Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces of India, making it the first Korean food promotion event to be initiated by a non-Korean entity.
For most of the Indian guests at the gala dinner, it was their first taste of Korean cuisine. However, many commented that it was not too unfamiliar.
“The tenderloin with mushroom was especially excellent,” said S.D. Kashyap, chairman and managing director of Pennwalt.
Farzana Contractor, publisher & editor of Upper Crust, a food, wine and travel magazine, also noted that there was a taste common to both Korean and Indian food in the tenderloin dish. “I noticed that things were toned down but this is a wonderful way to introduce new cuisine to a new palate,” said Contractor who was in Seoul earlier this month to attend Culture Communication Forum organized by CICI where she had the opportunity to sample many Korean dishes.
Noting that India is ready to try new food, Contractor said one way to promote Korean cuisine is to introduce it to Indian housewives. Making ingredients available in the markets and airing television cooking shows were some of the ideas she suggested as a way to spread Korean cuisine more broadly.
“After all, 90 percent of the cooking is done at home here,” she explained.
Today, young and affluent Indians have developed a taste for Chinese and Japanese cuisines. But this was not always the case. In fact, the Indian reaction to Japanese cuisine was rather lukewarm.
“The first Japanese restaurant, Sakura, opened 30-35 years ago at the Oberoi Hotel. But it eventually closed down because it was too ahead of its time,” she said.
She said that Indians may be more receptive to Korean cuisine as Indians are used to the strong smell and taste of their own cuisine.
“However, Korean cuisine has an edge in that it is very healthful,” Contractor added.
To meet local customs and preferences, vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions of the courses were made available at Wednesday’s gala dinner. For example, three choices of main course were offered: Tenderloin with mushroom and soy sauce or stuffed chicken breast with mushroom reduction for non-vegetarians and kimchi stuffed with tofu and mushroom for vegetarians.
In fact, going vegetarian with Korean cuisine is not as difficult as one may imagine. For many people who know something about Korean food, bulgogi, marinated grilled beef, is the dish that immediately comes to mind, leading to the general impression that Korean cuisine is meat-centered.
“My wife is a vegetarian but she said it wasn’t difficult to eat vegetarian food in Korea as long as you were willing to experiment,” said Pradeep Rana, country chief risk officer at Standard Chartered Bank, who had lived in Korea for three years.
“I came this evening because I really miss Korean food and there are no places where you can get Korean food in Mumbai,” he said. He noted that while the dishes served at the gala dinner were “fusion” Korean, it may cater to people who have not had Korean food before.
Oberoi, who has cooked for statesmen, royalty and numerous dignitaries, said that the event is an opportunity to properly introduce authentic Korean food to the people who are already eating it without realizing.
“Many Chinese restaurants in India serve kimchi but diners have no idea that they are eating a Korean dish,” he said.
During the promotion period in Mumbai, Korean dishes will be available a la carte at The Taj Mahal Palace’s all-day dining restaurant Shamiana. Prices start at 400 rupees.
“The Taj Hotel group is the largest hotel group in India with 93 hotels. The current Korean Food Promotion event is an opportunity to test the possibility of serving Korean food at the hotel group’s many restaurants,” said Choi Jung-wha, CICI president.
By Kim Hoo-ran, Culture & Sports Editor
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