Hansik, or Korean cuisine, is so much more than fried chicken, tteokbokki and bibimbap, according to Korea’s Michelin-starred chefs.
Mingles owner-chef Kang Min-goo, Joo Ok owner-chef Shin Chang-ho and Onjium head chefs Cho Eun-hee and Park Seong-bae are hoping to show off more elegant charms of hansik to the world through a set of 15 recipes that will go public on the Korean Food Promotion Institute’s website in December.
Jointly organized by the Institute and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the recipe series is intended to give insight into the techniques and philosophies of the top chefs and expand the global perception of hansik.
“The menus are created with the chefs’ great love and passion for hansik and their culinary know-how, so we expect this project to show the world what hansik can be and lead the way into the cuisine’s bright future,” Food Ministry’s food industry policy officer Yang Joo-pil said during a press reveal of the dishes on Nov. 3 at Mingles in Gangnam District, southern Seoul.
Each recipe accentuates local ingredients in a bid to raise the global competitiveness of domestic agricultural-fishery products, in addition to promoting high-end yet accessible Korean cuisine.
“With Korean culture becoming a global interest these days, we feel now is really the time to make our dishes more competitive in the global market and strengthen our agricultural exports,” Yang said.
Earlier this year, Korea announced plans to expand its overseas sales of food to $15 billion by 2027.
Outbound shipments of agricultural and fisheries products recorded $6.31 billion from January to the second week of September in 2023, up 0.4 percent from the same period last year, according to the Food Ministry.
Most of the exports were to China, which saw an 11.3 percent on-year increase to $977 million, following exports to the United States, which rose 3.8 percent to record $910 million. Sales in the European Union and Britain increased 1.2 percent, according to the Ministry.
Rice, bell peppers, pears, strawberries, grapes, yuja (a variety of citrus), abalone and shitake mushrooms are a few of Korea’s exports that the Food Ministry hopes to further promote around the world and which have been incorporated into the top chefs’ recipes.
“We had many to choose from but picked the most popular export products,” the institute’s K-Food Promotion Division director Choe Ye-jung said. “We hope to promote some of our natural, agricultural and fisheries exports in addition to the already-famous Korean frozen foods and instant ramen noodles.”
In particular, Korea’s strawberry export volume reached 4 million tons worth $58.6 million last year, nearly seven times the export revenue in 2013, and up 72 percent from 2016. Strawberry exports so far this year came in at $52.1 billion as of June, already approaching last year’s total export volume.
Korean pear exports reached 26,276 tons worth $74.4 million last year, with the United States representing 48 percent, followed by Taiwan, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Canada.
Bell peppers may seem like an unexpected domestic export product at first, but the ministry said that Korea is responsible for more than 40 percent of all bell peppers sold on the international market.
Abalone is a popular seafood export for Korea, sharing the ranks with gim, or dried seaweed. Korea plans to further penetrate the global seafood market with an ambitious goal of exporting $4.5 billion worth of the products by 2027, according to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries earlier this year.
These exported agricultural and fishery products have been getting a “K-Food” logo stamped on them since July, to officially mark that they are products from Korea.
As the interest in Korean cuisine grows, more chefs around the globe are looking to learn it as well, and it is very important that Korean ingredients are made accessible around the world in order for it to grow, according to the chefs.
“Korean food is garnering love and interest from all over the world, but I’ve noticed that our local ingredients are not getting that much attention,” Kang said. He also has an overseas restaurant called Hansik Goo in Hong Kong.
“As a chef, this is something that I would like to see get more recognition, and I believe it will help carry on the current popularity of the cuisine even longer.”
“Excellent ingredients are so important to cooking a delicious dish,” Cho said. “I always contemplate which ingredients to use for my dish very carefully. I am so happy to be partaking in an event that promotes Korean food and its ingredients. It was an exciting process to be inventing delicious recipes with excellent ingredients.”
Detailed procedures for cooking 15 dishes — four from Mingles, five from Joo Ok and six from Onjium — including appetizers, main dishes and desserts are laid out in the upcoming recipe book for anyone interested in recreating the chefs’ famous dishes at their homes or for restaurant owners and chefs around the world looking for inspiration.
The dishes were made in consideration of the average person’s cooking skills and accessibility of ingredients. Items may be swapped for similar ones if necessary, the chefs say.
The dishes are simple yet exquisite and display each of the chef’s styles while also highlighting local ingredients.
Cho and Park, whose cooking is more rooted in the very traditional cuisine, showcase modest dishes that put a modern spin on ancient Goryeo Dynasty (916-1392) dishes like the chicken bokimchi cold salad, bell pepper japchae (stir-fried glass noodles) and abalone flower rice.
Mingles, a high-end restaurant with some experimental spirit, has recreated a salsa-type sauce with gochujang, which is laid over fresh oysters and served with scallops overlaid with green plum mignonette. It also combined strawberries with caviar and Sichuan peppercorn pickles.
Joo Ok, in line with its elegant and strongly rooted Korean cooking, showcases dishes like grilled abalone and galbi (rib) patties with shiitake glaze and melon kimchi; grilled brown croaker in a gochujang sauce; and cabbage core porridge.
The recipes will be available for free on the Korean Food Promotion Institute’s official website at the beginning of December. The institute is also looking to publish an E-book of the recipes.
BY LEE JIAN [firstname.lastname@example.org]