Food Mood: Korean Food Festival at Feast, Sheraton Bangalore

It’s always exciting to try out a new cuisine. The experience of new flavours, new combinations of vegetables, meat and spices that one has never experienced before is something else altogether. You go in with a sense of excitement not knowing whether you’ll come out loving it or hating it.  Big thanks to the folks at the Sheraton Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway for inviting some of the bloggers and me to be among the first few people to try out the spread at their Korean Food Festival.

Feast
Looking to add to their multi-cuisine spread, Feast at the Sheraton Bangalore is looking to try something unconventional by introducing the flavours of Korea to the Indian palate. Driven by Chef Link Chan Jae Chung and Shane Yun-Gi Hong from the Sheraton Seoul D Cube city Hotel, the meal is designed to be authentically Korean with no tailoring of the taste to match the average Indian’s taste buds. Chef Marty and Chef Link spent some time with the bloggers at the table to explain some of the philosophy and nuances behind the food and give us a glimpse into what is popular in Korea.

Chef Link and Chef Marty
I learnt a lot about the general landscape of food in Korea. Did you know that Kimchi, which is the national dish of Korea, comes in 200 varieties? It’s even shipped in cans across the world. Some Koreans are very finicky about their Kimchi to a point where they would carry their own when they travel. A lot of the Korean food is prepared keeping its medicinal value in mind. The people there are very proud of that – this pride is strengthened by the fact that when the bird flu hit Asia a few years ago, no one in Korea was affected. They say they owe it all to their Kimchi which is had with every meal.

The meal that evening was kept completely authentic to what one would eat in Korea. It was ensured that dishes that did not have the required ingredients were kept off the menu, rather than replace it with the locally available equivalent. I started off the evening with a Korean Spicy Squid Soup. While the spice levels were mild, the overwhelming taste of seafood came through, which may not go down well with a lot of people. I was neutral to the taste.

Korean Spicy Squid Soup
For the main course, I started off with a helping of the Braised Pork Belly with Kimchi. The pork had been put into a pot with the kimchi hours prior to being served. This allowed it to soak in the flavours and have an even taste across both the meat and the vegetable. The pork itself was quite lean and stripped off a lot of the fat. I know a lot of people who prefer a lot of fat on their pork, but this variant was quite alright by me. Definitely one of the must try dishes on the menu. The Sweet and Sour Pork tasted nice although it was outdone by the Pork Belly. The taste was very familiar to a lot of the regular Chinese dishes I've had in the past, so nothing much to write home about.

Braised Pork Belly with Kimchi

Sweet and Sour Pork

We were even served a helping of Korean Mini- Pancakes which were had a very interesting taste to it.The Korean Hot and Spicy Chicken had a nice taste on the outside but was completely bland and tasteless on the inside. I wasn’t sure if this was the way the dish was supposed to be made, but it honestly did nothing for me. This was the weakest dish on the entire menu.


Korean Mini-pancakes

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Another beauty on the menu was the Japachae Stir Fried Noodles. The vegetarian noodles had a vermicelli-like finish and were made out of sweet potato. Mixed with a light soya sauce and vegetables, this dish offered a completely new taste which I enjoyed. I think everyone, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike enjoyed this. We also tried the Kimchi Vegetarian Fried Rice which was sticky rice with a tomato-soya taste to eat. I rather enjoyed combining this with the pork.

Japachae Stir Fried Noodles

Kimchi Fried Rice

I also got to try the Dong Chimi Korean Water Kimchi. I’ll be honest in saying that I’m used to a certain tangy flavour of Kimchi that one gets at most Asian restaurants here. This was one of those new flavours that I didn’t quite enjoy. I also tried the Konguksu which is a cold noodles with soya broth. This dish hit a home run with the taste buds as it was quite similar to kheer, without the excessive sugar obviously. Korean cuisine finds a bit of similarity with Japanese and Chinese cuisine. This was clear from the Korean Kimbap and Guklyonpan wraps which were very similar to sushi. We also got to have some dumplings.

Water Kimchi

Konguksu

Korean Kimbap

The next dish that we had was the Bibimbap. This is a traditional Korean dish made in most households. It consists of a helping of boiled rice with various vegetables, mixed together with a Gochujang Sauce. This sauce is essentially a hot pepper sauce whose potency and flavour varies based on how long it is fermented. Typical households allow this sauce to ferment in earthen pots for at least three years before it’s used. Some of the sauces are known to sit for up to fifty years before it’s used. Who would have thought that even chilli sauces were made to ferment like wine and whiskey? I enjoyed this particular dish very much. The taste was quite spicy and was a complete contradiction to the more subtle dishes that we had had so far. A definite must try in my book.

Bibimbap
We started the dessert chapter with some Korean Green Tea. This was a twist on the traditional green tea, with the addition of a lot of spices such as ginger and cinnamon. There were some other ingredients which gave it a milky taste. The Honey Rice Cake and the Baek Seol Ki are traditional Korean desserts, these had no sugar what so ever. The very mild sweetness to both left me without the satisfaction of having any dessert. That was taken care of by the Song Pyon. This was like a sweet dumpling with a nice soft layer on the outside and a sweet filling on the inside. Overall, the desserts were not too sweet.

Korean Green Tea

Baek Seol Ki

Song Pyon

So what’s the final verdict on Korean cuisine? I enjoyed the fact that despite eating so much, the meal did not feel heavy on the tummy, something synonymous with typical Mughlai food. The flavours are very natural and closer to the Japanese style of cooking. The one thing vegetarians do have to look out is the oil that is used to cook a lot of these dishes. Do remember to ask the chef for that same to be cooked in a vegan style so as to avoid the fish oil. That being said, there are more than enough vegetarian dishes for folks to try out. While Bangalore has a few relatively unknown Korean restaurants, this addition to the spread at Feast should help with the promotion of this very tasty cuisine in the city. Some of the flavours were very new. While I did enjoy most of them, there were a few that may take some getting used to.

 If you’re willing to experiment and open your taste buds to a whole new world of possibilities, do not miss the Korean Food Festival happening at Feast at the Sheraton Bangalore at Brigade Gateway. The festival is on till the 25th of February. The buffet is priced at Rs. 1395+taxes for lunch and at Rs. 1545+taxes for dinner. Kudos to Chef Marty, Chef Link Chan Jae Chung and Shane Yun-Gi Hong for bringing this festival to life.

Guest Column: Deccan Chronicle

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