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Indian cuisine fit for the president : Chef M U Kasture is making India’s favorites to suit Korean tastebuds

Mar 24,2017
Chef M U Kasture, who used to cook for the presidents of India, is in Seoul to cook for Indian food fans at the Millennium Seoul Hilton in central Seoul. [Millenium Seoul Hilton]
Millennium Seoul Hilton hotel hosts Indian food at its Cafe 395 as part of its lunch and dinner buffet until Sunday. [Millennium Seoul Hilton]
If the first, and maybe only Indian dish you can easily name is tandoori chicken and you call yourself a fan of Indian cuisine, it’s time to expand your knowledge and taste buds at the Millennium Seoul Hilton hotel’s buffet.

Chef M U Kasture, who used to cook for the current as well as former presidents of India for eight years until 2015, is now in Korea cooking dishes that match Korean tastes. The use of thick cream can be substituted with sauce made with cashew nuts and the use of strong spices can be limited for those who are not used to the smell. His experience as a chef for presidents at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official home of the President of India, located in New Delhi, has helped him understand how to keep things authentic while making adjustments for the international taste, as his job was not only to cook for just presidents, but also their international guests. He has been a member of the Club des Chefs des Chefs, an exclusive group for presidential chefs worldwide to share information about how to cook for international delegations.

“For people who can’t do well with spices or thick creams, chefs come up with ways to moderate the taste, but we still carry the authenticity by keeping all the other processes consistent [with] what we do at [home],” said chef Kasture in an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily, explaining that with the help of different chutneys, what’s suitable for those unfamiliar with Indian cuisine can also be enjoyable for those who like the strong taste.

The chef explained that the chutneys made with different ingredients should also be served as a side dish so that individuals can make their own dishes to suit their tastes. Those chutneys are only available until Sunday, while the chef cooks the buffet menu.

He also used more seafood and vegetables to show that different regions in India, where seafood is more accessible, use fish in their meals. The dishes seem to appeal to Korean diners, who may have only been exposed to Indian cuisine featuring chicken, he pointed out.

“India is a big country and we have much more than the widely known tandoori chicken,” said the chef.

He showed one regret about the dining experience he is giving locals: naan. The large and thin bread that often accompanies main dishes with rice should be served hot, not cold.

“The naan has to be hot all the time,” said the chef adding that it would have been ideal to serve the naan right by the table instead of having diners put them on their dish while getting their food in the buffet.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

The buffet with additional Indian dishes will last until Sunday at the Millennium Seoul Hilton near Namsan in central Seoul. The Indian dishes at the hotel’s Cafe 395 are available for lunch for 94,000 won ($83.67) per person and for dinner for 99,000 won alongside the dining hall’s usually buffet menu. For more information, go to www.seoul.hilton.co.kr or call (02) 317-3062~3.