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Rethinking how to share hansik : Korean Food Foundation looks to grow educational opportunities with international partners

Aug 17,2017
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Chef Roberto Petza of Michelin-starred S’apposentu, center right, shows how he made pasta dishes with Korean seasoning and ingredients like gochujang, hot pepper paste, and kimchi. [KOREAN FOOD FOUNDATION]
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The gochujang pasta is pictured at far left, as well as chicken stuffed with spinach and kimchi. [KOREAN FOOD FOUNDATION]
Korea plans to be more systemic in its promotion of hansik, or Korean cuisine, in both public and private sectors, with the Korean Food Foundation setting up platforms where extended exchanges of culinary ideas are possible between Korea and countries overseas.

Evolving from a focus on one-time events like serving Korean food at festivals without a long-term agenda, the foundation plans to sign memoranda of understanding with local governments in five different countries so that it can lay the groundwork for more private and public organizations to come in and pitch in culinary projects that can make Korean food a daily staple of people all around the world.

The foundation took its first step by joining hands with Sardinia, an island in Italy known among Europeans as a vacation destination where people go for good food and relaxation. A team from the foundation went to the island last month to demonstrate how to use Korean seasonings to make dishes similar to local food.

Chef Roberto Petza of Michelin-starred S’apposentu in Sardinia joined to make a pasta dish seasoned with gochujang, a hot pepper paste, to give a kick, and chicken stuffed with spinach and kimchi. Instead of pushing a famous Korean dish like bibimbap to people who are unfamiliar with it, the foundation is looking for ways to incorporate Korean ingredients in Italian cooking. This move was made in the hopes of inspiring locals to visit a grocery store and search for ingredients commonly found in Korean cuisine.

“We wanted to show that a little twist in Italian cooking can make tabletops in Italian homes and restaurants more exotic while still familiar,” said Dr. Suh Soo-yon, promotion and communications division director for the Korean Food Foundation.

“This can also help Korean food companies expand their presence across the world and continue to see an increase of exports of Korean ingredients.”

Along with making ingredients known and bolstering their sales, the foundation is also thinking about setting up an educational program where Korean chefs go to Italy and work on developing menus with what’s commonly used in Korea, while Italian chefs come to Korea to learn about local cuisine. The foundation is in talks now to have an Italian chef come for the World Hansik Festival, which the foundation started last year, set to happen next month.

With the four other countries on the itinerary this year - Sweden, the United States, Australia and France - the foundation plans to take a different approach each time. For Sweden, it is taking a Korean chef to initiate talks regarding culinary exchange. In New York and France, it is thinking about incorporating educational and training programs as well, by talking with culinary organizations such as the James Beard Foundation. During its visit to Australia, the foundation is planning to bring Korean food companies to seek trade opportunities and establish a new market. Although many of the plans are still tentative, the foundation believes that the signed MOUs will be fundamental in creating bridges with governments from around the world.

Next year, it plans to expand the new discussion platforms to more countries across Asia and elsewhere in the world.

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