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Chefs bring Spanish zest to Seoul : Culinary experts specializing in paella, tapas and wine bring their knowledge to the Four Seasons

Oct 27,2017
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Seven chefs and sommeliers from Spain make Spanish dinner for local diners at Boccalino, an Italian restaurant at the Four Seasons Seoul hotel in central Seoul until Saturday. [FOUR SEASONS HOTEL SEOUL]
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A sampling of dishes served as part of a course meal for the pop-up dinner event at the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul. [FOUR SEASONS HOTEL SEOUL]
Spanish chefs have taken over some of the kitchens at the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul to introduce delicacies from their home country to diners in Korea. It is the first time for the hotel in central Seoul to host a group of culinary experts to work together with its kitchen staff to do pop-up events at several of its bars and restaurants.

To expand local knowledge of classic Spanish dishes like paella, tapas and more, chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants, as well as masters specialized in making paella and other fare will be at the helm until Saturday.

Just as it is hard to define what needs to be put to into a bowl of rice to deem it bibimbap, what constitutes paella is not set in stone. Different ingredients can be mixed together, so it is hard to define what makes one more classic than another, according to paella master santi Almuina. Each region of Spain has developed different styles of the rice dish depending on the accessibility of ingredients.

“There is no huge difference, but in the north, where the climate is cooler, they eat watery paella which can be served hot,” said Almuina in an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily.

“But no matter what version you have, paella should be made with saffron and olive oil. And then you can explore more with your choice of ingredients.”

The northern region also uses more spices to induce energy. The visiting paella master decided to add a Korean touch to make the rice dish spicy by using kimchi. He has been making his own kimchi for about a year, and for the pop-up event in Seoul, he decided to make a version of paella with kimchi for the first time.

“Kimchi is a popular ingredient nowadays in Spain and it isn’t difficult to find a Spanish restaurant that has dishes made with kimchi,” the chef said.

Two tapas masters are on hand to show how the tapas culture in Spain is evolving. Tapas used to be a simple bite one has with their drink, but now each small dish has become more complex. Not only locals but also tourists to Spain find it fun and easy to try small bites of many different dishes.

“Tapas used to mean pairing food with drinks, but now with higher-end versions of dishes, it becomes more like pairing drinks to your bites,” said tapas master Hector Lopez.

In Seoul, there will be tapas made with hints of kimchi to add spiciness and local flavor.

All of these dishes will be part of the full course meal served at the Italian restaurant Boccalino inside of the hotel. A full course dinner put together by the five visiting chefs will be available starting today for 180,000 won ($159.93), and a dinner created in collaboration with the head chef of Boccalino will be served on Saturday. A father and son sommelier duo are here to introduced which Spanish wines will go best with what is on the menu. The wine pairing will cost an extra 100,000 won.

The taste of Spain continues at other venues inside of the hotel. Five different types of paella made by a visiting chef will be served at the hotel’s buffet restaurant The Market Kitchen. To create a Spanish ambiance inside of the hotel, the second floor restaurant area will host a flamenco performance during dinner service throughout the event. The performances will take place between 8 and 9 p.m at the Boccalino Bar. Specially crafted small dishes will go along with high-end Spanish wine for a tapas experience that is hard to find outside of the southern European country. Four small bites paired with wine will be on the menu for 60,000 won.

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