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Centuries-old recipes make their Seoul debut

Nov 09,2017
Women from 12 different families, above left, known to cook with recipes that have been handed down for centuries bring their food to the Plaza hotel for Seoulites. [THE PLAZA SEOUL, AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION]
Some of the dishes that will be served for those interested in how home-cooked meals used to be made at the Plaza Seoul in central Seoul. [THE PLAZA SEOUL, AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION]
Time traveling centuries ago to check out home-cooked meals of the day seems impossible, but visitors to the buffet restaurant at The Plaza Seoul, Autograph Collection in central Seoul, can get a glimpse of the top dishes from the past. The hotel has invited 12 different families to share recipes they learned from their elders at the restaurant until Nov. 25.

The promotion at Seven Square is extra special as the food served there is something diners could not try unless they were invited to these families’ homes.

“We wanted to show that food culture and traditions exists in households and it is worthwhile to spread the word on diversity of ingredients and recipes that ordinary people don’t get to cook in their everyday meals these days,” said culinary planning director and chef Kim Chang-hoon of the hotel.

About 20 dishes prepared from each family will be served from Thursday to Saturday, at lunch and dinner. A variety of ingredients from vegetables to fish and meat will be available. The food each of the families prepare, will have their own unique qualities and tell different stories.

To keep the taste of home in each of their dishes, each family is to bring every single condiment such as soy sauce, doenjang (fermented soy bean paste) or gochujang (hot pepper paste) from their own kitchen to the hotel.

Families from Geochang, South Gyeongsang; Boeun, North Chungcheong; and Andong, North Gyeongsang will present this month, and diners from the same region as these families will get a 30 percent discounts on their meal.

To encourage those interested in cooking Korean food to pay a visit and diversify their own recipes, the hotel also gives 30 percent discounts to those who have Korean culinary certifications. All visitors will also get an opportunity to win a chance to stay at one of these families’ homes outside of Seoul.

The promotion is prepared as a social contribution project for the hotel, which is under the umbrella of the Hanwha Group, as a way to bridge the cultural traditions from the past to the future the hotel strives to lead.

The hotel has come together with the Rural Development Administration, which invests in keeping endangered recipes alive. Since many of the sons and daughters of these families all across the country don’t live with their parents anymore, the everyday rituals that are currently practiced could easily disappear after decades.

To document traditional ways of making certain style of dishes for generations to come, the institute searches for families that have enjoyed certain dishes for over centuries and they currently have 2,200 recipes from 140 families. The organization makes some of the recipes available on its website.

This is one way to inspire locals to pay more attention to buying ingredients only available in certain regions.

While the hotel gets to provide something different to their guests, these 12 households learn about how to better manage their kitchen at home to make cooking process more efficient from a hotel staff that has experience in catering large groups of guests often.

Since some of the families run guesthouse services at their traditional Korean homes called hanok, tips on how to clean up rooms and beds or even how to decorate gardens have been shared as well.

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

The buffet style food prepared by the mothers of 12 different families will be available until Nov. 25 at The Plaza hotel’s Seven Square for lunch and dinner on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Lunch is 88,000 won ($78.97) including tax and service charge and dinner is 95,000 won.