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European foodies drawn to kimchi-making : Chef Kang Min-goo of Mingles is bringing his skills to Salzburg

Feb 07,2018
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Chef Martin Klein of the restaurant Ikarus in Salzburg, Austria, left, and chef Kang Min-goo of the restaurant Mingles in Seoul, work together preparing Kang’s dishes for Austrian diners in April. [MINGLES]
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[MINGLES, RED BULL]
Kimchi, along with many dishes inspired by Korean food, will be served at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Ikarus in Salzburg, Austria starting in April.

Chef Kang Min-goo of the Seoul restaurant Mingles has been invited to share his dishes at a restaurant located inside Hangar-7, a museum-like space where a collection of historic airplanes and vehicles are housed. The restaurant, run by energy drink company Red Bull, invites 11 talented chefs from around the globe each year and has them introduce their food for a month. Offering food inspired by chefs from different countries has been the main concept of the restaurant since its opening in 2003. The restaurant has previously invited globally renowned chefs to cook in its kitchen including chef Daniel Boulud of Daniel in New York, chef Virgilio Martinez of Central in Peru, chef Isaac MaHale of the Clove Club in London, as well as chef Prin Polsuk of Nahm in Bangkok.

The fact that Kang, a chef who serves modern Korean food in Seoul, travels to restaurants across Europe, such as Relae in Copenhagen, Denmark and Flocons de Sel in Megeve, France, for research contributed to the restaurant’s decision to invite Kang instead of the many other chefs who serve Korean food in a Western-style course meal. The growing global interest in using fermentation in dishes was another factor in inviting Kang as its guest of honor this year.

“If you speak about fermentation, you [should] go straight to Korea,” said Martin Klein, the executive chef at Ikarus, during a three-day visit to Korea last month.

“Everybody is trying to make something [like] kimchi in Europe,” Klein said. “As you have a lot of variation, I wanted to see it here [in Korea] from the right Korean chef.”

Klein and Kang discussed what dish to bring to Austria and what needs to be prepared before Kang arrives at Ikarus’ kitchen. Klein routinely visits each chef in their home country about three months before the guest chef comes to Austria and goes to local markets to look for ingredients.

Chefs from two different restaurants working on each others’ dishes to make one course is what most diners know as a four-hand meal. Taking a different approach, everything served in April at Ikarus will be Kang’s creations presented by the staff at Ikarus, so how Klein understands Kang’s ideas and execution of dishes during his time spent in Korea plays a key role in preparing his staff in Austria to properly deliver the essence of these dishes. Klein and his staff will spend some time over the next two months hunting for ingredients that are similar to ones found in Korea. Klein even has to start preparing a bit early as it takes time for vegetables to ferment properly before they make it onto plates.

Klein made kimchi together with Kang and is looking for ways to bring makgeolli, fermented rice wine, to Austria.

One Mingles dish that Klein was surprisingly pleased with was a dessert named the Jang Trio, which is made with three types of common fermented Korean sauces: gochujang, or hot pepper paste, doenjang, or soy bean paste, and ganjang, or soy sauce. Klein likes to enjoy sweet treats at the end of his meal and he thought that the dessert would be “too Korean.” Before tasting it, he assumed that he would have to ask Kang to do something else for his menu in Austria. But after having a bite, he realized that he was totally wrong.

“I was like, wow,” said Klein. “Now I know we have to have this dessert because I know our customers [in Austria] will also think what I had thought of the Jang Trio, and the surprise they will have will be that big.”

“I don’t know why we waited 13 years to invite a Korean chef,” he added.

Kang will be working in the Ikarus kitchen for three days from March 31 to April 2, to prepare the staff for the month-long run of Mingles dishes. Reservations can be made at the Ikarus’ website, www.hangar-7.com.

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