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Young chefs bring authentic Korean to Austria

Feb 28,2018
Clockwise from top left: Five culinary experts put on a pop-up Korean dinner in Austria on Sunday. Chef Jung Jae-ho of Taubenkobel in Austria plates dishes at the event. Hwaban, the main rice dish at the pop-up event. [KIM JIN-HO, KANG CHANG-KI]
Everyone is an ambassador of their home country when they are overseas, and five Korean culinary experts and students in Austria have taken the role very seriously.

Four chefs and one service person who are working or have worked at restaurants in Europe got together to prepare a course meal to serve to culinary experts and media in Austria on Sunday. The event was different from other restaurant-organized events, as the Korean students studying in Europe contributed their talents in order to make the dining experience about more than just food. While the chefs cooked food and a sommelier chose drinks to pair with the dishes, the students played music inspired by the Korean folk song “Arirang” in the dining room and created the event’s poster. They even delivered the food from the kitchen to tables themselves.

Chef Jung Jae-ho currently works at Taubenkobel in Austria, which has two Michelin stars, while chef Park Cheol is in the kitchen at Septime in Paris, with one Michelin star, and chef Kim Hee-joong has worked in Australia and Belgium. Chef Kang Chang-ki, a chef at the Korean Embassy in Austria and formerly at Onjium in Seoul, was provided instructions on cooking Korean food while the others added their own twists. Sommelier Kim Jin-ho of Geranium in Copenhagen, which has three Michelin stars, married the food with drinks. They rented out the restaurant Konstantin Filippou in Vienna under the condition that they share tips on cooking Korean food and discuss a collaboration dinner with the eatery’s head chef.

The five culinary experts did not want to highlight only trendy Korean treats such as bulgogi (grilled marinated meat) or fried chicken, but also wanted to show Korean dishes listed in recipe books from centuries ago.

“We wanted to seek out and present Korean dishes that can stay competitive in the global community,” said Kim. “We wanted to have Korean food as a base thanks to the studies that Kang has done, and then add Western-style touches.”

Since many of the types of vegetables that are often used to make bibimbap, a mixed rice dish, were not available, Kang decided to use herbs easier to find in Europe. He decided to call the dish hwaban, or “flower meal,” another term used for bibimbap, and the chefs completed the dish with flowers on top. No gochujang (hot pepper paste) or sesame oil was added, a few items that have been considered essential to make bibimbap.

“I didn’t want to use gochujang or soy sauce as they are already so well-known,” said Kang, adding that the dish was seasoned with water infused with mushrooms and served with watery kimchi. “I wanted to show there can be different styles of bibimbap.”

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