7th November 2015 - Daniel Vais
Daniel Vais, part Iraqi, part Hungarian, but actually Israeli, is going to cook Korean food for us. I know this seems odd - I was somewhat sceptical too, but he has spent years learning Korean food from Koreans (his exact words to me were "don't worry, I cook like a Korean mama"). He even makes his own kimchi, the spicy fermented garlicy cabbage which is the signature Korean foodstuff.
The first time he cooked for us, a Korean food blogger was sceptical too. Yet she came, and loved the food, awarding PSC that year her award for her favourite dining experience of the year. And now you get a second chance to sample his exceptional Korean cooking.
Daniel (funnily enough, this is a very popular name amongst Koreans!) has written a bit about Korean food and culture for us, along with his menu:
Korean food (Hansik) is not as well-known as many other Asian foods, but Korean culture and cuisine has a long tradition and is starting to become much better known. Korean culture is a Dynastic feudal culture, like the Chinese, and has also had many external influences over the years, including the Persians, the Mongols and the Japanese. Several of these dynasties were very sophisticated with highly developed sciences, art, philosophy and cuisine.
Ingredients and dishes vary by province. Many regional dishes have become national, and dishes that were once regional have proliferated in different variations across the country. The Korean royal court cuisine once brought all of the unique regional specialties together for the royal family.
Korean cuisine is largely based upon rice, vegetables, meats and fermentation of various of vegetables and roots. Traditional Korean meals are noted for both their spicyness and the number of Namuls (side dishes) that accompany short-grain rice with of course Kimchi, the king of Korean Cuisine, served often, sometimes at every meal. Other commonly used ingredients include Spring onions, Sesame oil, Doenjang (fermented bean paste), Soy, garlic Ginger and Gochujang (fermented red chili paste).
The key to the Korean kitchen is fermentation. Every nation has their unique fermented foods such as cheese, yogurt or natto, but Korea excels. Fermentation makes food both more digestible but also acts as a preservative, as Korea has cold winters and the people needed to preserve their summer vegetables. The quintessential fermented food of hansik is kimchi, and although there are hundreds of different kinds, the most internationally well known is spicy fermented cabbage. When meeting someone who has never encountered kimchi before, Koreans may introduce its as a type of salad, a kind of salad made using spices, red peppers, salt, garlic and oriental cabbage, sauerkraut with a kick, if you will. But this simple explanation leaves out the most important variable, that of fermentation, which is the entire key to how a particular batch of kimchi might taste. The kimchi that is preferred most by Korean people contains salted shrimp or anchovies and has aged underground for at least a year in a jangdokdae (large clay jar). Like a fine wine, the process of aging gives kimchi its deep taste.
Kimchiguk - Kimchi soup
Doejibulgogi - Pork belly stir fry
Chapsaldeok - Mochi or rice cakes with red beans inside