Last Friday I was invited as a chef to cook in a dream kitchen for Korean Soirée. What an honour, a professional chef promoting a home-cook to a ‘Chef’! The idea of a Korean night came as Mr.O and I recently returned from our Korean trip and had some Korean goodies. People would normally keep them to themselves as they’re often very difficult to get hold of if you live abroad, but I wanted to share as I always do. That’s why I did my first Soiree des Gourmandes after returning from my Jura wine tour where I met my life saving foodie friend, Dolores. A Korean dinner had already happened two nights ago but people who saw the menu post on my Facebook page got so excited that they demanded that it be held soon or they will die.
I didn’t know there was so much interest in Korean food. Yes, I’m not so Korean inside as outside and I hardly cook Korean at home; I had enough of it growing up! Though I can confidently say that I recognise good Korean food, as I grew up eating the best of the best Korean food cooked by my mum, who ran an organic restaurant with home-grown veggies and home-made broth, and without MSG all those years ago. So I am critical of Korean food and a bit spoiled when it comes to good food in general. Anyway, since it was a working day, I had to wait till Dolores got home. It’s always a pity that we live far away from each other. So I prepared some dishes in a ready-to-serve catering style in my kitchen so that I could finish them off at Dolores’.
When Dolores open the door, we both burst into a laughter because we happened to be in a matching stripy outfit! It proves the saying, “Great minds think alike.”
The chicken, our priority, was to be put to cook first, so that the stock would be reduced to the scrumptious richness. Smelling the irresistible chicken smell, I assembled the Korean noodle, Jap Chae, and the bonito sashimi, which I bought fresh and prepared that morning. Since I was cooking in an another person’s kitchen, I had to adapt and improvise recipes, which I’m so good at. Dolores and I see cooking as art and we use our imagination as a guide, and cookbooks for inspirations. I brought a bottle of Rkatsiteli 2011 to go with the starters, Bonito Sushi and Spicy Calamari Kimchi Fritters with Coriander, which our guests loved. But the second surprise was that Dolores also had a Spanish amphorae wine, Celler del Roure, Parotet 2012 Valencia. Wow, what a joy! I said to her, “This is exactly what the wine my dad used to make tastes like!” I’ve started to appreciate natural wines without so much influence of oak barrel. Perhaps, I’m getting into a mellow age.
It was a fine dining session with people who happened to be a group of artists, perfumists and designers, and appreciate good food. So the original chicken porridge, Samgetang or Dakjuk turned into a form of art with a snow of salty Jerusalem artichoke crisps. When I made the chicken dish the previous night, I thought Jerusalem artichoke tasted a bit like ginseng, but if you don’t know what ginseng is, you won’t have any idea. But I found Nil Barcode Food through a Google search, who thinks the same.
I was reluctant to serve the noodles in a typical Asian way so I dressed it up using yufka. This is a true ‘multicultural inspiration’ and I love inventing new ways and new flavours.
The clock was ticking away and it was time to put the sexy Saffron cake made with a secret ingredient that the perfumist had to guess into the oven. And the guests finally arrived.
Thanks to Dolores’ amazing time management acquired from her training in Ferrandi Paris, everything was well-organised and I was saved from enslaving myself in the kitchen during the meal – “Kitchen is closed! No more sushi!” so, instead, I was able to sit with the guests. The firm taste with apple and floral flavours of the Georgian wine paired well with the dishes.
Inside the pretty pocket were the glass noodles with oyster mushrooms, which instantly became everyone’s favourite. I added my secret ingredient in there. Shhh…..
Here come the main dishes, first, Chicken served with Sunchoke and Brocoli Puree and Sunchoke Crisps,
…. and my precious Bulgogi, the famous Korean braised thin beef, was worth changing the house lock – It has a long story to be remembered for a long time, beside that it was marinated for over 20 hours. I was glad that people appreciated the taste of ginger and pear. The wine we drank with the mains was a bottle of Bordeaux 2008, whose name I forgot.
Are we done yet? Nope. The infamous Cornmeal Cake with Saffron and Mandarin Syrup was brought to the table and the perfumist was put to a test of guessing the secret ingredient in the cake. Tonka Bean… What an unusual spice! It was a new and interesting discovery for me. This cake is absolutely delicious and I’ll share the recipe sometime soon.
What a great night it was…. All the dishes, all the conversations and laughter we shared. People from all walks of life had so much fun together, all thanks to food. Inspiration and education, breaking boundaries and bringing peace… Food makes it all happen. That’s why we need to eat together more often!
“Life is too short to eat bad food or eat the same food twice.”