Healthy cuisine for all - GulfToday

Healthy cuisine for all


The Korean Pavilion is located at the Mobility District of Expo 2020 Dubai. Kamal Kassim/Gulf Today

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

Aside from the Expo 2020 Dubai being a fertile ground for essential and probably at-the-moment incomprehensible discoveries for what lies ahead, this is also where taste buds are satiated, offering each visitor a close-up of how unique and similar we may be.

Last week, Gulf Today went to the Mobility District. It was already three o’clock in the afternoon. Still, a long queue awaited as almost every table at a restaurant, was occupied.

“It has been a hectic and busy week since we have opened. Like, it is only now that I could sit down with you since morning.”

Hwan-yeonghada (Welcome) to the Korean Restaurant located at the second floor of the three-storey Korean Pavilion on Ghaf Avenue.

“I believe it is the K-Pop that (brought up to the high charts our cuisine),” said a soft-spoken smiling James Kang.

Twelve years a UAE resident, Kang from the Jeju-do island-province who grew up in Seoul first landed in Dubai in 2008. His mission was “to promote some Korean dishes at Park Hyatt.” He since been the executive chef of The Asiana Hotel in Deira, Dubai. In the next five months, also the man who calls the shots at the restaurant, the kitchen of which he “personally designed” at the pavilion.

His face lit up when this reporter interjected that he no longer designs buildings for his dream was to be an architect. He now creates and designs dishes associated with centuries-old practices yet very much around.

Take the case of what Kang and his colleagues had served for a “75 with covers capacity” space from Oct. 1 (Friday) to Oct. 19 (Tuesday): 3,700 multi-ethnic diners of various ages.

He made reference to how the Sonamu in his home base of The Asiana Hotel has been rating: “It used to be 60 to 70 per cent Koreans. In recent years, the Koreans have been at 20 per cent. The rest are locals, Europeans and Indians.” Again, thanks to the K-Pop. A Sept. 24 to Nov. 4, 2020 survey, by the global business data platform Statista, of 8,500 15 to 59-year-olds from 18 countries, revealed that 1,930 (22.7 per cent) had rated this worldwide accepted music genre, propagated by the usually young (good-looking, fashionable highly-trained in (choreographed performances) as “very popular” in their countries.

From the restaurant, where the media sampled on Kang’s own mild-flavoured, taste-friendly street food Gimbap (rolled rice, egg, meat, veggies); Ddboki (rice and fish cake balls); Kimchi; and the Korean fried chicken marinated in chilli paste, was Sophia Lin.

The third year Philosophy major was with her fellow Chinese students at the New York University in Abu Dhabi. She said they did not want to miss the Expo as this only happens every five years: “It is Fall break.

The site is close to us. We love Korean culture. I love their food.  The K-Pop. The food is not too sweet and not too spicy. There are a variety of options and all are healthy.” Online interviewed were Filipinos editor Florence Pia Yu, Miss Universe-United Arab Emirates president and national director Josh Yugen, Expat Media owner/chief executive officer Mars De Los Santos, and former Community Relations manager in Dubai Jennifer Gonzales who relish Korean food.

“Korean food makes me want to eat my veggies with meat in a fun way. I love their Bulgogi, those melt-in-your-mouth thin slices of rib eye that just sizzle on the hot plate as you start cooking them. Then you wrap the perfectly cooked pieces in lettuce and pop them in your mouth,” said Yu.

“Korean food is amazing and one of my go-to cuisines when I want to feel happiness and comfort,” said Yugen.

“I love Korean food. It is experiential particularly Samgyeopsal (grilled pork belly). You get a taste of becoming a chef while putting your ingredients) together,” said De los Santos. “I love Korean food. It is a combination of Chinese and Japanese. It has all the elements of various colours such as red (Gochijang) green seaweeds, yellow among others. Their Kimchi, an appetizer and a meal in itself has medicinal properties to aid stomach problems. Grilled, boiled and steamed Korean food focus on the satisfaction of the palette, health, and respect of nature and the environment,” said Gonzales.

Indeed, according to executive chef Kang, what makes Korean food pleasurable is that through centuries, they, as a people who have invented ways to keep their food last long, vis-à-vis the unavailability of electricity for the refrigerators and cold storage, have been able to keep the basics intact, “the foundation of every dish.” For instance, the soya beans, chillis, garlic and ginger, long-time known for their medicinal and health benefits, such as Vitamin E for the youthful skin, are the “base ingredients” such that these become the sauces like in the sampled Korean Fried Chicken. Speaking of the youthful skin, the media thought the 50-year-old Kang as only between the ages of 45 and 48.

Without electricity, the remedy is fermentation, Kang said, adding that while the staple Kimchi (cabbage raddish and other vegetables soaked in brine) may be devoured within a week-that which preserves food anaerobically-may take years, particularly “three to six years.”

Meanwhile, data from the Seoul’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, as reported in the Feb. 12, 2021 online edition of The Korea Herald: “The country saw an all-time high number of exports of agri-foods which include fresh and processed food to post $7.57 billion (Dhs27.81 billion in 2020.”

The same online news quoted Korea International Trade Association senior researcher Park Ga-hyun: “The K-Wave that started from Korean dramas and K-Pop is now spread to Korean cuisine and over-all Korean lifestyle.”

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