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Korean Cuisine, With Intent to Rule

By 2017, we'll all be eating this -- or at least that's the plan. (Tracy Woodward -- The Washington Post)

What the heck were you doing on Oct. 16, 2008? You may not remember, but that’s the very day Korea announced its plan for “globalization of its indigenous cuisine,” initiating a nine-year campaign to be “one of the world’s five most famous cuisines.”

Had I remembered to attend the fancy luncheon on Tuesday at the Willard InterContinental, co-hosted by the Korea Foundation and the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, I might have been able to gauge the campaign's largest local effort so far. (I had an especially lousy week managing my personal calendar. I even managed a no-show on Monday at an event right here at TWP.)

About 150 or so Washington-area restaurateurs and food journalists were invited to eat and watch a cooking demo by Madame Ahn Jung-Hyun, a famous chef and owner of the three-star Wooriga, which I think is in Seoul. She touted the healthful aspects of Korean cuisine, as does the literature given to all those who came (sent to yours truly, where I spotted the announcement of intent from Korea’s minister for food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries). And Madame is in charge of a dinner tonight for politicians and business leaders.

Luckily, a knowledgeable food pal o’ mine was at the lunch. She was in Seoul so long ago that, as an American military spouse, she was never allowed access to the native foods. I guess those days are o-v-e-r. Hello, kimchi hotpot!

Here’s her course-by-course breakdown:

First: A tricolor wheat wrap filled with fresh ginseng, cactus, spinach, beef, shiitake mushrooms, Korean squash, onions dipped in a mustard sauce. Okay, she said.

Second: Lobster Japchae, clear noodles made with sweet-potato flour and a variety of julienne, pan-fried vegetables. Presentation was fabulous, and it tasted great.

Third: Braised short ribs and vegetable brochette, with spring onion, Chinese cabbage, burdock, carrots and Chinese bellflower roots, brushed with jochujang (fermented red pepper paste) sauce. Loved it.

Fourth: Bibim Bap With Song-I Pine Mushrooms and Shrimp Balls. The beef in the dish melted in your mouth, and though there was a pine aroma, it was not offputting. But wait, there’s more: The accompanying kimchi was hot as hell and very garlicky.

Dessert: Ginger ice cream with a whiff of ginseng, fresh fruit and a ginseng wine. A nice way to end the meal.

Well, I wish I’d been there.

So, are you ready for the onslaught of Korean cuisine? And just what do you suppose are the top five cuisines of the world? Wonder who they’ll bump off the tote board.

-- Bonnie Benwick

By The Food Section  |  May 7, 2009; 12:30 PM ET
 | Tags: Bonnie Benwick, Korean food  
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Have no idea how you do it, but 95% of your articles come at the exact moment I am interested in that particular subject.

I am into Korean food now and have spent last two weekends going from one Korean owned Asian food store to another (God and consumers know we have lots of them in NoVa and they sell Latino, Indian and Arabic foods too) looking for black garlic. Only one store had a manager who spoke enoughd English to understand me.

Help, please! Must have black fermented garlic. Yes, I know I can get it on the Internet, but mailmen or Fedex delivered food, unless canned or frozen, is never as good as it should be. My first choice is a local source. Thank you so much.

Posted by: skipper9 | May 8, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Top 5 Cuisines: My guesses are French, Italian, Chinese, Mexican, and either Thai or Indian for #5.

Posted by: margaret6 | May 8, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Skipper9, that made my day. But the black fermented garlic is only available through online sales right now. Just that company is importing it (; 310-623-7063). The stuff is dried and packaged in cello bags; you really shouldn't have a problem.

Posted by: benwickb | May 8, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

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