Exploring Korean Cuisine in Mumbai
My experience with Korean culture like most Mumbaikars has been limited.Years ago,when I went off on a Trafalgar Tours trip to Europe,I met Koreans for the first time...two cute,petite teenagers who were out to see the world and didn't let their limited knowledge of the English language stop them.There were funny moments 'cause of that as they'd not get the instructions right and would head in the wrong direction (wrong boat,wrong coach) and the whole group would yell out to them,in good humor.I remember distinctly asking them about their food and was quite surprised to hear that they ate rice at every meal including breakfast.
I was therefore quite thrilled when my cousin took me to her friend Sun Won Hwang's home in South Mumbai for a traditional Korean meal.Sun Won supplies dabbas to Koreans in the city and hosts meals at home.The spread was huge,to say the least.Sun Won knows some English and some Hindi.It wasn't hard though to communicate as food brings down barriers.
We started with an array of starters (banchan),served all at once.....Brinjal with Tofu,Peanuts with dried Crabs,Candied Lotus Stem,Roast Sweet Potato,Korean blood sausage and different types of Kimchi.Kimchi is pickled chilli cabbage and is seen in most upmarket Chinese restaurants in Mumbai.Korean food has two important ingredients....Doenjang or the fermented soybean paste and Gochujang or the chill paste.
We were served Korean sushi which has vegetables in it and is preseasoned.Korean cuisine is considered healthy as it has very little added oil and has loads of vegetables.
We had classical dishes like Bulgogi and Japchae,which I had tried earlier in Busaba.Bulgogi is meat marinated with sweet soy sauce and pears and then grilled whereas Japchae has glass noodles made of sweet potato,stirfried with vegetables and meat and embellished with sesame seeds.
We were served Miso Soup in the middle of the meal.I found it rather strong in terms of taste.If you like dried fish,you will like this.I don't!
At the table,Sun Won made Samgyeopsal for us,which is barbecued pork belly served in lettuce with onions and garlic.It was divine!Then there was Jjajangmyeon (shown below) which was delicately flavoured stewed pork with noodles.Rice forms an important part of their meal but at times is replaced by noodles.
Then there was Jjampong which was a thick pungent broth with seafood,onion and chilli.A meal by itself.
Sun Won wanted to serve us more (Bimbibap,Kalbi etc) but there was really no place.Except for the flower infusion tea we sipped at the end....
Korean food has distinct,exciting flavors from other Oriental fare.No surprise then that popups featuring Korean food are making appearances in the city for adventurous minds