The United States welcomed South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol and his wife, Kim Keon Hee to their country this week. The Biden government seeks to strengthen ties with its allies with such visits.
On Wednesday, First Lady Jill Biden hosted a state dinner for the South Korean president and his wife at the White House. The menu represented the theme of building diplomatic relations with dishes such as crabcakes, beef short ribs and a deconstructed banana split—each with a twist of Korean ingredients or flavours, reports a story published by Associated Press (AP) yesterday.
Korean-American celebrity chef Edward Lee has conceptualised the menu along with White House’s executive chef Cris Comerford and executive pastry chef Susie Morrison. In an interview with Reuters, Lee shared that his mother’s ‘blunt’ advise for him was, “Don’t mess it up. You got one shot.” He adds that the menu for the black-tie dinner is ‘seasonal and celebrates American food’, and ‘it is also shows how Korean flavours’ can be seamlessly woven in.
Lee shared details of three dishes with AP. The crabcake appetizer is, "an updated coleslaw of cabbage, kohlrabi, fennel and cucumber topped with a vinaigrette made using gochujang, a red chili paste, and a small bowl of yellow squash soup. The main course, braised beef short ribs topped with sorghum-glazed carrots are served atop a dollop of grits made from butter beans instead of dried corn. Dessert is the deconstructed version of a banana split, an American classic, featuring lemon bar ice cream, caramelized bananas, fresh berries and mint ginger snap cookie crumble, drizzled with a caramel sauce infused with doenjang, a fermented soybean paste.” Each dish encapsulates culinary diplomacy—a theme that runs through all state dinners at the White House.
In December, President Joe Biden hosted his first state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron. On the menu, there was beef with shallot marmalade and dessert was orange chiffon cake, roasted pears topped off with crème fraiche ice cream. Jill Biden speaks of her husband’s fondness for ice cream in a story on AP.
State dinners at the White House are a centuries-old tradition. They were designed to host foreign leaders, and the first such event was by President Ulysses S. Grant who welcomed King Kalakaua of Hawaii in December 1874. It is an opportunity to showcase the President’s hospitality to powerful dignitaries and are attended by important political leaders as well as renowned celebrities.