From the early days of the pandemic, K-dramas have become a major part of TV viewing in India. Food is central to shows, like Crash Landing On You, Hospital Playlist, Itaewon Class to name a few. The story revolves around the characters preparing food, plating and enjoying it. Conversations around food is an integral narrative tool. No wonder Korean cuisine is rapidly gaining traction in restaurants and homes of India.
Both cuisines share a few similarities. Like Indians, Koreans like their carbs and spices. They use a spicy red pepper paste called gochujang to add a zing to their dishes. It sits perfectly with the Indian palate. Also, like Indians, they fermented food, like kimchi, is an appetising accompaniment to meals. Though their fermented bean paste is a far cry from our pickles, but the basic principle is the same. Like Indians, they also enjoy a multitude of side dishes.
We speak to prominent chefs to know about their favourite Korean dishes and where they go to get their Korean food fix.
Anahita Dhondy, Chef, Culinary Consultant, Author
I usually cook Korean food at home. It all began in the lockdown when I started watching Korean dramas and bought two books on Korean food. I follow the recipes by Maangchi—or, Emily Kim—described by The New York Times as ‘YouTube’s Korean Julia Child’. If we want to eat out, we go to Hans Kitchen, Chungdam or even Miso, all in Gurugram. And what I love is the array of side dishes washed down with soju.
Vikramjit Roy, Chef, Entrepreneur
Having had the good fortune of being able to live and work in South Korea, I was personally very interested to serve this beautiful cuisine to our guests here. Though there are many restaurants serving Korean food in the country now, unfortunately, most restaurants only put their focus on the BBQ side of the cuisine. I strongly feel there is much more to Korean food. One restaurant that I frequent is Jang Won in Chennai. I love it because it does food beyond the grills. The effort one needs to put to make Korean food is immense as the ingredients are the star here. Maintaining that quality is a huge task, and it takes a lot to do so. Right from basic dishes like jajangmyeon, chimaek, to the various stews like Kimchi & Hangover, Soy sauce crab, tteokbokki, and more, they pay attention to each element. Typical dishes like haemul pajeon, which is a crunchy pancake stuffed with a variety of seafood like cuttlefish, is done absolutely brilliantly there.
Palash Ghosh, Executive Chef, Taj Hotel & Convention Centre Agra
Korean cuisine is mostly based on rice, vegetables, seafood and meat. When we talk about Indian and Korean cuisine, both countries focus on healthy, tasty and nutritious food and rice. I like japchae (Korean glass noodle) and bibimbap (rice bowl with veg/chicken) the most. Gung the Palace in Delhi is my favourite restaurant for Korean food.
Nilesh Limaye, Host, Author, Chef, Restaurateur and Entrepreneur
I haven’t been to a Korean restaurant recently. But my favourite was in Pune, and it's called Seoul Jib. They have a lot of Korean guests staying there so they make their kitchen Korean style. I love their bibimbap, japchae and, of course, Korean barbecue. I also enjoy kimchi and its many varieties. I like it fermented, fresh, mustard-flavoured and in sandwiches. Koreans love freshness and crunchiness. The varieties in soy sauce, vinegar and tofu alone are unbelievable. My first interaction with Korean food was when I was planning my first restaurant Trikaya and had to include some of the dishes on the menu.
Ajeet Kalbag, Chef and Culinary Consultant
I used to go to Cafe Maroo in Pune before the lockdown for Korean food. I used to love their kimchi, dak bulgogi, jajangmyeon and Kimchi jjigae. Sadly, they closed for good during the pandemic. Now, I get my jajangmyeon from Barometer in Pune. Also, I love everything kimchi because I love fermented food and also for its taste and bite. Of course, I also love soju, the national spirit of Korea.
Sagar Bajaj, Corporate Chef, First Fiddle Restaurants
Korean food is something you can never get enough of. Its spicy, tangy, salty and sweet flavours provide for an outstanding experience. I call it Korean zing. My favourite would be the Korean fried chicken, which has been used in so many different dishes—in a folded bao, Korean kimchi fried rice, gopchang and even in gimbap. I love it because of its sweet and spicy sauce and I have a weakness for fried foods. My favourite restaurant is Nomimono in Delhi because of the authenticity of its oriental food, and the flavours that transport you to East Asia.
Sabyasachi Gorai, Chef, Mentor, Consultant
The fact that we have been exposed to Korean culture with K-Dramas streaming in our screens has made us more curious about everything Korean. Needless to say, Korean cuisine is trending now. I love most things fried and spicy, so naturally, my favourite is Korean fried chicken doused in the spicy gochujang sauce. That sauce alone can transform even the simplest dishes and add a burst of flavours. Generally, I prefer making Korean food at home, but if I’m eating out, I head to the Hans Kitchen in Gurugram.