Prof. Shirley Cheng
By Kim Hyun-cheol
Korea ― absorbed in promoting its cuisine to the world in an attempt to get it better recognized across the world ― needs to send more Korean chefs to demonstrate ``hansik'' cooking, said a U.S. professor at a renowned culinary school.
``It will be good for the promotion of Korean food to organize more conferences and invite chefs, culinary educators, restaurateurs and food magazine editors from (around) the world,'' Shirley Cheng, a professor of culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America, told The Korea Times in an e-mail interview.
``Korea also needs to send more chefs overseas, and open training classes in foreign countries.''
Cheng remembers clearly the day she tried Korean dishes for the first time in New York 20 years ago. In a Korean restaurant in Flushing, New York City, with her family, the cuisine expert ordered barbeque beef (bulbogi), seafood scallion pancake (haemul pajeon) and bibimbap (rice mixed with vegetables and chili sauce).
``Bulgogi was fun to cook ourselves and tasted wonderful too,'' the Chinese-born professor said. ``I was also impressed with the other ones. Bibimbap in a sizzling hot pot was colorful, with vegetables arranged on top, and the seafood pancake was crispy outside and tender inside.''
The dishes made such a strong an impression that she learned how to cook Korean cuisine. ``Since then, it has always been on my menu. I have been teaching it to my students all the time and everyone loves it,'' Cheng said.
As a professor at one of the top culinary schools in the world, Cheng thinks Korean food suits the current trend toward healthy living, with its use of various vegetables and fermented ingredients.
More people are aware of hansik than ever before, but most only recognize a limited number of dishes. And that often leads to a failure to fully enjoy Korean food, Cheng said.
``When I mention Korean cuisine, most of the time people think about kimchi and bulgogi right away. I found, for example, many people here do not like kimchi when eating it by itself only, but they love it when served with grilled pork or beef wrapped with vegetables.''
Healthy food is often seen as synonymous with a lack of taste. Korean food, though, offers an edge of hot, spicy flavors that could attract more fans abroad, according to the professor.
``That will surely attract people,'' Cheng concluded.