Saturday the 24th of February, both my photographer and I walked into the Hyatt Pune, Kalyani Nagar to capture the Korean Food Festival at Baan Tao. The Pan Asian Restaurant at the Hyatt Pune, Kalyani Nagar. It was a pleasant evening and the ambiance at Baan Tao supported it. There was soft music playing in the background. I was expecting a spread that one normally encounters at a food festival. On enquiring, I found out it was an A La Carte Menu.
There were Korean specialties as the A La Carte at Hyatt Pune, Kalyani Nagar.
The Korean Chef who had been flown down specially from the Hyatt, Korea prefers to be called just Gill as he feels the long name would be difficult for us to pronounce. We are definitely ok with that.
We didn’t waste time. Some of the dishes were kept ready as plating is an essential part of a Korean dish.
The Korean pickles and other side dishes served on the side
The tour started with the Korean pickle. Exquisitely cut small pieces of vegetables such as cucumber, onion, and turnip lay in a bowl marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar. At times carrots are also used. The soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar are boiled and the vegetables are soaked in it. The sweetness balances the taste of vinegar.
In another small bowl lay thinly cut square pieces of tofu usually had with the soup. Stuffing for the kimchi, thinly sliced cabbage lay in another small bowl. The stuffing was marinated with light chili powder called Gochugaru in Korea. Gochu is chili pepper or flakes and garu is powder….and fish sauce and of course some secret grandma recipe that will definitely not be divulged.
Gill was very busy the last couple of days getting all ready for the fare so he has not stepped out. He is hoping to go to the local market to take a look at the kinds of vegetables one gets there.
I was curious to know how different is the cuisine from the north to the south of Korea. The north side is heavier on flavors it being very cold in comparison to the south of Korea.
I asked him if rice was still an expensive food item. Clearly in the 1920’s rice was very expensive and only a few could afford it. People used to add barley to increase the amount. However today barley is used extensively instead of rice by people who are health conscious. Barley is considered good for health.
A Korean delicacy- The Samgyetang
8Samgyetang SoupAs we were getting acquainted with the Korean culture the soup Samgyetang arrived at the table in an oval-shaped bowl. The quantity was large. The soup was crystal clear. One could see the sprinkle of delicately cut spring onion floating on the top. The chicken lay there silent. Sticky Rice, date, chestnut, and garlic are used as the stuffing for the chicken. The chicken normally is deboned to make it easy to eat. However, many is the time the bone is kept on especially in Korea. This chicken is stuffed then tied and cooked on slow fire for 12 hours. This is a delicacy in Korea and can cost approximately USD 10 to 20. It is considered a meal by itself. It can be served with some kimchi on the side. So here at Hyatt Pune, Kalyani Nagar, we were served the clear chicken stock with the chicken that was cooked for long, deboned.
A lot of dishes in Korea are served dry. There came a delicately plated salad of an assortment of prawn, scallops, and squid with pine nut sauce. The prawns were boiled at the right temperature in salt water to get the right texture and not lose its flavor. The squids and scallops were blanched similarly…for a minute and then cooled in cold water. Over boiling would have left the fish with a rubbery texture. The sauce almost black to look at is a blend of pine, sesame, and mustard sauce, mayonnaise, and pear to give it a sweetness. Wow! I surely enjoyed the flavors of this extraordinary blend.
The Chicken Tartar with Mustard Sauce was another exotic salad that was garnished with yellow gooseberries. The yellow gooseberries add a tangy taste to the sweet salad. Chicken is boiled shredded mixed with onions, cucumbers, and carrots. The vegetables add the required crunch to the salad. All of it is mixed with yellow mustard sauce. In Korea, the sauce is a little spicy. The Dijon mustard here is of a different flavor as compared to the Korean mustard sauce. However, the chef added some mayonnaise to the Indian mustard. Along the sides was another sauce to die for…made of abalone, a shellfish got in the seas of the US, China, Korea, and Japan… considered a delicacy and expensive. What a burst of flavors… a blend of abalone, onion, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sugar. Yummy Yummy! Gill has decided to take some yellow gooseberry seeds and plant them in Korea. He has developed a taste for them.
The Main Course
Soon after came the Bossam Plate. The main course, of pork belly, bean paste sauce, vegetables. The bean paste sauce is made of fermented bean paste called doenjang, (the beans are fermented sometimes for a year). It is done during the winters. The beans are fermented with salt and fish sauce, turnip, onion, garlic. Dark corn syrup is used for sweetness and to add a glaze to the sauce. The pork I must say was succulent and had retained its own flavors. However, when eaten with the bean sauce the taste was unmatchable. I tried the kimchi that was served with it. It had an overpowering taste of vinegar to it, very different to the Chinese kimchi. I do eat pork once in a while. But this! I wanted to eat some more as it was cooked to perfection. The chef had cooked it for 2 hours. However, as I kept talking to chef Gill the plate had disappeared when I turned around.
There were other dishes on the a la carte that were not brought to the table. Viz. the appetisers Jeonbok-Cho (steamed abalone with say sauce), the Deep fried chicken with chili soya sauce; the main course viz. the Mero Gu-I (roasted codfish with chili paste sauce), the Bulgogi Tender Loin (stir-fried water buffalo with a variety of vegetables) it is famous worldwide, and the Bibimbab (assorted vegetables with rice, sweet pepper paste and poached eggs). These were to be served the next day on Sunday at brunch, although it’s on the menu card and you can call for it.
He went on to talk of how the Deep fried chicken which is their delicacy and loved by the Koreans is served with beer and is call Chimaek. Chicken with beer. Chi is beer and maek is chicken.
The sauce for the Bulgogi is made of yellow onion, white and light green parts of green onions, soy sauce, sugar, sesame seeds, garlic, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, ginger, and black pepper in a bowl until marinade is well mixed.
The Mero Gu-I is a signature dish of the main chef at the Hyatt in Korea. The black cod is an oily fish and very expensive. It is pan fried, brushed with some chili paste sauce, its sweet and spicy…it balances the fish. A salad is served…merely of assorted leaves.
Chef Gill may look serious but he kept us entertained every now and again with his subtle humor. He is also very flexible and adapted to the kitchen that he had to work from…. “it is not a Korean kitchen. It is a Chinese kitchen.” He made subtle changes to the plating as plating of a dish in Korea is very intricate, yet making it look very authentic and pleasing to the eye. He brings with him his learnings from his travels to various parts of the world.
He comes with an open mind and is open to change. He calls it ‘evolving.’ He wants to change some of the traditionally served dishes. Wonder what grandmas from the old school would say? He says they also are very open to change. What a welcoming thought.
The tantalizing Desert
The long-awaited dessert arrives. The Red Bean Jelly Pear Omija Sorbet is a desert to die for. The sorbet was frozen right so you could dig into it without a struggle. The sorbet is made of Omija Berries. It means a five flavored berry. Om is five, mi is flavor, ja is berry. The flavors are light but distinct. It is sweet and sour to taste. The surprising element was the bitterness to it. Surprising as the bitterness is very palatable you can actually enjoy it along with the sweet and tangy flavor.
I am not sure of how to eat it, so I ask him. The jelly which is cylindrical in shape is to be tasted first and on its own. The jelly is made of red beans and gelatin. There is pineapple that is stewed and a slice of fig that is placed at the top. The two, when eaten together could a good combination. And then you can savor the sorbet.
The sorbet is meant to clean the palate.
The Sunday Brunch begins
We walked towards the Customised salad station. Pickled cucumber kimchi and the Black cod salad with pine nut sauce were the Korean specialties. Adorning the counter was the cheese spread which is a part of the regular brunch at the Hyatt Pune, Kalyani Nagar. The Hyatt Pune is the only hotel in the city that does a Pan Asian brunch. There was of course an assortment of vegetables boiled, raw, pickled that you could chose from and make your own, or be guided by the chef.
So now I was to experience Sushi at the live counter. This is exactly what the Hyatt Pune, Kalyani Nagar wants, where you can experience everything being made in front of your eyes. You know what you are eating. You can customize your food to your taste and experiment without the fear of being ridiculed.
The chef begins to educate me. I am trying to understand the process and get a hang of the names.
The nori sheet is an edible seaweed used for sushi. Sushi rice is spread on the mat. Bulgogi, pickled Chinese cabbage, some wasabi, some tuna, and crab is placed in layers and then rolled. This one is a Korean favorite. Gimbab is the name.
Calopino Marquee is fish egg and crab, avocado, cucumber, and wasabi again placed over rice and rolled
Tuna Marquee and Salmon Nigiri are other names of the sushi that were served to us.
The Pan Asian Spread
Samarth Saxena the Su Chef at Baan Tao came by to tell me more of the aromatic food spread that was laid out. Oh dear, I could hear my hunger pangs. But I had to ignore them as of now to understand this Pan Asian fare.
Laid out, was the Korean crispy fried chicken that I spoke of earlier. It is deep fried in the tempura batter. Then dipped in a Korean vinaigrette which is soaked up by the batter. There is this sweet and tangy flavor to the dish. The vinaigrette is made of soya, vinegar, sugar, onion peppers, and garlic.
We came to a counter of mixed grills of baby corn, mushrooms, tofu, potatoes, chicken, prawns in butter garlic and kafir lime, teriyaki chicken… a mix of Malaysian, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai cuisines. What a spread!
I can by now hear the growls in my stomach. They are loud. Hoping none other than I can hear it. The hunger pangs are increasing. There is an assortment of condiments served with the grills such as a shiraza sauce, a peanut sauce, sweet chili, a regular soya with ginger, and some kimchi.
This is not it! I say to myself.
There was more! There was a wok-tossed fried rice and noodles…a stir-fried counter.
The main course now…sliced fish in hot bean sauce. Thai green chicken curry with basil and kafir lime, flavors that were subtle and not at all overpowering.
Tofu and peppers, and exotic Asian vegetables with garlic and coriander sauce completed the entire spread.
If Pan Asian is not your favorite, don’t worry. Give this a try and I am certain you will leave converted! Do not miss out on this gastronomical affair with the flavors of the east. My pick – the Korean spread! Experience the Korean Food Festival at the Hyatt Pune, Kalyani Nagar.
Korean Food Festival
Until the 5th of March
Venue: Baan Tao
Enjoy the A La Carte
Also the Brunch, A Pan Asian One… on Sundays.
Only at the Hyatt Pune, Kalyani Nagar.