Korean chef stunned at foreigner’s acceptance of spicy bibimbap
The JoongAng Daily ran an on-line feature article about Chef Park Hyo-nam, the executive chef at the Millennium Seoul Hilton in central Seoul. He helped President Lee and First Lady Kim host a Korea Night event during the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Jan. 28. He had to come up with a menu for over 800 guests. You can read the article, Korean cuisine makes waves at the World Economic Forum for yourself to get the inside scoop on the menu and Chef Park’s travails because he didn’t have exclusive use of the hotel’s kitchen to serve this many guests.
The comment that struck me the most comes towards the end of the article.
With the awareness that many foreigners have a difficult time adjusting to the spiciness of Korean cuisine, the team prepared two types of bibimbap – a spicy one and a nonspicy one. With the spicy version, rice and vegetables were mixed with gochujang (chili paste); in the milder version, soy sauce was used as seasoning instead of the spicy pepper paste.
“Surprisingly, eight out of ten guests picked bibimbap mixed with gochujang,” he said, with disbelief in his eyes.”I came to think that many Koreans, including me, tend to have many misconceptions about the foreign palate.”
If Chef Park and First Lady Kim had asked me, I would have told them not to be surprised at how accepting Westerners, particularly people who live in the “New World”, are of spicy foods.