Feb 17, 2015

Korean Food festival @ Sheraton Bangalore

Korean cuisine has to be one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. An approach where food is considered as medicine, where medicine is administered only when food does not heal enough. Korean food borrows from Japanese and Chinese cuisines, more from the former, I feel. For the curious, Korean food has a refreshing flavour profile. No single dominant note, rather a judicious blend of several tastes and textures. This healthful cuisine employs ingredients such as fermented soya paste, red chilli paste, garlic, sesame oil, and the now-world-famous kimchi (fermented cabbage). Kimchi is the national dish of Korea and has more than a hundred varieties.
When invited to the preview of the Korean Food Festival currently running at Sheraton, Bangalore, I was curious to know what it holds for a vegetarian. This is what I experienced there.
The Chefs decided to do away with the familiar Korean barbeque. Instead, they showcased a whole gamut of unique dishes from the country.  The menu is cyclic for the duration of the festival, so you could go several times and still have different offerings on the menu.
We began the evening with dainty morsels of Gimbap. Gim – seaweed sheets, Bap – steamed rice. Gimbap is Korean sushi. It tastes different from Japanese sushi though, because sesame oil is used to flavour the rice. Other fillings include mushrooms, fresh carrot juliennes, greens, meats and seafood. While the menu for the evening featured exotic Korean Spicy Squid Soup and Kimchi Soup (both non-vegetarian), the visiting chefs under the expert guidance of the Executive Chef, Martin Kindleysides, took care of the vegetarians by rustling up a soothing warm soup for us too.
Is that Sushi or Gimbap? Colourful Array of GimbapThe seafood station
The visiting Chef from Sheraton Seoul D Cube City Hotel, Mr. Link Chung, made us all a bowl of Bibimbap. Another gastronomic gift to the world from the Korean Cuisine, Bibimbap is a bowl of rice with fermented chilli paste, fermented soya paste, kimchi, sesame oil, fresh vegetables, oyster mushrooms and more.
Chef Chung with the Bibimbap he assembled for me! A view of the Korean Buffet Live Stations
We then went on to savour several other distinguishing dishes of this cuisine. Some of the unique dishes I sampled were -
Water kimchi – a winter kimchi made with fermented radishes, apples, rather like a tart-sweet vinegar, potent, cough inducing stuff. Worked well between slurps of the chilled Kong guk su which, by the way, is a bowl of boiled soy noodles topped with creamy soy broth, served chilled. Delicious!
Japchae - Sweet potato noodles stir fried with sesame oil and tossed with black fungus and fresh crunchy veggies. I could have gladly just had several bowls of this faintly sweet noodles, but then, I had the onerous job of tasting all that was on offer. So I pulled myself reluctantly away and moved on. This was my most preferred dish of the evening.
Kimchi fried rice – The vegetarian version of Kimchi fried rice tasted like Pad Thai meets Ellu Saadam/ Ellu Chitranna. good, but not out-of-the world.
Clockwise - Cold Noodles, water kimchi, japchae, Gimbap, and some salad Mouth watering Japchae Song guk su - cold noodles
Mandu – steamed dumplings. Could not sample them as they had meat fillings that day. The festival has a cyclic menu through the duration, so if you were to go, I am sure you would find vegan/vegetarian Mandu too.
We were served this hot balmy Korean Tea at the end of the dinner. Said to aid digestion, the tea was fragrant with cinnamon, and a whiff of cardamom!
Apparently, the Koreans do not have much of a sweet tooth. The desserts were very mildly sweet, if so. All save one, were rice-based. While the South Indian in me liked that, I could relish only the Songpyeon –a half moon shaped rice cake with a filling of fermented soya paste. Does this remind you of the Ganesh Chaturthi modaks?
Dessert counter song pyon - Korean Modak! The filling inside the Korean modak!
It is noteworthy that barring the seafood and meat dishes, Korean food is vegan!  It is easy to alter the mostly carnivorous cuisine to vegan requirements.
I returned with a new appreciation for a relatively unknown cuisine in India. I am certain that Korean Food will entice Bangalore with its huge expat population as well as the adventurous well-travelled Indians who live here.
The Korean Food festival is on at Feast, Sheraton Bangalore Hotel, at Brigade Gateway. Visiting Chefs Link Chan Jae Chung and Shane Yun-Gi Hong, from Sheraton Seoul D Cube City Hotel, have gone to great lengths to bring authentic Korean food to our city. If you needed more reasons apart from the cheerful ambience and the humungous spread at Feast, this food festival should help you make a decision to treat your self and family there!
Dates – 13th February to 25th February, 2015.
Frequency – Daily lunch and dinner.
Price – Lunch @ Rs. 1395+taxes and Dinner @ Rs. 1545 + taxes.

Feb 10, 2015

Nellikkai Thair Pachadi / Amla Raita

Do you know that Amla or the Indian Gooseberry has the highest Vitamin C content among all vegetables and fruits? That it has mention in ancient Sanskrit texts, is used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine, and is considered a miracle fruit. Amla can be used to treat eye disorders, increase calcium absorption in the bones, help build strong bones, cure skin ailments, strengthen and nourish hair, promote hair growth, actually just about do anything healthy and nourishing for our bodies.

The Indian Gooseberry (Amla) also has known anti oxidant properties. Amla has been found to offer a full range of benefits from free radical scavenging, anti inflammatory properties, beneficial effect on diabetes.   It is also widely used for its ability to dissolve plaques in arteries, reducing serum cholesterol levels.

Studies have also shown that even preserving in brine or pickling does not reduce the availability of vitamins, especially Vitamin C. Readers may be aware that vitamins B and C are easily destroyed when food is exposed to sunlight or heat, or excess water during cooking. So excessively cooked foods or preserved foods lose their vitamin content over time. Not so with Amla. This miracle fruit continues to dole out its health benefits even when cooked or preserved.

Despite having such a wonder fruit growing in our midst, I feel people in India do not make full use of it. We are in search of that elusive magic potion sourced from deep in the Amazon forests or some wonder drug that is shipped from a Scandinavian country. While those drugs/potions/foods may be good in them selves, I ask myself and everyone reading this – Is it wise to ignore the wealth in your backyard and seek something from far away? Are the money, effort, rising fuel costs, justified?

I, for one, am going to include more of this wonder fruit ‘Amla’ in my family’s meals. I am sure all of you have recipes from different cuisines with Amla as the main ingredient. Do share your favourite recipes with Amla in the comment section below.

Here is one simple, really quick, tongue tickling recipe with Amla. Perks up any meal and loads you up with its nutrients. Go on. Try it out.

Luminous Amla


  • Does NOT contain gluten, lactose, nuts, corn, soya.
  • Suitable for people with gluten or lactose intolerance, or nut allergy.

Preparation Time – 10 minutes, Cooking Time – 5 minutes, Serves – 4-6

You Need -

Cookware – Small wok, Mixer grinder

Ingredients -

  1. 4-5 Amla fruits
  2. 2 tbsp fresh grated coconut
  3. 3-4 green chillies
  4. 1/2 cup skim milk curd
  5. 1/4 tsp salt

For Seasoning -

  1. 1/4 tsp oil
  2. a pinch mustard seeds
  3. a pinch fenugreek seeds
  4. a pinch asafoetida
  5. 3 curry leaves
  6. 1/2 red chilli (optional)

Method -

  1. Rinse the Amla well. Cut incisions along the segments. Pull out the flesh and discard the seeds.
  2. Grind along with coconut, green chilli, and part of the curd to make a paste. Grind more than a coarse paste but stop short of a fine paste.  Add the rest of the measured curd and whip along with the paste.
  3. Heat oil in a small wok/kadai/fry pan.
  4. Add ingredients for seasoning in order. When mustard crackles, pour in the ground mixture, and add salt. Simmer until the liquid foams up.  Do not boil this mixture. Keep stirring over medium heat for it to cook lightly.
  5. Remove to serving bowl and enjoy with hot phulkas,  or steamed rice, a dal and some stir fried vegetables.

Quick Amla Raita