Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Indian food ‘ambassador’ in Seoul

An exotic Indian concoction Provided by Oakwood Premier Coex

About a dozen people from as many as seven countries including Saudi Arabia, Australia and Korea are trying to follow an Indian chef who is showing them how to make three Indian dishes: Paneer tikka, kadai sabzi and subz biryani.

The suite at the Oakwood Premier Coex Center in southern Seoul is already warm from the blazing electric stoves and aromatic with the fragrance coriander, cumin and other Indian spices.

In the center of the crowd, Shailendra Singh, an executive sous-chef of the Oakwood Premier in Pune, India, gives instructions.

The Indian chef visited Seoul for the first time to carry out an Indian cuisine promotion at Seoul’s Oakwood. A total of 20 Indian dishes will be prepared by him and his fellow chefs through Sunday.

In his career, Singh has tried his hand at many cuisines including German and Middle Eastern. He finally settled on Italian. But he has no trouble teaching Indian cooking, of course. “Being Indian,” he says, matter-of-factly, “I know what Indian food is.”

Outside his country, Singh often conducts cooking classes for non-Indians as a kind of Indian food ambassador.

“India is a pretty big country and it has 31 states,” he says. “Every place has different ingredients, spices, cooking methods and tastes.”

Shailendra Singh, an executive sous-chef at the Oakwood Premier Pune
According to Singh, more than 150 spices are available in India and they bring a range of flavors. Only a few of them bring heat, like chilies. “Most people think of Indian cuisine as spicy hot,” he says, “but that is not true.” Many Indians, especially women, eschew very hot food.

“India is a place of gods,” Singh says. “And an amazing range of different dishes were served to delight the kings back in the old days. For many reasons, Indian food is bound to be rich, diverse and aromatic.”

Oakwood and other hotels in Seoul promote Indian cuisine every few seasons, and the city has many Indian restaurants, mostly low budget. Nonetheless, Indian food is still foreign to many Koreans, unlike Chinese, Vietnamese and Italian.

When asked about the perfect introduction to Indian food for people who think it’s nothing but curries, Singh says, “They should start with seafood.”

Spices don’t fully penetrate seafood, especially fish, he says.

“The spice coats the fish, but the inside tastes the same. You can taste the flavors of India and still enjoy your fish.”

For more information about the Indian promotion, call (02) 3466-7000.

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