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French chef heads to Jeju to get a taste of Korean citrus

Astrance’s Pascal Barbot will try out local ingredients and cook at Haevichi Hotel

Apr 24,2018
Ingredients often thought to be unique to the Korean kitchen are slowly starting to make their way onto dining tables overseas. Three-Michelin-starred restaurant Astrance in Paris may soon adopt some Korean flavors of its own as well, as executive chef Pascal Barbot is coming to Korea this week to try out the local vegetables and fruits.

On his third visit to Korea, the globally renowned chef is heading to Jeju Island. From Wednesday to Saturday at French restaurant Milieu in Haevichi Hotel and Resort Jeju, the chef will be serving 40 guests a night with ingredients he discovers during trips to local markets and farms on the island as well as items he has been using in France.

A total of five chefs from the French restaurant will be coming to Korea to create the Astrance-style food here, and a hotel chef has also visited Paris to discuss what to prep with the rest of the hotel staff.

The menu for the dinner Barbot will cook won’t be released until the guests get to the dining room. A rough outline of the dishes has been discussed, but the details of what to use to bring forth the concept is yet to be decided as the chef wants to use as many local ingredients as possible.

“I’ll see what’s in the market and will decide,” said Barbot during a phone interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily prior to his visit. “I don’t have any problem in changing recipes at the last minute and not having the [pre-determined] recipe is okay as the basic [idea] I have for my vegetables, prawns, fish, and different citrus will work as [a foundation].”

The dinner will be roughly 10 to 12 courses and will highlight the use of local citrus, as the chef favors particular tastes in his dishes, as well as vegetables. He has used omija, a red berry indigenous to Korea that got its name for having five distinct tastes including sour and salty flavors (omi means five tastes), before in Paris. He made omija jelly to serve with his fish soon after his previous visit to Korea.

This time, Barbot wants to try using different varieties of tangerine and yuja (citrus junos). A variety of citrus fruit is grown and cultivated on Jeju Island. If the chef finds any that he particularly likes, it might be possible for him to plant some trees in France, as he has worked with farms in the south of the country for years to grow their collection of different citrus trees from all over the world.

One technique he has picked up from Korean cuisine is how locals here preserve the yuja fruit with sugar. Mixing the same volume of yuja and sugar together and using what becomes more like a marmalade after a few months as an ingredient was an enlightening experience for the French chef.

Above is the interior of French restaurant Astrance in Paris. Executive chef Pascal Barbot is coming to Korea to serve local diners. Far left is a sample dish normally served at the restaurant. [ASTRANCE]
“You don’t cook or steam the fruit at all so you can keep the taste and texture,” said Barbot. “I love this technique and I’m doing the same to make sorbet with this marmalade.”

Besides educating himself on the available ingredients in Korea, he has also set his mind on expanding his knowledge of doenjang (soybean paste) and gochujang (red pepper paste).

He often uses both seasonings in his kitchen when cooking his modern take on traditional French food.

Gochujang is one of his favorite ingredients to mix with other sauces because of its texture and unique sweet and sour taste.

Barbot combines gochujang with vinaigrette to use it as a salad dressing, or he uses it to season chicken wings, similar to Korean-style yangnyeom chicken (marinated fried chicken).

“Techniques of fermented sauces and food are different in each country depending on what ancestors did before as [what we know now is the result] of their trials of trying to find the right way to pickle and preserve,” said Barbot, adding that he wants to know more about Korean soybean paste on this trip.

The chef doesn’t simply stay in the kitchen, but instead will offer guests a chance to see how he preps ingredients and his cooking style this time. Barbot will hold private cooking classes over two days at the Hyundai Card Cooking Library in Gangnam, southern Seoul, after his time in Jeju.

The dinner is 400,000 won ($377) per person including wine paired with food. To make a reservation, call Haevichi Hotel and Resort Jeju at (064) 780-8000.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]


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