Japanese columnist writes book on his quest for Korean cuisineA Japanese man has published a book on Korean food. He fell in love with the cuisine when he first came to Korea eight years ago.
Yasushi Hatta, 31, calls himself “KFC” for Korean Food Columnist and answers his phone with a breezy “Hello, it’s Hatta-KFC.” His Korean pronunciation is so perfect that it even makes Koreans confused.
“Many people are involved in Korean food. There’s the person who cooks and there are the people who eat sitting around the table. People have conversations while they are busy eating. It’s lively and cozy.”
His book, written in Japanese, was released 15 days ago is titled, “Quest for Korean Food.”
He writes that Korean bean paste soup (doenjang jjigae) is the core of Korean cuisine, and side dishes such as kimchi and wild greens are always on the table. This shows that he understands Koreans’ dining habits well.
Asked how he felt about Koreans sharing dishes such as bean paste soup, he said, “It’s an aspect of the culture that makes people feel close to each other. In fact, when I saw it first, it felt strange and I didn’t even touch the soup. But as I became closer to the person I was eating with, I could put my spoon into the soup and feel a sense of togetherness. Now, I think it is what makes Koreans dining together feel close to each other.”
The reason he came to Korea in 1999 was to collect information for a dissertation he was writing at Tokyo Gakugei University. The subject was “Why is Korean food red?” After he finished his junior year at university, he came to Seoul and took a Korean language course for 15 months. At that time, he ended his research with the conclusion that according to Korean shamanism, red peppers expel ghosts. However, he was not satisfied with that conclusion.
He became attached to Korean food and started a magazine on the subject in 2001 and opened a Web site (www.koparis.com/~hatta). He also began writing columns for magazines and newspapers. Since 2002, he extended the subject of his articles to regional Korean foods and started visiting Korea and writing about his adventures in Korea.
“Personally I like seolleongtang [oxtail soup] most. It seems my taste has changed because I preferred to eat gamjatang [pork bone soup] after I drank when I was studying in Korea. In Japan, it is hard to find meat soups, and it is amazing that I learned the taste of meat soup in Korea,” he said.
He opened his book to a section introducing meat soups such as seolleongtang, gomtang (oxtail soup), doganitang (kneebone soup), galbitang (beef rib soup), dakgomtang (chicken soup) and yukgaejang (spicy beef soup). The book also contains information about foods in remote regions in Korea and court dishes.
by Yoo Jee-sang
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