Meals more complex than Korean dishes

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Meals more complex than Korean dishes

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Monserrat Pineiro Executive chef, Mexico City Airport Hilton

Considering the complex flavors found in Korean dishes, one might reasonably wonder if there are any other delicacies in the world more difficult to make than those found here.

Monserrat Pineiro sure thinks so.

Pineiro, executive chef of the Mexico City Airport Hilton, says her home cuisine is “10 times” more complex to make than Korean food.

“Whereas many Asian dishes are prepared quickly, genuine Mexican requires at least three hours of preparation and sometimes as long as several days and involves various ingredients such as chili, spices and turkey,” Pineiro, who was recently in town to promote traditional Mexican dishes at the Millennium Seoul Hilton in central Seoul, said in an interview early this month. “Cooking Mexican is complicated because a bunch of different flavors and spices need to be integrated.”

Though Pineiro is young - only 29 - and female, her skills and training are up to par with the older, male professionals that dominate the field.

In 2000, she acquired a pastry and bakery professional degree at L’Ecole Lenotre, a cooking school in Paris. She followed that up the next year with a chef degree at Claustro de Sor Juana University in Mexico and then earned another pastry chef degree at the same university in 2002.

Pineiro also has experience working in hotels in various countries including Mexico, France and Monaco.

Her culinary interest dates back to when she was a child. When Pineiro’s mother served her chicken infused with sugar, the young chef would change the recipe by adding a bit of salt and vinegar.

She also would pick wildflowers from her garden and mix them in with salad, creating “a completely new taste.”

When it comes to Mexican cuisine, however, Pineiro says she sticks to the traditional flavors.

“The Mexican food that most people around the world are familiar with is usually Tex-Mex [Mexican dishes influenced by American tastes], which is not Mexican food,” she said.

Guacamole, for instance, is largely known in the West as a concoction involving avocados and sour cream, a recipe created and spread by Mexican immigrants to the United States.

“The original dish isn’t as saturated with fat,” Pineiro said, adding that the only ingredients in her guacamole are avocados, cilantro and tomatoes.

The Orangerie at the Millennium Seoul Hilton is currently featuring some of Pineiro’s dishes, including guacamole with chips, shrimp tacos, zucchini blossom soup and spicy dried meat, among other dishes.


By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]
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