Judging by the proliferation of cooking programs on British television, you might assume we are a nation which appreciates good food and enjoys cooking. Unfortunately, with the demise of many good quality butchers and fishmongers and the ascendancy of enormous supermarkets stocked full with frozen food and microwave meals, it becomes apparent that we are more interested in watching food being cooked and positively captivated if the chef is some contrived character who has enough family members in his show to almost make it a soap drama. The fact the supermarkets and brands they endorse represent the very opposite of ‘back to basic cooking,’ is rarely acknowledged.
Over my holiday, I happened to watch a program on Korean cooking which bore all the hallmarks of cooking programs which really have nothing to do with cooking and everything to do with self promotion and the establishment of a dynasty. The entire program was filmed either in the presenter’s village or in her home and introduced us to most of her family and friends.
As for the cooking, anyone acquainted with Korean cuisine knows that kimchi, a form of spicy fermented cabbage, as well as numerous other kimchi, accompany a meal. This Korean cooking was as Korean as the standard Korean pizza is Italian. Not only was there no mention of kimchi, but some very odd items were used in some standard Korean meals. I’ve both eaten and cooked bulgogi many times but this version used beetroot, asparagus and English pear. Though you can probably buy these somewhere in Korea, I’ve never seen beetroot or asparagus. As for English pear, once again this is a fruit you do not see in Korea and yet Asian pear is not difficult to buy in the UK. The program further irritated me when it was eaten off individual plates with knives and forks and in the total absence of side dishes or a plate of assorted leaves in which to wrap the bulgogi. During the entire cooking process red chili powder and red pepper paste were absent.
With so little knowledge of Korean food in the UK, especially outside London and a few other areas, it is possible for chefs to concoct any food combination and call it Korean.
Meanwhile, here is a video from my November batch of kimchi in which I opened the lid to catch the contents in the middle of a very active bout of fermentation.
I’m currently on holiday and my usual posts will re- commence next week.
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.