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Asia’s top chefs share their recipes, techniques in Seoul

Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants' #50BestTalks resumes, offering insights into Korean dishes and Southeast Asian food culture

By Kim Da-sol

Published : March 25, 2024 - 17:37

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Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2024’s #50BestTalks takes place at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul on Monday. (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald) Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2024’s #50BestTalks takes place at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul on Monday. (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald)

Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2024 held the first #50BestTalks event since the pandemic in Seoul on Monday, led by gastronomic experts from Asia who touched on various topics from their recipes to fermentation techniques.

Created in 2002, the world’s prestigious international gastronomic event kicked off this year’s edition in Seoul on Saturday. The five-day event, joined by 1,000 industry insiders, ends Tuesday with an awards ceremony where the list of this year’s top 50 restaurants in Asia will be revealed.

At Monday's #50BestTalks, a rural recipe collector, a bartender and chefs from South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam and India shared the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of Asian cuisine, and how dishes are created to preserve ancient ingredients and further reimagine traditional cooking methods.

Korean food researcher Ha Mi-hyun opened the session by introducing her journey of studying and reviving local dish recipes passed down for generations by word of mouth.

“I study ingredients grown by local farmers and indigenous communities who have never documented their everyday recipes and cooking methods. My work is to discover uncommon recipes and give a voice to under-represented communities across South Korea,” Ha said, emphasizing the importance of recording and preserving ancient food traditions in an ever-changing culinary landscape.

Chef Kim Do-yun demonstrates his recipe for naengmyeon, or buckwheat noodles in cold broth,at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2024’s #50BestTalks held at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul on Monday. (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald) Chef Kim Do-yun demonstrates his recipe for naengmyeon, or buckwheat noodles in cold broth,at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2024’s #50BestTalks held at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul on Monday. (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald)

Michelin-starred Yun Seoul’s head chef Kim Do-yun gave a live cooking demo on stage, showing how traditional naengmyeon – buckwheat noodles in cold broth – is made.

Kim, with over 30 years of experience, said he strives to improve the taste and scent of naengmyeon, which traces its origin back to the 18th century Joseon and has since evolved regionally.

“What might seem like a simple bowl of broth and noodles is actually intricately balanced. At Yoon Seoul, we dry all the ingredients, instead of steaming or grilling, to make sure the dish contains the ingredients’ unique scent,” said Yoon.

Chefs Johanne Siy of Lolla in Singapore, Peter Cuong Franklin of Anan Saigon in Ho Chi Mihn City and Richie Lin of Mume in Taipei offered a look at the fermentation culture in their countries.

Fermented food samples prepared by chefs Johanne Siy of Lolla in Singapore, Peter Cuong Franklin of Anan Saigon in Ho Chi Mihn City and Richie Lin of Mume in Taipei at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2024’s #50BestTalks at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul on Monday. (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald) Fermented food samples prepared by chefs Johanne Siy of Lolla in Singapore, Peter Cuong Franklin of Anan Saigon in Ho Chi Mihn City and Richie Lin of Mume in Taipei at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2024’s #50BestTalks at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul on Monday. (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald)

Touching on the nostalgic flavors that she grew up eating in her Philippine hometown, Siy said fermented foods are a permanent fixture in Filipino cuisine and the dishes at her restaurant are inspired by memories of her childhood.

“Fermentation at Lolla is a work of cross-cultural influence,” she said, explaining that she uses kombucha, shio koji, mung bean miso and lacto ferments. The process became much easier to do with the rapidly changing temperature and humidity conditions in Singapore.

Chef Richie Lin of Mume in Taipei echoed the view, adding that the origin of popular pineapple cookies is closely related to the tropical climate of Taiwan which allowed the country to grow pineapple and make marmalade and jams to turn them into pineapple cookies.

The leading figures of the international gastronomic scene brought together in Seoul for the event were offered opportunities to attend Korean food workshops to experience fermented foods, Korea's meat-cooking culture and temple food organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.