Discovering Korean Temple Food at the Korean Embassy with Ji Young Kim, Michelin Star chef of Balwoo Gongyang

It’s events like this that make me realise how lucky I am to be a food blogger. The luxury and access you receive to speak with people who share similar passions as you is truly spectacular. Sometimes not to even speak, but just to listen incredibly talented people talking about their craft is quite something else..

Sometimes I genuinely cannot believe my luck – as in this instance. When would I ever find myself invited to the Korean Embassy for an introduction to Temple Food again? I simply had to go.

I walked up to the Korean Embassy not knowing what to expect. Well, my work bae Kah Yee did give me a broad idea… she said: “Temple Food. Yes I’ve heard of that. It’s the daily food Buddhist monks eat. Think nothing too stimulating to distract them from their meditation”. She wasn’t wrong!

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Korean Embassy

Greeted in formal fashion by Her Excellency, the Ambassador for the Republic of Korea, into her residence here in the U.K. nestled in Kensington complete with simply splendid staff and crystal chandeliers, it was heaven. See house goals below. She’s only been in post two months but man she’s got the job to die for!

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Her Excellency Ambassador of the Republic of Korea

The evening was introduced by Ji Young Kim herself. Boasting one Michelin star. She has flown all the way from her restaurant Balwoo Gongyang – goodness we couldn’t have had Temple Food any better. We were pleasantly surprised to see in the kitchen was a full female chef team – it’s not often you see those.

The delicacy in the creation of the dishes was noticeable. Each dish its own art form. The care and consideration in the placing of the ingredients is much a part of the tasting itself. A lot of thought had gone into each and every mouthful.. this all makes sense when you hear Buddhist’s believe that food is the path to enlightenment and it’s the coming together of the energies that assist in the meditation process.

There was much I was to discover but there were a few stand out dishes:

  • Bugak
    • Toasted seaweed crisps (these were savoury puffs, but no flavourings, just the natural taste of the seaweed, no salt or pepper either)
  • Fried potato skin
  • Mushroom soup
  • Lotus root
    • The most peculiar thing I’ve tasted. It was sweet, but savoury, and the texture firm. I was intrigued to say the least.
  • Sticky rice throughout the veggie versions of sushi

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Desserts

Highlight for me was having Her Excellency serve me a Mung Bean Pancake in her beautiful abode. It’s an experience I won’t forget.

This evening was truly eye opening. I’m surprised I’ve not heard of Temple Food before. The concept I greatly enjoyed; the spirituality, all living beings being interconnected for example, carnivores eat herbivores, herbivores eat plants, plants drink water from the rain and sunshine and around again. It clearly shows how all living beings are created from the earth and ultimately return to it; the circle of life (cheesy).

It also means that you won’t find seafood or meat, nor alcohol amongst the temple food dishes. The element of respecting nature and being grateful for all beings in the process. In today’s society we are so bombarded and life is such a rush, it’s very easy to forget the process of bringing it to your table and the disassociation from living animals. It’s too easy to be wasteful when life is lived so abundantly. I do think becoming more mindful of what I am eating, what I am putting into my body is hugely important – something that I do not take seriously enough.

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A dish of delicious Temple Food

Do I think this concept will catch on? Veganism and Flexitarianism is certainly on the rise and more and more people are becoming much more careful about what they eat. It’s the perfect time for it for sure. Mindfulness is the buzz word of 2018 – if only everyone realised Buddhism got there first (that’s so 600BC!!).

The only thing I’m not entirely certain about is the lack of rounded flavour and spices. Each of the dishes ticked Umami but not much more than that. It was rather bland but I did like the clean quality and minimalism of the ingredients, such as exotic mushroom soup which is jam packed full of Vitamin B – great for the skin and your brain.

For me, finding out more about different cultures and how dishes have derived from them, what ingredients are their staples and go to dinners is absolutely fascinating. All of the above, combined with my job representing large food and drink companies has given me a huge amount of perspective, whether it’s the cultural differences across the globe and how this plays out in their local cuisines and future trends, the intricacies of their supply chains or even what happens behind close doors of their innovation kitchens, my passion, my hobby and my work all come together in one.

All in all, a great evening. If you’re intrigued and like me, want to find out more, you can visit the Korean Cultural Centre website here. I’ve also since been recommended this episode of the The Chef’s Table on Netflix, all about Temple Food.

Enjoy! x

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