Want to spice up a meeting? Korea’s variety of traditional, nutritious and prophylactic flavours will ignite the taste buds of delegates and keep them satiated. By Robert Cotter
One of the keys to unlocking a successful event is ensuring that delegates are able to remain attentive and productive throughout. The main ingredients to make this happen are the food and beverages on hand to fuel the brain and body.
For South Korea, one of today’s leading lights of the global MICE industry, providing the right F&B is a core part of great events. On a recent Korea Food Foundation tour, it was evident that sourcing the right food means not just how it tastes, but also the quality and how good it is for you.
Starting from the south-eastern coastal town of Pohang on the East Sea, a short drive into the surrounding countryside leads to the stunning, orchard and mountain-wrapped farm of Jookjangyeon, where the ultimate brain food – soybeans – are prepared and pasted with astonishing care before being dried, spiced and fermented in an army of clay pots that are ubiquitous throughout South Korea. The end result is a premium, vintage sauce, aged for anything from six months to a number of years, and fit to grace the food at any event dining table.
On the road north from Pohang towards Seoul, an incredible, food-filled stop-off is at Andong and the nearby UNESCO world heritage listed Hahoe village. Following an evening of Korean dining at Andong’s traditional Pungjeon restaurant, which consists of tapas-style Korean dishes offering an endless stream of taste sensations, the banquet can be slept off in a hanok (a traditional Korean house) at the historic Bukchondaek on heated floors just like the ancestors have done for centuries past – all of which makes it a perfect incentive trip into real Korean life.
Back in the capital of Seoul, there are the myriad restaurant and food offerings that can be expected in a modern metropolis. Korean food, however, has some unique dining twists, such as the increasingly popular temple cuisine, which at the city’s renowned Sanchon restaurant serves up an entirely vegan Buddhist meal that is not only delicious, but also entirely satisfying for the carnivores amongst us. Showcasing that all is not traditional at the Korean table, the city’s chic Jungsikdang restaurant, with a sister outlet in New York, takes a very high-end modern spin on Korean ingredients to serve up amazing dishes.
Korean cuisine – or Hansik, as it is called – is so much more than the bibimbap, barbecue and kimchi that are often associated with it. It is not only rich and varied in flavour and steeped in the country’s culture, but with the wide use of fermentation, has also been proven to be phenomenally healthy and naturally prophylactic. Being low-fat and with its five tastes covering the sensory spectrum, the wide range of beneficial amino acids in it has been found to prevent effectively everything from obesity to cancer. If ever a food brought more than just brain fuel to a good meeting, this is it.
Just as with Samsung and Gangnam, South Korea’s MICE industry has risen from relative obscurity some years back to achieve global prominence today. In the culinary world, its food is widely regarded as being the next big thing to follow suit, which means we can look forward to even tastier Korean events in the years ahead. m