Korean Flavors with Food for Seoul Festival

I got my first taste of Korean food at the age of 10. Chennai had a South Korean expat population and thus I had a 6th grade classmate whose lunch box was like a never ending source of treats for me. Pork, beef, tangy flavors and noodles and sticky rice – thinking back, I guess I was an adventurous eater even at 10! Anywho, fast forward about 25 years, and to the life that now is. A visit to the on-going Food for Seoul festival at Novotel Bengaluru Techpark’s The Square restaurant last week had me indulging in some Bibimbap, grilled meats and seafood, various vegetable Kimchi (they had at least half a dozen types – contrary to popular belief, Kimchi is not just cabbage, but rather references the “pickling” technique that creates the pungent side) and Namul (sauteed vegetarian sides) galore. Chefs Hee-Jin Park and Jong-Man Kim are here from Seoul, part of an exchange program with Chefs from sister Accor hotels that Novotel Bengaluru has in place.

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The visiting Chefs sweetly posed for pictures

The Square’s buffet is an expansive one, and with the inclusion of a number of Korean dishes across the salads and mains, it was quite a range! I liked the little flags with “Food for Seoul” that denoted the festival items – cute touch. The grills section had unadorned and raw beef, bacon, chicken, squid, prawn, fish from which diners could make their choices and have their meat of choice plus sauce fired up on the grill. Now Korean BBQ can be quite awesome with a range of sauces and well cooked and marinated meats – this one was just about average as we felt that none of the flavors were soaked up by the meats. Though I did enjoy the freshly prepared squid that came to the table.

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Grilled Squid

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Beef in Soya Sauce topping Korean Noodles

There was also a selection of dishes like the Beef in Soya Sauce (delectable), Seafood Stir Fried (prawn, squid, fish in a flavorful and light gravy), Fried Chicken in Spicy Sauce (deliciousness and took my back to my college days  in Western Massachusetts, when General Tso’s Chicken from the local Chinese eatery was a weekly order), Noodles and Korean Fried Rice (sticky rice with a seasoning of chilli oil that was great on its own and the perfect accompaniment to the sauced dishes I’ve already mentioned). Bibimbap is a dish that combines the best of everything – sticky rice, sauteed veggies, meat – all topped with a fried egg and very lightly sauced. The buffet had a counter for Bibimbap, made to order, and the beef version that came to our table was the perfect way to end our meal.

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The Fried Chicken was the dish of the day

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Seafood Stir Fry

The buffet also had some lovely shots (cranberry and chilli; pumpkin) that were a nice accompaniment to the food. While there was no Korean dessert, Novotel has some of the best dessert offerings in town, so we enjoyed a selection of cakes and mousses – and rounded this out with the made in-house Gelato – the Salted Caramel was just stupendous! I enjoy food festivals cause they give one a chance to eat something off the beaten course, and when they are part of a buffet, one can eat more or less and not be restricted to a particular section. The visiting Chefs were very sweet and walking around prepping and checking on the food going out, and it was a nice trip down the memory lane of  Korean food and meals of the past.

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Bibimbap

Details: June 16-26; The Square, Novotel Bengaluru Techpark; INR 1250 plus taxes per person.

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