I do a lot of research every time I develop new foods with new themes. Sometimes I look at dishes by other chefs or review things that are not related to food such as paintings, scenes from fashion shows or movies. I intensely look up for materials that can be used as seasonings when I am in the process of planning for a new and futuristic recipe or flavor.
As a matter of fact, it was while developing the menu called ‘Nanmyeon’ described in the previous episode, Thirteen Philosophy, when I received the most refreshing jolt from reading an old cookbook. On one hand, I was surprised that the ideal texture of noodles which result in the modern fresh pasta had already existed since the Joseon Dynasty, and on the other hand, I was saddened that this kind of food have not been passed on to our times.
Motivated by this incident, I started to look up old Korean cookbooks. As I reviewed original references and video clips at the National Library of Korea and read the translated versions of old cookbooks of the Joseon Dynasty period archived by the Korean Food Foundation, I was able to discover numerous amazing foods.
Indeed, there were a lot of scientific and creative recipes. What impressed me more than anything else was the fact that our ancestors have developed in their own ways and applied to cooking recipes for foods, which can hardly be taken as Korean or believed to have existed in the past, such as low-temperature cooking, dairy products processing and so on. That was the beginning. As a young chef, I felt it was impossible for me to ascertain all of the recipes. However, I thought it would be a meaningful project for me, as a chef working in Korea, and for the restaurant as well to present our guests some of the dishes from the old cookbooks that lack for nothing to be served in modern times.
And yet, I don’t believe it is appropriate for a modern restaurant to reproduce the dishes from old cookbooks as much as possible. We wanted to add new ideas to tradition to convey the feeling of eating contemporary food rather than eating old-fashioned food.
For this reason, I designed this episode respecting the combination of flavors and materials of traditional Korean food introduced in these old cookbooks and asking myself an interesting question, ‘What would happen if a cook from the Joseon Dynasty period comes to the modern age, or a modern cook goes back to the Joseon Dynasty period?’
This new attempt may not be the beginning of a huge change, but I hope that the fine dishes from our forgotten past can be passed on to our times through our modest attempt. And here, we begin our 16th episode of SOIGNÉ created based on old cookbooks of Korea.