Seung Eun Lee, a South Korean food expert concluded her first visit to Egypt on Friday, during which she met with many Egyptian students who were eager to learn more about Korean cuisine. Daily News Egypt interviewed Lee on Thursday as she sat with several media representatives at the Korean Cultural Centre, the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
“Love is the most of important ingredient of delicious food,” she said, adding that Korean cooking taught her how to focus on useful things and how to create a balanced life.
Tell us about your activities during your visit to Egypt?
I am here upon an invitation from the chef of the Korean ambassador to Egypt, Yoon Yeocheol. It was the second invitation as previously I apologised due to other commitments.
I got involved in many food lessons throughout my trip and I did some Egyptian sightseeing at the Giza Pyramids and the Khan El-Khalili. It took me a while to agree to visit Egypt this time because it is the first time for me to travel for many hours, but at the end it was worth coming.
What is your impression of Egypt?
People here are friendly, and the Egyptian food is delicious. I tasted bechamel pasta, liver sandwiches, and they were very tasty, yet I really liked Koshary.
Which type of the Egyptian meal do you aim to learn?
I would like to learn more about the home-cooked meals.
Have you faced any difficulty in finding required ingredients for your recipes in Egypt?
Actually, I checked all the recipes’ ingredients on the first day of my arrival. I didn’t find any difficulty to get the ingredients from markets and Korean restaurants. I was determined to mix between some Egyptian ingredients and Korean ones.
How long would it take to learn Korean cuisine?
I learnt that you should cook the recipe about 50 times to make sure that you can present it appropriately. I have been studying cooking for 10 years, yet I am still learning. It’s an ongoing process.
What do you learn from cooking?
I learnt how to focus on useful things, a balanced life, and that love is the most important ingredient we put in the recipe to make the food delicious.
When I cook for people suffering high blood pressure, I put ingredients to make them feel better. I don’t usually use sugar in my recipes to keep them healthy. We can use honey instead to keep the sweet taste.
What are the specialties of traditional Korean cuisine?
Fermented foods are very popular in the traditional Korean cuisine. Most old homes have pickled foods. Traditional foods were healthier than modern food as they include vegetables, beans, and rice. Depending more on meat isn’t healthy. I learnt palatial food as well as traditional meals.
Is there a big difference between palatial and traditional food?
Palatial food is usually made in huge quantities to be served over large tables. I knew that some people have died owing to the large quantities of food they ate.
Korea aims to globalise its cuisine, how do you see this direction?
We would like more people to know about Korean cuisine. I aim to spread the knowledge of Korean foods even in Korea. Now mothers are working and can’t cook traditional foods which take about three or four hours to be finished, so I would like to transfer my knowledge to all who are interested to learn.
I conduct regional tours of Korean homes to learn from the recipes of old mothers and I will launch a Youtube channel with Japanese and English subtitles which will present Korean food recipes. I am also considering writing a book for the same purpose in the future.
What is the most popular Korean drink?
Barley is a very popular beverage in Korea.
Noteworthy, the Korean Culture Centre, affiliated to the ministries of culture, sports and tourism (MCST) was established in November 2013 in view of Egyptian people’s interpretation of Korean culture, art, and history, in order to improve Korea’s image in the eyes of the Egyptian people, according to the centre’s website.
The centre’s visitors can discover many Korean customs and traditions as well as the history of Korea, and the centre also seeks to provide all the scientific and educational material, as well as holding cultural events, which would help promote the dissemination of Korean culture.