Last week I was invited to an amazing Korean Banquet Showcase hosted by the Korean Cultural Office in Sydney. Attendees of the event included food media and fellow food bloggers and we were all treated to a scrumptious 12 Course Traditional Korean Royal Court Style Meal, which reinforced the delicious variety of foods amongst Korean culture. The second image you see here is merely a snapshot of the side dishes that were on offer that night!
To be honest I was very surprised to get an invitation from the Korean Cultural Office and it was my first event that was not related to a restaurant. I was definitely intrigued!
To give some background, the Korean Cultural Office was established in 2011 and the aim is to bring Australia and Korea closer. The organisation's mission is to facilitate and encourage cultural exchange so to develop mutual respect and a bond amongst the two cultures. From culture classes to cooking classes, the KCO holds many events throughout the year so if this is of interest to you, please check out their website: http://koreanculture.org.au/
The setting was absolutely stunning - white tables and chairs accompanied by dim lights and gorgeous table layouts. How thoughtful are the name cards and the menu booklets?
We were also greeted with champagne and wine upon arrival - which is always a good idea :P Korean Canapes circled the room as everyone mingled with each other. The great thing about these events for me is the chance to meet new people such as other food bloggers. It becomes a very enjoyable social event and when socialising is coupled with good food and good company, you've got yourself a great night!
I must say my table was absolutely awesome! Had the chance to meet and talk with some super friendly and fun bloggers.
My favourite canape was the Yeon Guen Jorim (Soy Based Lotus Roots) - they were crunchy and full of flavour.
A large table hosted 12 servings of different authentic Korean Banchans (Side Dishes) including regional kimchi and my favourites such as the egg roll and fish cake.
The funniest thing was that everyone thought the table was for display purposes only so whilst we were all going crazy with our cameras, taking snapshots at every angle, no one touched the dishes. It wasn't until midway through the 12 course feast did people realise that it was meant to be eaten. I applaud the first person who got up because as soon as they did, the domino effect played on and we all slowly got up to dig in to some side dishes. After all let's face it, one of the best things about eating Korean is the wide variety of banchans on offer...
Prior to dining, we were treated to an amazing solo performance from a drummer, followed by a lovely welcoming speech from the organiser Irene and the Director of the Korean Cultural Office. Celebrity Chef Heather Jeong (who is also the cooking teacher at the KCO) was the star of the night as she performed cooking demonstrations to help showcase the range of traditional Korean foods, as well as Korea's unique ingredients and cooking methods. By then we were more than ecstatic to begin our 12 course banquet!
The Hobak Juk (Pumpkin Congee Shots) was a beautiful starter - or what I would describe as the Korean version of amuse bouche? At first I was worried because I'm not really a big fan of pumpkin but surprisingly the pumpkin taste was very subtle. The texture of the congee shot is nice and smooth with a creamy but tasty finish.
Sashimi always gets the table excited and the Seasonal Hwae (Korean Style Sashimi) was no exception. Honestly I can't tell how it differs from Japanese sashimi but I can comment on how fresh the salmon was. As I'm still in the beginning stages of eating raw food...I gave the other ones a miss (which were abalone, squid and king fish) :P Yes I know I'm "missing out" by not appreciating raw seafood more.
My classic favourite Haemul Pajeon (Seafood Pancake) is a must-order for me at any Korean restaurant and so I particularly enjoyed this. Petite in size but packed with flavour from the shallots and sauce seasoning - this one was a winner.
The Bo Ssam (Slow Cooked Pork with Chilli Radish) on the left of the dish was one of the best I've ever had. Cooked perfectly to produce a delicate tenderness, the meat almost melted in my mouth and was a refreshing bite with the lettuce leaves.
The Tang Pyeong Chae (Savoury Bean Jelly with Soy and Sesame) on the left was texturally playful with the interesting mix of silky bean jelly with crunchy vegetables. Overall a fantastic combination of two dishes that left me wanting more.
For me, the Gyerja Chae (Salad with Mustard Dressing) was probably my least favourite of the night as I'm not the biggest fan of mustard however I did enjoy the succulent prawns.
I mentioned above that I love Korean Seafood Pancake and truth be told Japchae (Stir Fried Sweet Potato Noodles with Beef and Vegetables) is treated with an equal amount of love on my behalf. There's just something about the texture of the noodles that makes it so fun and addictive to eat. Plus the seasoning for Japchae is always very tasty, with its generous sesame oil aromas and the toss of vegies and beef helps to add the extra kick in flavour. This one was very good indeed!
Now first of all I apologise for this horribly blurry photo. I can explain why though. Both meats looked so good and ultimately my excited anticipation to eat them significantly affected my ability to take a good photo. Yep using that as the excuse.
The Bul Dak (Fire Chicken) to the right was absolutely delicious! Super tender with a hint of chilli to spice things up. It was perfect with the Korean rice that came with the dish.
The Nurbiani (Beef Fillet with Pine Nuts and Garlic Chives) was an interesting change from the typical Korean Bulgogi that you usually get at restaurants. Texture wise it is far more tender and felt very premium.
The Mul Mak Guksoo (Cold Soba Noodle Soup) is Heather's favourite and I can see why. The soup broth was very tasty and all the fragrant flavours were absorbed into the soba to produce a refreshing dish that's perfect for summer.
Here are some snapshots of my side dish picks - we all just got up throughout the meal and helped ourselves from the buffet-like table. I am absolutely obsessed with Korean Egg Rolls and Fish Cakes. So good!
To finish off our decadant 12 course meal, we were served Assorted Ddeok with Sujeonggwa (Korean Rice Cake with Cinnamon Punch). I had a sip of the punch and I have to say, it wasn't that great. But I am heavily biased because I don't really like cinammon.
The rice cakes however were delicious! Chewy with red bean and seasme filling, they were a nice match with the slices of pear.
Throughout the dinner, drinks were provided generously. From Champagne to Red Wines, White Wines and Beers, there were even Korean Soju Shots! The picture below is Korean Raspberry Wine (we also had Plum Wine earlier) and is considered to be the "soju for females" as it is lovely and sweet. There isn't a strong alcohol taste, especially for the plum one but personally I preferred the Raspberry. Very nice!
Look at all these pretty hampers! The Korean Cultural Office was so lovely in their generosity and gave each guest a hamper to take home. Although they weighed about 3 kg and was a challenge to carry back, I'm definitely not complaining.
Filled with an assorted range of Korean goodies such as tea to soy sauces and marinades, ginseng as well as a Korean wines, this hamper is all sorts of amazing. Thank you again to the Korean Cultural Office for your kind generosity and wonderful hospitality in treating us to such an amazing feast. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn and experience Korean culture and cuisine in a traditional manner.
Alot of the food bloggers and I referred to the dishes served as "Korean Fine Dining" as they were proportionately small but beautifully intricate with modern influences. Then again we were informed that on the night we were to dine like the traditional royal kings and queens.
And that we did completely! :)
Korean Cultural Office
Ground Floor, 255 Elizabeth Street
Sydney NSW 2000
02 8267 3401