This pop-up in Mumbai offers authentic South Korean delicacies
For three weeks, a Korean based in the city will take over a food store in Bandra, whipping up different gimbap, guk and jumeokbap that she grew up eating back home
"It's so difficult to find Korean ingredients in Mumbai. But over the last six years, I've figured out how to use effective substitutes. Bhindi, for example, works really well in some Korean dishes," says Yeoita Lee when we meet her at the outlet of a seafood retailer in Bandra.
Yeoita Lee makes gimbap, a Korean-style rice-and-seaweed roll
The 34-year-old, who has lived in Mumbai since 2012, has collaborated with the store to host her first pop-up, one that will have her whip up authentic delicacies from South Korea, over three weekends.
Expect gimbap (Rs 380 to Rs 430) and jumeokbap (Rs 350 to Rs 410), rice-based finger snacks that are must-haves in any Korean picnic box. Apart from this, Lee is also serving two types of guk (soup; Rs 180), and kimchi, a typical side dish made traditionally from salted and fermented napa cabbage.
Although a Korean native, Lee has lived away from home for long. "I moved out when I was 15, and lived in the US for a bit. Then, I graduated from the École Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland. Various jobs have taken me around the world since," she says, adding that she started cooking regularly after moving out, because she got homesick and missed her mother's cooking.
"I learnt the recipes from my mother and grandmother. Here in India, since I don't find all the ingredients I need, I tweak them," she says, adding that she especially enjoys making and tucking into a Korean-style pan-fried Bombay duck. "I now work as a consultant for a restaurant in Nashik, but I hope to start my own restaurant some day," she smiles.
On: from Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for three weekends; 12 pm to 8 pm
At:âÂÂOff The Hook, ground floor, Sai Pooja Building, 16th Road, Bandra West
Log on to: offthehook.in
At first glance, these colourful gimbap ('gim', means seaweed and 'bap' translates to rice) look just like Japanese maki rolls. "Apart from the similar appearance, there isn't much in common between the two," explains Lee. She shares that the preparation of the rice differs significantly. "The Japanese use more rice vinegar while making their sushi rice, whereas Koreans go heavy on sesame oil," she says as she rolls out the umma gimbap, based on her mother's recipe, on a sushi mat. The filling contains julienned carrots and danmuji (Korean yellow pickled radish), blanched spinach, crabsticks and chicken ham (Lee's mother uses beef bulgogi instead). Unlike in Japanese sushi, here, every ingredient shines without overpowering the next. At the pop-up, you will find two more versions: ojingoh (spicy squid) gimbap, and tongsaewoo (prawn) bacon gimbap. Both come packed with flavour. Lee's only request: don't ask for soy sauce or wasabi to go with it.
Don't get thrown off by the complicated name, for this tofu and clam soup is as simple and flavourful as they come. The clear broth is made using a combination of Korean soybean paste, clam stock and salt for seasoning. "Silken tofu isn't suited for this. In fact, we Koreans hardly ever use the soft kind in our cuisine. We prefer our tofu to be firm," says Lee, adding that if you're looking for it in the city, your best bet is supermarkets that stock gourmet ingredients. The soup is light and comforting, with the flavour from the clams adding more depth to the dish. If you're looking for a vegetarian option, get the miyeokguk (Korean seaweed soup), which comes with an aromatic broth flavoured with garlic and soy sauce.
The word 'jumeokbap' literally translates to 'fist' (jumeok) and 'rice' (bap). Thus, you have a dish that consists of rice balls shaped by hand. Lee is offering three versions at the pop-up, the most simple being the maewoon jumeokbap. "It's vegetarian — the filling contains finely chopped vegetables like carrots and spring onions. The sauce that goes into the mixture has chillies, which gives the dish a gentle heat," she says. On their own, these rice balls might not seem remarkable, but paired with kimchi, they develop a layer of complexity. If you're a non-vegetarian, opt for the gunsaewoo jumeokbap, a variation in which Lee adds toasted dried shrimp to the mix.