Korean Food In Pune Is Making A Splash With Bibimbap & More
Image Credit: Conrad Pune

In recent years, K-Pop and K-Dramas—even K-Beauty—has been picked up as a huge trend all over the world. From moving to BTS and BlackPink tunes to loving Korean movies and dramas on Netflix, even Indians have caught on to this trend. But if there is one aspect of the global South Korean takeover that hasn’t reached India to that extent yet, it is K-Food or Korean cuisine. A recent event in Pune is hoping to change all that. 

Conrad Pune is hosting a 10-day collaboration event at its luxurious pan-Asian restaurant, Koji, where a special Korean menu set by the team at Kimpo, Dubai is giving diners an in-depth taste of true-blue Korean food. This Kimpo meets Koji pop-up is taking diners through not only Korean dishes like Kimchi Fried Rice, Korean Fried Chicken, Kimbap and Bibimbap, but also so much more. Here is everything that you should know. 

Introducing Punekars To Korean Food

This collaboration between Koji and Kimpo was initiated to introduce Pune’s foodies to Korean flavours with the intention of paving the way for more Korean-Indian culinary confluences. “Korean is a futuristic cuisine,” says Chef Anirban Dasgupta, Director of Culinary at Conrad Pune. “In India, food and beverage is changing and in cities like Pune, we have huge opportunities to explore new cuisines. And yet, till now, there aren’t too many options for Korean cuisine even in cities like Mumbai, where a few Asian restaurants do two-three Korean dishes.” 

Chef Peter Battula from Kimpo, Conrad Dubai, who specializes in food from Seoul’s streets, set the menu for the event keeping Indian preferences in mind. Korean food, of course, has very few vegetarian options—so one of the major focus areas during this India event has been to find out vegetarian ingredients that fit in well with Korean flavours while delivering to Indian diners. “In Korean cuisine, the main ingredient to drive flavour is Gochujang or chilli paste and Gochugaru or chilli flakes,” he says. “For creamier dishes, we use Kimchi paste. So, Indians can easily identify with the flavours of chilli in Korean food.” 

A Glimpse At Korean Food, From Seoul Streets To Homes

The menu for the event starts off with Korean Dumpling Soup or Mandu Soup, made of a lemongrass and ginger-packed chicken stuffed dumpling served in a clear, mild broth. This one works as a palate cleanser and jogs the taste buds for more deliciousness to come—which appears first in the form of Chimaek Salad, a hearty mix of veggies and fried chicken served with a sesame ginger dressing. After these start out an array of street food dishes from Seoul. 

While the Seoul-style Mandu is sublime and delicious, the Korean Bao is on the spicier side with plenty of heat from Gochujang chilli paste. Seoul’s Line Caught Shrimps served with chilli and wasabi mayonnaise are absolute flavour bombs that will appeal to all Indians who love fritters. And if you like Japanese sushi, then Korea’s Kimbap will be a favourite for you too.  

The next course offered a closer look at Korean-style barbecues with a grilled lobster served with sweet Korean sauce. This dish was a melt-in-the-mouth centerpiece that is as alluring as any Indian or American barbecue, and a must-have for anybody who attends this event. For vegans and vegetarians, barbecue dishes like tofu and asparagus also offer the same flavour profiles. 

Among the main course dishes, the Korean Dak Galibi is a not so well-known dish that those tasting this cuisine for the first time must try. The Dolsot Bibimbap, of course, is also delicious with a oerfectly cooked egg on top. If you love Kimchi then the Bokkeum Bap bowl is something you shouldn’t miss at all. These dishes are rounded up by two outstanding desserts, Hodu-Gwaja (a refined take on a Korean classic dessert) and Dalgona Coffee Pudding 2.0. 

The Future Of Korean Cuisine In India 

If this pathbreaking pop-up event is anything to go by, then the future of Korean cuisine in India looks quite bright, but we do have a long way to go. Though we do know a lot about Korean food as represented in K-dramas, Chef Dasgupta says there is still a long way to go. “There is something called the Korean Temple Cuisine which is focused around South Korea’s Buddhist temples and the dishes cooked there,” he explains. “So, there is a lot to delve into for those in the food and beverage industry. It is the responsibility of people like me, dressed in our whites, to make this possible for Indian diners, and this event is one step in the right direction.”  

“We are seeing every day that more and more Indians are getting interested in tasting these Korean flavours,” Chef Battula says. “This is a new trend in India and people here will be just as excited to eat Korean food in some years as they are excited to try Chinese dishes today on an everyday basis. What’s more, Korean food is also very easy to make at home, so even that trend of Korean homemade food in India will pick up pace.”