The Korean Connection with Boo Kwang Kim
Delve into the nuances of Korean food with the Korean American Chef of Mumbai’s Dirty Buns.
Korean-American Chef Boo Kwang Kim, Executive Chef at Dirty Buns and F&B Director at Aallia Hospitality, reveals the inspirations which led him to become a chef and the simple authenticities of true Korean flavours…
At what age did you know that you were going to be a chef?
Probably when I was 10 years old, maybe. Every time I came home from school, I always wanted to go to the kitchen with my Grandma. She was looking after me when my parents were at work. She would teach me how to make different styles of Korean dumplings and how to make Kimchi. She would just pull me to the side and tell me, ‘don’t do homework, just come with me, real-quick’ – and we would start cooking for an hour or two.
What inspired your journey from there?
Since I fell in love so early, I had to test it out. In high school, I took a couple of cooking classes. And, well – I fell in love again. I started doing little kitchen stints here and there.
What about your move to India? How did that come about?
I’ve been in Chicago almost my whole life. I was 29 years old and I didn’t know what I was doing. So I needed something new to try to discover myself again…and India basically became a new opportunity for me. I came out here on a short visa, and I’ve been here for over 4 years now.
February at Foodhall is all about Korean food and we’d love to know what your favourite features of Korean cuisine are.
I’m very simple when it comes to Korean food. Growing up I would always eat a bowl of rice with a stew or veggies or a meat. Stew is my favourite, like tofu stew, very simple, very clean, is just a whole meal in itself. It’s tofu with Jalapeños, onion and fermented bean paste (doenjang).
Are there any similarities between Korean cuisine and Indian cuisine?
Yes and no… we love to use our spices. In India, I see that there are a lot of masalas and curry pastes. Same thing with Korean food, we use a lot of fermented pastes to flavour a meat, or a vegetable, or a soup or curries. And we love spicy food as well. WE LOVE SPICY FOOD (laughs). Koreans love spicy food!
What’s your favourite spicy sauce?
Just soy sauce, chopped chillies, with a little bit of onion. A little bit of sesame oil. Then add some scallion. Mix it together. There you go! It goes with everything. From pancakes, to rice, to fish…
Do you have any creative tips like this for incorporating Korean flavours into everyday cooking?
In Korean cooking, we love using fermented pastes. So you have your Gochujang, which is a fermented chilli paste. It’s a little bit sweet, a little spicy, has a little bit of that saltiness to it. Instead of putting, let’s say, a masala rub on a piece of chicken, or tofu or paneer before you put it in the oven, put this rub on – it’s wonderful.
What do you think is the most underrated Korean food?
When people think about Korean food, they think of barbecue. So I think underrated would be your side dishes and soups. Like that tofu stew that I love so much? That’s very underrated because people won’t order that at a Korean restaurant.
And what kind of sides?
When you do eat a Korean barbecue, everyone just puts it on top of rice and eat it on its own. But there are all these sides that go well with it, like the pickled daikon radish, that’s very plain – just vinegar, sugar and water. You got acid, you got sugar and then you have all that fattiness from the meat or veggies.
Thanks for talking to us, Chef. We want to sign off by asking you – What’s in your fridge?
You’ll see about 10 liters of water, cause I drink a lot of water. I quit drinking two years ago…so all I have is water in my house. Some lactose-free milk cause I’m lactose intolerant as well. Korean chilli paste, a lot of eggs, some veggies.