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Celebrity chef Edward Kwon shares special flavors of Pyeongchang
SEOUL, Feb. 16 (UPI) — The taste of Pyeongchang is fresh, crisp and bountiful, providing finest flavors of nature.
That’s according to Edward Kwon, a world-renowned seven-star South Korean chef who was born and raised in Gangwon Province, the host region of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
In an interview with UPI, Kwon introduced the flavors and delicacies unique to his home province, which is abundant with lush green fields, mountains, lakes and rivers that border the East Sea.
“I love sand lance, which is only available in Gangwon Province. My mum would put in chili powder, some turnips and braise the fish to make a sort of stew. There is also roe inside. It’s delicious. And perfect for a cold winter’s day,” he said.
Kwon said that as a child, he was accustomed to tasting the freshness of meats, vegetables and fish that came straight from local farms and markets.
“The flavors are natural. There are no chemicals added as in mass-produced food. You can notice that the produce tastes sharper and more plentiful,” he said. “Growing up in such a clean and green environment helped me develop sensitivity toward the taste of flavors and ingredients.”
The “taste of nature” also inspired the 10 signature dishes he developed for the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Wild vegetables and roots picked from in the mountains are packed with fragrant flavors, as well as dietary fibers and vitamins, he said.
One of his dishes is a rice bowl infused with gondurae, or Korean thistle, which has a soft and slightly savory flavor. The mountain herb is steamed with rice which is then lightly seasoned with soy sauce.
Another local specialty he used was buckwheat from the hills of Pyeongchang. The grain was grounded into flour to create a pasta dish, instead of using semolina or wheat. He also used the flour to make fried pork cutlet, which was wrapped with bellflower roots then crusted with buckwheat batter.
Fresh clams bring out the delicate flavor of the East Sea in a noodle broth topped with hwangtae, or dried pollack, which adds a chewy texture and a deep, savory taste.
But the standout dish is the juicy strips of grilled marinated beef with a sliver of tangy soybean paste blended with mayonnaise.
“The beef in Gangwon Province is beautiful, especially in Pyeongchang, Hoengseong and Hongcheon. The cows are grass-fed but the meat is flavorful and highly marbled,” Kwon said.
Gangwon beef is one of the best premium products in the market, easily beating the cuts of Wagyu or Kobe, Kwon said. The region’s mountainous terrain, more than 600 meters above the sea, improve the meat’s texture and flavor.
For dessert, Kwon prepared succulent Pyeongchang apple pies, thinly sliced and enveloped by flaky pastry crust.
He also blended the smooth and naturally sweet Gangwon potatoes with cream cheese to create playful balls filled with tangy orange coulis sitting in chocolate soil.
Kwon took almost three months to perfect the recipes, triple the time as other projects.
“Because I grew up there, they expected the recipes to just shoot out — but it wasn’t easier than any other project. As I knew the ingredients well, I may have been stuck in the boundaries instead of seeing them from a different perspective. The Gangwon Province food si close to my heart so I wanted to get it right,” he said.
After developing the recipes, the chef shared them with around 130 restaurants in the province, which are serving them to tourists from all over the world.
Kwon hopes the recipes will last beyond the legacy of the Olympic Games and also be easily replicated in other parts of Korea and around the world, using locally and sustainably sourced ingredients.
“The dishes should continue to be enjoyed five, 10 years after Pyeongchang Olympics, and possible to make at home. So the ingredients had to be easy to approach and easy to buy,” he said.
Kwon has been partnering with the World Food Programme in Seoul, to promote nutrition, food security and sustainable agriculture, as well as end hunger for some 815 million around the world.
He stressed the importance of paving the road from farm to market for local producers, as well as reducing food waste — both part of the WFP’s Zero Hunger vision.
“The process to throw away the food we don’t eat involves so much energy, chemical processing, dehydrating and so on, which pollutes the soil we eat from, inducing climate change and environmental problems for the future generations,” he said. “We must respect the food, the farmers and the fishermen. Bringing food to our tables involves people who toil to produce these beautiful ingredients.”
Out of some 4 billion metric tons of food produced annually around the world, one-third is wasted, costing the global economy nearly $750 billion, according to the WFP.
Kwon noted that just one-fourth of the food disposed would be enough to feed more than 800 million people going hungry.
He hopes the global vision to achieve sustainable food systems and zero hunger by 2030 will be shared, with many Olympic visitors, through the rustic flavors of Pyeongchang.