Suparna Mitra, Kolkata, West Bengal
Korean culture is spreading very fast all over India. And along with that, day by day K-food lovers are increasing and K-food restaurants are becoming one of the most visited places to K-culture enthusiasts. In Kolkata, West Bengal, India, ‘King’s Bakery’ is getting famous for its authentic Korean foods, we get a chance to meet the owner Jung Seok and had a conversation about Korean and Indian culture.
안녕하세요, Thanks for accepting our request for the Interview. First of all, please tell us for how many years you have been living in India. And how did you travel all the way from South Korea to India?
I have been here in Kolkata for 7 years. I came to know India from my close Korean friends who had stayed here before I came, and I have decided to stay in Kolkata for a while. So that’s how I came here.
What made you decide to open a bakery shop? Could you tell us when did you open the bakery and why did you choose to open it here in Kolkata?
I opened King’s bakery on 2018, 03, April. My plan was to go back to Korea after staying here with my family for a while, but I have changed my mind as I found a difficulty here to meet premium bakery stuff and desserts that are of Authentic Korean cuisine. So, I thought I can do it.
From the name, it is a bakery. But now it’s also a very famous Korean restaurant in Kolkata. Why and how did you start making Korean food?
I started King’s with a Korean food menu but increased more as per requests, mostly focusing on more famous foods.
How do you manage running this restaurant venture in India? Can you tell us about your team that helps you in the same? How many staffs do you have and do they all undergo any specific training related to preparing Korean food and dishes?
My wife and I have been trying to manage the quality and taste of everything since the beginning. I hired only fresher and trained them how to prepare Korean food and bakery. Honestly, this is the most difficult part as it’s not their own food and it requires different approaches.
The weather of Korea and India is totally opposite to each other. So, the ingredients may be not of the same taste. Have you faced any problems in making Korean foods because of this? Which Korean dishes do you find the taste very similar as well as which Korean dishes do you find very different in taste as compared to what is available in India and South Korea?
Ingredients are the most important part of making Korean food and have obviously been facing difficulties with ingredients problems in India. I have been buying them from Korean groceries in Delhi, Thailand, and South Korea. Indian food is very different from Korean food as per my opinion, in regard to ingredients, spices, and the way people like to eat.
Many of us want to learn Korean food making. Can you tell us from where should we buy the ingredients? Because the authenticity of the ingredients is also important and as there are so many Korean food brands in the market now, so sometimes it’s a little bit complicated to choose between them.
So, I have opened Seelamart for my family and my business. Now Kolkatans also get authentic and valuable ingredients from Seelamart. It is now available in our four outlets. I hope it’ll be convenient for everyone.
As you are in Kolkata, India for a long time, have you ever tried Bengali food or any Indian dish? What is your favourite dish so far and why?
Sadly, I am not a big fan of masala things, especially salty food. Not every dishes, but mostly Indian foods are salty to me, it’s personal tastes.
So far, you might have had a lot of interaction with Indian people and also with the traditions of India. What similarities or differences have you found between both the cultures of India and South Korea?
I feel the similarities when I saw more emotional relationships among Kolkatans, with my childhood in 1970-80s. For me, the main difference is perspectives for doing jobs.
Korean food is very much popular in India and the interest towards Korean culture is also growing speedily. From your point of view, what can be the reason behind this increased interest towards Korean culture?
That might be people themselves, as I believe that only good food itself can’t make people remain in it for a long time. As I see they are interested in K-Pop culture so we are planning to do small events too.
As you are also aware, a lot of young children, teenagers, and youth are inclined towards learning the Korean language. And since, you also mentioned you are interested in starting your Korean language course. As a Korean, what do you think would be the best way to speak the Korean language fluently?
The best way for it is to speak with native people on a regular basis. You will make mistakes but don’t give up. Try practicing. If you are taking a course don’t go for a long-term course, it’ll be better if you can learn it within 1 year.
What kind of themes do you keep in mind when preparing your menu? What are the most in demand dishes from your menu that the visitors love the most?
I want to keep the authenticity and rich quality of the food. The most demanding food is noodles and Gimbaps till now.
As our readers are more interested in knowing about your bakery and restaurant. Could you please tell us which dishes one should try when they visit your restaurant in Kolkata?
Korean noodles, Gimbaps, tteokbokki, Eomukguk (fish cake soup), and our new menu like Mandu, cold noodles also you can try.
Indian food culture is known for its spices, and a wide variety of tastes and side dishes; and so is the Korean food culture as well. There’s so much takeaway from the cultures of both countries. Is there anything that has influenced you in terms of preparing the food items and desserts that you serve in your bakery/restaurants keeping in mind your Korean food-loving Indian customers?
I wish I can get some knowledge from Indian food traditions about how can I a bit adjust Korean food to Indian familiar tastes without compromising authenticity.
First, you opened one branch now there are total 4 branches. Recently you have opened a new branch so, how are you managing it all?
Yeah, it’s hard. I have managers in every place. I visit the branches as per my convenient time. I have to check the quality of the food too. My wife also helps me a lot.
Do you have any plans to open a branch in other cities of India?
Yeah, I’m thinking about it but not in India, but it’s not confirmed yet. (ends with a smile)
On behalf of our Hallyuism India team, we would like to extend our gratitude to Mr. Jung Seok aka Peter for giving us some of his precious time by accepting our request for an Interview. Thanks for giving us a beautiful interview. We also want to say thanks on behalf of all the citizens of Kolkata for providing food to our Frontline COVID warriors during the Pandemic as well.