Redefining Korean Food with an Italian Twist || Eat Seeker: Passerotto

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– I think Chicago has
had a huge influence. I was born and raised here. There’s a lot of like mid west influences especially Italian influences but they’re very minor. We use Korean techniques
and flavor profiles in applying them to produce or products that may not originally be found in Korea. This is not a fusion restaurant. It is a Korean restaurant because I am wholly a Korean person. Your regionality has so much influence on the way that you cook. And I think that that’s sort of like the interesting about food in general, especially when it
pertains to one’s culture. Just as I’ve been influenced personally with other cultures and other aspects of being able to live in such
a great city like Chicago. The food mirrors that as well. The food is very much
Korean but it does have some Italian techniques or flavor profiles that have been influential or that really start
bridging some of the gaps that we see between two cuisines or two cultures that are
seemingly very different. Honam is a region in the
south west tip of South Korea where my grandmother
migrated to from North Korea before the war hit. This little tiny village
that my grandmother lived in, it was an onion farming village and there’s just like a
handful of restaurants but the one that we would go to pretty regularly, they
would have like the typical full Korean spread but like the one thing that stuck with was Korean Tartare. I just remember like it was
such an intense experience. The meat has like a
sweet onion flavor to it because like the cows were eating so much of the onions as part of their diet. I just remember like being
so enamored eating this dish. I wanted to take those components and then be able to sort of, not recreate those memories, just because I feel like, it’s really
hard to recreate something from more than 25 years ago. But just to kind of give
homage to the things that were like very impactful growing up. Ddukbokki Lamb Ragu,
definitely this is a dish where there is a little bit
more Italian influences. Ddukbokki, it’s like a college town food. You know, 2:00 a.m., you’ve
had a couple libations. It’s just sort of what you
eat to kinda end the night. It’s rice cakes that
are stir fried in this spicy, sweet, syrupy kind of sauce. I always think of memories of being at UIC because
this is like really where having those Italian
techniques and influences, kind of impacted with what I
grew up eating as a Korean. So we took Ddukbokki which we make our own homemade rice cakes, and
then, the Ragu itself, it’s made in the way that traditional like Italian Ragu is made. By having a lamb Ragu as
the basis of the sauce but still adding that
sweet, spicy component that makes Ddukbokki what it is. And then being able to also
make our own rice cakes in home and then searing it
off in the style of gnocchi. So it’s still influential in
terms of the Italian techniques but it’s still wholly a Korean dish. Soondubu is traditionally
a soft tofu stew. For me, the reason why this
is such an important dish, it’s something that like me and my mom share as own own little tradition
of like mom and daughter. My mom lives an hour’s
drive outside of Chicago and when I do go visit her, there’s this one Soondubu restaurant where like that’s really all they sell. The one memory that sticks out to me, I spent three months
in the south of France and not even like two
weeks into being there, I’m like, man I miss Korean food. (laughs)
and I remember emailing my mom and being like, the minute we get back, like can we please go to the Soondubu place. So she ended up picking
me up, three months later, and we just straight
to the Soondubu place. I was just like, literally like crying into my bowl
(laughs) of Soondubu because it was like, just like coming home in
all senses of the word. Struggling as a Korean American and saying like, I’m Korean
but I’m also American and like where do I kind
of fall on that scale? And this restaurant and that dish, is just such a great
embodiment of that as well. The word fusion, I feel like, it doesn’t really mean anything anymore. It’s really just a word. For me, it personally,
it’s like a trigger word and it has like some negative connotations because I don’t know
how else to explain it. Like there are definitely
people who are really just like taking two
cuisines and just kinda squishing them together
or fusing them together. Without like a thought of like, okay like, what is this culture mean? I would never like to
think of our restaurant as a fusion restaurant. But, you know, like
it’s sort of interesting for me to hear that because it’s like, well I never claim to be a
Korean, Italian restaurant. I never claimed to be
and Italian restaurant. I have only ever claimed
to be a Korean restaurant and that’s all I can give.

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