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Taste of India beyond curry in Seoul

Two chefs -- Udaygiri and Kasiviswanathan -- introduce 'India’s sustainable cuisines'

When people think of Indian food, curries, butter chicken and naan usually come to mind.

But Vikram Udaygiri and Kasiviswanathan, two chefs invited by the Millennium Seoul Hilton Hotel from Bangalore, India, said India is a country of diversity that offers various regional cuisines beyond just curries, chickens and naan.

They say India is like Italy, which has a variety of dishes beyond pasta, or Korea, which offers more than bibimbap.

Taste of India beyond curry in Seoul

"India has various food! Every 15 kilometers in India, food changes," said Kasiviswanathan in an interview.

Udaygiri added, "What you get in one city, you won’t get the same in other cities just like in Korea and its provincial areas."

Across India, they said, people are different and their food uses different ingredients.

The two Indian chefs, who have been promoting Indian cuisines around the world over the years, came to Seoul for a week as part of the Bonjour India Festival, which kicked off in France, then Thailand and Hong Kong.

Udaygiri is a chef entrepreneur who has represented India’s Ministry of External Affairs to promote Indian cuisines in countries including South Africa, Israel and Egypt. Kasiviswanathan is an executive chef at the Radisson Blu five-star hotel in Bangalore.

For Udaygiri, he sees Indian food as art, which you can create and invent using a variety of raw materials and techniques, like painters creating their masterpieces with different colors.

"It is kind of like art and painting. Like literature, you put words together and make them seductive," said Udaygiri. "In short, you want that food to seduce people."

And Kasiviswanathan said he treats his food and ingredients like his "first family member whom he has the responsibility to make them happy at all times."

Like all cuisines, they said Indian cuisine can incorporate cooking techniques and presentations used in countries like Korea and France.

This is why it is important for the two chefs to stay open-minded, learn and explore other food cultures, so that their Indian dishes, such as lamb biryani and lobster chukka, which was served at the Millennium Seoul Hilton, can be made and served using the "best parts" of the world.

"Whenever I travel abroad, I make sure to learn something new by exploring the local markets to fine-tune the menu and get a clear picture," said Kasiviswanathan.

"That is the beauty of this profession. It is always a continuous learning process wherever and whenever. You always tend to learn new things on a daily basis."

But the most important of all for them is serving "sustainable cuisines" by making Indian dishes with locally grown raw material ingredients such as vegetables and meat to boost the business value of local producers.

"We believe in sustainable cuisines that support the ecosystem -- encouraging local businesses by using their raw materials," said Udaygiri.

The dishes they made at the hotel used local sources, they noted, stressing that sustainable cuisines require the use of local ingredients that can also help reduce the carbon footprint.

Kasiviswanathan and Udaygiri, who will stay in Korea until the weekend, said they will be going back to Bangalore with hopes to create new Indian dishes incorporating tasty Korean noodles and pears.

"I personally feel one of the first things that attract people to cultures is food. Food connects people," said Udaygiri.

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