As you walk into the premises, the eye-soothing yellow light and soft music in the background bring a spell of serenity in your universe. Even before you know it, the mild aroma of delicious sushi and sashimi blows your mind away. From 18th to 27th November, The Westin Dhaka presented Taste of Korea and Japan in the form of a food festival targeting Dhaka's food enthusiasts.
Sushi, being one of the most delectable foods not just in Japan but also around the world, now has a fan-base Dhaka. The Westin, catering to people's Sushi obsession lavished their hope on a wide range of authentic sushi and sashimi prepared by Japanese and Korean chefs of considerable repute.
Preparing a sashimi roll is no less than an art. Salmon, tuna, crabmeat and vegetable – either of these can be the main ingredient of a sashimi. In addition, some of them require months of preparations.
Even if one was not a fish lover, the atypical cooking method would intrigue anyone! While salmon tastes the best when uncooked, eel is typically a roasted sashimi. Every coat of the fish blended with Japanese horseradish sauce, sua sauce and wasabi melts inside your mouth.
Sashimi and sushi may belong to the same group of food, when all the ingredients are added towards the centre of a rice-covered nori with flavoured dip; it is no more a sashimi, it is a sushi. The subtle difference between a sashimi and sushi is marked out by the rice-coat.
Oodles of other Japanese dishes also wooed the attention of the food lovers at The Westin. Guests lost themselves in the taste of traditional yakisoba noodles and famous black mushroom curry. Japanese famous beef and potato stew called nikujaga. Though tastes distinctly different from the kind of beef preparations we are accustomed to eating here in Bangladesh, you might love them if less spicy food can please your tang.
Mr Akihito and Miss Hina who came to Dhaka to attend a business merger, ran into the fest. "We loved how a Bangladeshi restaurant pulled all these delicious Japanese dishes off, that too so well!" they said.
Md Zakir Hossain is one of the chief chefs here. He, in fact, took the plunge and introduced authentic Japanese food to the menu of The Westin years ago. He remembers his mentor, "I learned cooking Japanese dishes from my mentor; he was an expert. A special kind of Japanese chicken recipe made with miso paste is very popular among our regular guests here."
The well-dressed, relaxed guests had to keep some room for the Korean food in their stomachs. Andong Jjimdak, a classic Korean soy braised chicken dish looked mouth-watering at the first glance. The orangish red Korean tofu cooked with simple spring onions, garlic and chillies could be the best appetiser one could ever ask for.
Finishing the gaIbi rice bowl might be easy for the guests; the prolonged process of making the dish is not! The beef shreds have to be slowly cooked on medium temperature for 10 hours at a stretch.
Rehana, a young food enthusiast who was binging on the fermented kimchi, said, "I love tasting cuisines of different countries. I read somewhere, the older the Kimchi, the tastier it is! I wonder how old this one is." Kimchi somewhat looks like pickles.
Korean bulgogi with rice, and a baked, giant-sized basa fish looks rich in colour and texture. The bulk of guests literally feasted on them – proving once again that we Bengalis love rice and fish!
Alam, the assistant director of Food and Beverage, was overwhelmed by the responses from the guests. "The endeavour of bringing our guests the taste of authentic Japanese and Korean food paid off, people were satisfied with the quality of food. We hope to arrange more such events in the coming days," he concluded.
The Korean and Japanese food festival was not just a different initiative in terms of plating up authentic non-native food but also a great form of cultural interchange. The Westin keeps coming up with such special celebrations giving us all an opportunity to get off the chair of boredom and taste the good food with our heart's content.
Ryan Hong, a Korean chef came to Dhaka all the way from Korea to attend the festival. Hong, A very cheerful man, learnt to cook his native dishes first at home. His mother is a great cook and mostly cooks traditional Korean food.
Hong wanted us to have the taste of authentic Korean food, hence most of the dishes he prepared for the fest were famous Korean delicacies. He cooked his own version of galbi rice bowl conforming to our taste and as an extension of his own methods.
He also has a plan of training the regular chefs of The Westin so they can cook Korean food with better efficiency. Hong's experience with Dhaka is great as he so affirmatively puts, "Everyone here is fun-loving and welcoming. The festival seems to be wonderful and unique."
Ryan Hong made some 20 dishes altogether with the help of the regular chefs. Moreover, his overwhelmingly friendly nature helped him be friends with them already! As the guests came and asked him about how he cooked different dishes, he answered them with accuracy and seriousness. It seemed as if the magic is not just in Hong's hands but also in his heart.