My favourite flavour is any flavour that has a deep, nutty and rich umami taste; be it something with a hint of brown butter notes, nuts and seed oils, some cheeses even…
But there are two ingredients where I think this flavour comes through most prominently and I love them and use them frequently in my cooking at Sollip.
The first is perilla, which comes from the edible perilla plant – I use perilla seed oil, perilla leaf as well as perilla seeds in my dishes.
I have such an unforgettable memory of my first time trying a perilla seed when I was about 10 years old in South Korea, at a barbecue restaurant, which is a very popular kind of restaurant in S. Korea where you just grill your own meat at the table. Pork is very popular in the country, and is typically served with Ssamjang and jangajjis (Korean-style soy-based pickles) – but at this one restaurant in the province of Jeolla-do (a famous area for its cuisine), I remember they were serving the pork with ssamjang, dusted with perilla seed powder and a drop of oil. The flavours worked in such incredible harmony with one another, such an unusual combination at the time that the memory will never leave me.
I started to use perilla properly in dishes when I opened Sollip, as it is a Korean-inspired restaurant. You can purchase cheap Perilla oils at certain markets but the really good ones, which are cold pressed, are best used warm to not lose the flavour – it tastes a little bit like a good extra virgin olive oil, which is why I typically use it as a finishing touch on my dishes. It’s got such a unique, nutty and herbal aroma – in fact not too dissimilar to lovage if there was anything you could compare it to.
The second ingredient is gamtae, an unusual variety of seaweed used in Korean cooking – made in a comparable way to Kim (Nori) but harder to come by, although it’s becoming increasingly popular these days. At Sollip I make a gamtae sandwich, which is served as a snack at the beginning of the meal and is comprised of a house-made brioche, Duckett’s Caerphilly cheese from Somerset and then delicate slices of gamtae. It has a rich umami flavour which reminds me of a warm black truffled Croque-Monsieur.
Woongchul Park, London – United Kingdom