It might be food from Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, but it is most definitely food for the soul. This is the philosophy and passion that underpins the dynamic team headed by Sunny and Jaewon of Seoul Food, regular stallholders at the Harvest Launceston Community Farmers’ Market.
Inspired by ancient traditions with deep roots in Korean society the pancake or Hotteok can be found almost everywhere in Korea mainly in winter time. From entrances to subways to markets to busy sidewalks, it is an ideal snack and a regular part of many Koreans daily commute. On Saturdays in Launceston, Hotteok have become a regular part of many Harvest market goers morning ritual.
Sunny has a passion for food and is a fan of Hotteok. It brings back childhood memories of sinking her teeth into the chewy pancake with a melting lava of sweetness oozing from the middle.
Jaewon describes Koreans’ love of food and pride in their gastronomic traditions. Korean cuisine nearly always evokes a response – it is sophisticated food that has passionate fans. Opening the locals up to new, exciting tastes was the driving force for Jaewon. While she felt the pancake varieties would win over Tasmanians, it is the joy they bring that is the real prize.
Koreans love food, they love making it, tasting it and more importantly sharing it. Expressing care, and indeed love through food, is something that sits deep in the Korean psyche. When Sunny and Jaewon first considered making Korean food for the Tasmanian public, their family and friends were the first beneficiaries as they cooked up feasts, marrying their passion for sharing food with favourite Korean recipes.
“After lots of trials, we felt filled pancakes gave us options to capture a range of Korean tastes and to deliver it in a way that worked well at the market. The sweet pancake is the traditional flavour of hotteok and is an after-school favourite on the streets of Korea. “We cook them slow and give the mix of cinnamon, brown sugar, seeds and nuts time to caramelise. The result is a warm, filling, exotic sweet treat,” says Jaewon.
The kimchi, pork and cheese pancakes are a twist of tradition to create a fusion of Korean and Australian cultures. Kimchi (fermented cabbage) is the national staple and Koreans have it as a side dish with breakfast, lunch and dinner. In its traditional form, this spicy fermented cabbage is buried in claypots underground to ferment. “We make our own kimchi using Tasmanian Chinese cabbages, which is allowed to ferment and stored until it reaches the right level of acidity and taste.” They were delighted when Launceston locals embraced the taste. “It’s wonderful in stews, fried rice and omelets too. With our kimchi pancake we have tried to capture something very close to our hearts.”
Sunny and Jaewon take great delight in watching customers enjoy the pancakes, which are made using dough freshly prepared at the market and filled with their unique ingredients that they are happy to adjust to suit individual tastes. One of the things they love about the market is feedback from customers.
The Seoul Food team have captured the taste buds of locals and explain the origin of their name. “Seoul is not only the capital of South Korea, it’s history stretches back more than 2000 years and is arguably the heart and soul of the nation. We chose the name ‘Seoul Food’ as a play on words capturing both the origin of the food and the intrinsic nature of the food to Koreans”.
Seoul Food is at the Harvest Launceston Community Farmers’ Market most Saturdays with their unique take on Korean pancakes. And if that is not enough Seoul delights for the soul, the team are not stopping at Hotteok and are looking at expanding their offerings. “We want to share our culture and bring joy to people. We think great food is a wonderful way we can do that.”