Chef brings the best of Korean cuisine to Vietnam

Lee Won Il is a South Korean chef and television personality. His cooking classes attract a lot of Vietnamese young people.

Lee Won Il studied business administration at university because his family didn’t want him to become a cook. But his passion for cooking prompted him to enrol in a culinary course at the American Hotel Academy, under the Court of Food Research Institute when he was studying at the National University in the Philippines.

With his cooking talents, Lee Won Il has become a young culinary expert of South Korea. He owns seven restaurants in South Korea and is currently a lecturer at the Korean Traditional Food Bureau.

In 2017, Lee Won Il came to Vietnam for the Vietnam-Korea food and culture festival 2017. Lee tried Vietnamese food when he studied in the Philippines and tasted many Vietnamese dishes at Vietnamese restaurants in the US and Australia.

South Korean chef Lee Won Il.

South Korean spices used in Lee Won Il’s cooking class.

Lee Won Il prepares vegetables from a new recipe using Korean flavors.

Lee Won Il and a young student at the cooking class.

Chef Lee Won Il is very friendly.

Vietnamese students pose with South Korean chef Lee Won Il.

“When I first came to Vietnam to attend the Vietnam-Korea food and culture festival, I ate a lot of Vietnamese food because it is very delicious when eaten in Vietnam,” Korea chef Lee Won Il said, joking that he even gained some weight after returning home from Vietnam.

“Vietnamese and South Korean cuisine have similarities”, Lee Won Il said, “because people from both countries eat rice and use a lot of chilli in their meals. The only difference is how the food is cooked”. Vietnamese people often boil vegetables while South Korean people make salad and stir-fried vegetables.

Lee Won IL has combined ingredients from both cuisines to create delicious dishes for Vietnamese people. Lee’s pork-shoulder soup and stir-fried vegetables cooked with soybeans, an important ingredient in Korean cuisine but barely used by Vietnamese cooks, is typical of such a combination. Lee also mixes Vietnamese fish sauce with South Korean fish sauce and chilli vinegar to create a distinctive sauce served with meat which is favored by Vietnamese diners.

By using Vietnamese vegetables and seasoning to create Korean dishes, Lee’s cooking session has attracted a lot of Vietnamese students, including those having won online cooking competitions.

Pork-shoulder soup with soybeans, a new recipe by Lee Won Il
helps Vietnamese people get used to the South Korean ingredient.

A few dishes cooked by Vietnamese students after the cooking class with chef Lee Won Il.

Lee Won IL said his favorite Vietnamese dishes are pho, fresh spring rolls, banh xeo and bun cha. “I have received some invitations to Vietnam but am now too busy with my restaurant chain in South Korea. I hope to have a chance to work in Vietnam soon so that I can understand more about Vietnamese cuisine while introducing Korean dishes to Vietnamese people,” he said.

Story: Ngan Ha – Photos: Khanh Long