Words by Joe McPhereson, Shots by Ethan James
Chef Ciaran Hickey of the restaurant Kitchen at the W Seoul Walker Hill has not only added his worldly influences to the Seoul dining scene but has also become one of the accidental prophets of Korean cuisine. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, Chef Hickey started his culinary education during the early 80s in his homeland before heading to Switzerland, which started his lifelong globetrotting. He has since worked for high end hotels and restaurants in New York, London, Istanbul and the West Indies. The culinary scene in Istanbul particularly inspired him, and he will regale you with tales of celebrities behaving badly from his time in the West Indies.
“I have learned a lot more in the past two years,” admits Chef Hickey. At Kitchen, he now has the time, money and freedom to play with the food and explore new directions in his cuisine. One direction has been to incorporate Korean ingredients and traditions in the international fine dining repertoire. The most recent event was this past summer’s Contemporary Korean Menu, which featured gochujang marinated black cod, slow-cooked short ribs and a playful interpretation of “Samgyetang”, where instead of a whole chicken, a chicken breast roulade stuffed with Korean dates and nuts bathed in a light, slightly medicinal broth with a dollop of black garlic on the side.
Particularly, Chef Hickey is a fan of Korean street food and has wanted to upgrade it for an international audience. He hinted at some future experiments with mandu and kimbap, something that has recently become his comfort food of choice. He has also been impressed with his staff’s dedication to the culinary arts in and out of the kitchen. While preparing for the Spanish-themed menu event, Jam, Jam (inspired by Penelope Cruz’s debut film), the idea came to include elements of the new Spanish school of molecular gastronomy, pioneered by Ferran Adri. Chef Hickey went online to track down the special ingredients and chemicals to pull this off, which were hard to find and expensive. Then he found that one of his sous chefs already had a whole stash of them because he enjoyed experimenting with molecular gastronomy in his spare time.
Chef Hickey’s eyes light up at the new possibilities in his kitchen after making surprising dishes like the “elliptical olive, an Adri invention of an all-liquid “olive” that has created its own skin, which explodes in the mouth. After verbally contemplating the new directions he can go, Chef Hickey gives a mischievous grin. There’s no telling what will come next from his creative and well-traveled brain.
Chef Hickeyâ€™s Alaskan King Crab Cakes
500 g of king crab meat
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon lemon grass, grated
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
2 green onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
2 oz. (~55 g) flour
¼ cup oil for cooking
Mix the olive oil, ginger, lemon grass, sweet chili sauce and green onions with the crab. Make into 3-oz cakes and allow to set in the fridge for 1 hour. Lightly flour the cakes, dip in the beaten eggs then in the breadcrumbs. Heat the oil to 350 degrees in a shallow saut pan then add the crab cakes and cook for approximately 4 minutes on medium heat or until breadcrumbs become golden brown. Turn over and repeat. Drain on paper towels. Serve with avocado or tomato salsa.