South Korea wants to impress guest Donald Trump with beef and gravy made from ‘exquisite’ 360-year-old soy sauce
South Korea’s presidential office has been stressed about competing with the ‘customised meals’ that Trump got in Japan
What do you feed an American president who famously likes his steak well done and served with ketchup? That’s the problem vexing chefs in Asia this week as Donald Trump travels through the region.
Trump will be feted at a state dinner in Seoul Tuesday night, and his hosts have created a menu to appeal to their guest while adhering to the principle of highlighting the local cuisine.
The dinner, at the Blue House compound next to a former royal palace, includes a beef rib dish accompanied by a gravy made with an “exquisite, 360-year-old soy sauce”, said a spokesman for Seoul’s presidential office.
The age implies it was made in 1657, the year the father of the US Declaration of Independence signatory Benjamin Franklin was born.
Fermented food including soy sauce is a staple in South Korean cuisine, with soy sauces made by famous artisans and fermented for decades – or centuries – sold for tens of thousands of dollars per litre.
In one food show in 2012, a group of artisans displayed soy sauce they claimed had been made 450 years ago, with a price tag of 100 million won (US$90,000).
Tuesday’s menu also includes a grilled sole – known to be Trump’s favourite fish – and an unnamed official told the South’s Yonhap news agency: “The menu contains food that has local, traditional flavour that could also appeal to the taste of the US head of state.”
The Seoul meal also features a prawn that President Moon Jae-in’s office said was caught near a disputed island claimed both by the South and Japan.
The Seoul-controlled island off the east coast – called Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan – is at the heart of a decades-long territorial dispute and diplomatic row between the two countries.
Dessert will be triple chocolate cake with raspberry vanilla sauce, and cinnamon punch granita served with dried persimmons.
South Korea’s presidential office has been stressed about competing with the “customised meals” that Trump got in Japan, according to local reports. Their chefs have opted for a menu that they call “Asian-American fusion”.
For lunch on Tuesday, the Trumps went to Camp Humphreys, the huge new American military base south of Seoul, where the president chowed down with the troops.
During his two days in Japan, Trump enjoyed a menu that was less of the fusion and more of the familiar.
This was a sharp contrast to President Barack Obama’s visit to Tokyo in 2014, when Abe took the then-American president to Sukiyabashi Jiro, one of Japan’s best sushi restaurants (although there were reports at the time that Obama didn’t eat all the food.)
But clearly, Trump is no fan of sushi. There was no raw fish for him this visit.
First, for lunch with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before their round of golf, the pair ate burgers made of US beef with colby jack cheese, cooked by Munch’s Burger Shack in Tokyo. The burgers sell for US$10.50 in store.
The burgers were served with Heinz ketchup and mustard at the fancy Kasumi Country Club north of Tokyo. The president appeared to be drinking his favoured Coke.
Then for dinner on Sunday night, Abe took his guest to an upmarket teppanyaki restaurant, Ukai, where Wagyu beef was cooked on the griddle in front of them.
The guests were served a “special menu” that included grilled Hokkaido scallops and lobster in bisque, the restaurant’s “best quality” Wagyu fillet and sirloin steaks, an Ukai spokeswoman told local press. This was followed by chocolate parfait.
Watch: Trump has lunch with US, South Korean troops
Some Japanese Twitter users wondered if the American president had asked for ketchup with his meal.
Japan’s foreign minister tweeted that they ate salad, teriyaki chicken and vanilla ice cream during a “working lunch” on Monday.
Then, for the dinner at Akasaka Palace on Monday night, the menu was more of a traditional Japanese meal, although again featuring several variations of beef:
An appetiser plate featuring grilled fish marinated with miso paste, rolled omelette, duck and onion on skewer, and burdock rolled in Wagyu beef slices.
Matsutake mushroom in steamed egg custard.
Ise lobster salad.
Japanese beef steak.
Steamed rice with mushrooms.
Miso soup with vegetables.
Dessert: fruit and ice cream.
The Washington Post, Agence France-Presse