Contemporary Korean vegetarian cuisine inspired by the country’s ancient ‘temple food’ debuts in Hong Kong with the opening of Soil to Soul at K11 MUSEA in Tsim Sha Tsui.
SEE ALSO : LOJEL opens pop-up store at K11 MUSEA
As a certified specialist in the eco-friendly, vegan food philosophy using naturally cultivated ingredients, internationally-experienced ‘World Master Chef’ Gu Jin Kwang introduces a contemporary interpretation of temple-style cuisine to Hong Kong at the helm of Soil to Soul.
In line with the healthy vegetarian trend, Soil to Soul features a modern twist on contemporary Korean vegetarian recipes using natural and plant-based ingredients with a wide variety of a la carte specialties, lunch sets and 6-8 course dinner tasting menus, alongside contemporary bar snacks and an exclusive ‘Temple Food Tasting Menu’.
“At Soil to Soul, all preparation steps are in line with nature. From growing and gathering to preparation of dishes, all or most ingredients are either farmed or foraged from nature. Similar to the ‘Farm to Table’ process, retaining natural characteristics and flavour, temple food philosophy also encourages a minimalistic diet – eating only as much as you need, for minimal waste and environmental pollution,” Chef Gu explained.
Soil to Soul presents a contemporary and more liberal interpretation of strictest temple food which accords with three basic principles: clarity and sincerity of both chef and diner to ‘nourish the soul’, flexibility and harmony, and compliance with the Buddha-Dharma. The culinary concept adheres to a righteous natural order with a ‘humble, grateful heart’ without polluting or harming nature, mindful that just as the body and mind, humans and nature are one. Ultimate monastic adherence also avoids five pungent ingredients believed to distract minds with impure thoughts – garlic, green onion, leek, chive and onion.
With a broader concept for modern tastes, Soil to Soul’s philosophy still extends to such essential ingredients as salt, sugar, rice and soy sauce.
Salt, which notoriously raises blood pressure from indigestible impurities and toxins such as sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, chlorine and magnesium chloride, is substituted with purified salt crystal. Chef Gu minimises sugar’s harmful effects with more readily absorbed sugar extract using green plum, a Korean tradition for more naturally sweet seasoning and layer of flavours. Rice is exclusively from Icheon, famed for Korea’s finest grains with a legendary pedigree, gracing the monarch’s table during the Joseon Dynasty; and soy sauce is from a temple in Korea, fermented for 5 – 10 years for exceptional purity and clarity.
The purified essential ingredients are incorporated into Chef Gu’s specialty of fermenting and preserving seasonal vegetables and fruits from local Hong Kong organic farms – for pickles, traditional Korean staple kimchi and his own handcrafted Korean-style sauces.
Seating 106, the 3,380 sq. ft. restaurant and bar incorporates elements of wood and earth inspired by the Chinese philosophy of “Wuxing” – the five phases of fire, water, wood, metal and earth. Using wood flooring and seating as foundation, a spacious interior stimulates air circulation and glass enhances space, encouraging interaction between light and air, and an overall ‘soul to roots’ concept bringing peace of mind.
An oblong-shaped bar with spectacular harbour view is the key focus of the design, styled as a contemporary Korean oasis blending traditional and modern with a touch of theatrical intimacy. Three VIP rooms, including one with harbour view, offer ultimate privacy and exclusivity.