TOKYO — 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.
On the menu tonight, according to South Korea’s Blue House:
Corn porridge accompanied by fresh herb and vegetable side dishes.
Grilled sole from Geoje island, the home town of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, with brown bean sauce consomme.
Pine mushroom rice in a stone pot accompanied by grilled Korean beef ribs, seasoned with a special sauce made with a 360-year-old soy sauce.
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 “customized meals” that Trump got in Japan, according to local reports. Their chefs have opted for a menu that they call “Asian-American fusion.” South Korean media have been reporting that Trump is known to like sole. Phew.
For lunch on Tuesday, the Trumps went to Camp Humphreys, the huge new American military base south of Seoul, where the president chowed down on Tex-Mex 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 in sharp contrast to President Barack Obama's visit to Tokyo in 2014, when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took the then-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 Abe before their round of golf, the pair ate burgers made of U.S. beef with Colby jack cheese, cooked by Munch’s Burger Shack in Tokyo. The burgers sell for $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 favored 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 filet and sirloin steaks, an Ukai spokeswoman told local press. This was followed by chocolate parfait.
Shares in the Ukai restaurant company jumped 7.3 percent on Monday after it emerged that Abe took Trump to its flagship Tokyo store in Ginza.
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 on beef:
An appetizer plate featuring grilled fish marinated with miso paste, rolled omelet, 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