Whenever I go on a long trip, I’d try to squeeze in a cooking class. Cooking classes are a great way to not only learn new dishes, but also experience the local culture and literally experience new tastes.
In Seoul, I brought my brother and my mum along to a cooking class organised by Ome Cooking Lab.
Ome is run by a young lady called Kim Minseon. She’s soft-spoken but don’t underestimate her: she is perfectly tri-lingual in Korean, Mandarin Chinese and English, and Ome is recommended by the Korean tourism organisation and she has been on French television TV5 for their travel show.
You first have to make a reservation online. Once your reservation is confirmed, Minseon then sends you a list of dishes the group would be making.
On the day itself, we first all met at the Jegi-Dong Station exit. It was very fun because there was a Chinese lady, a Japanese pensioner, a young French couple and us – about 7 people in total.
We first went through the market where Minseon introduced us to a variety of herbs as well as seafood, vegetables, meat and condiments like bean pastes, chilli flakes and pickles. This was also when she bought all the ingredients necessary for the class.
We then proceeded to her house where we started chopping and cutting.
Because we were quite numerous (hence warranted the investment in more expensive ingredients), the dishes were:
- Sinseollo 신선로 神仙爐 – This was an integral dish in the Korean Royal Court cuisine, which is essentially an elaborate Royal Hotpot comprising meatballs and different coloured vegetables each with a specific meaning.
- Samgyetang 삼계탕 蔘鷄湯 – Korean ginseng chicken soup.
- Pajeon 파전 파煎 – Korean savoury pancakes
Verdict: I like the setting. It was in her house so it felt extremely personal. During the preparations, the small group bonded and we were having a good time cutting and chopping. However, the class seems to be aimed at beginners, because we did not get to really cook, just prepare. Our dishes were taken away to be cooked for us (by Minseon’s assistant). It could be that the space was limited so we could not each have our own cooking station. For people who have never cooked before, this is a perfect and safe environment to learn. What I hope for, is that Minseon would be able to enlarge her operations in the future so everyone can have their own cooking station.
What I appreciated in this experience is the cultural subtleties: how someone else in another culture cuts things, prepares the meal, manages the cooking method and time, and then presents the dishes on the table. These are things inherited from our ancestors and when I observed how Minseon did all of that, it was an immensely pleasant sight filled with revelation after revelation.