Day 15: Cooking

My cooking is fabulous, even the smoke alarm is cheering me on.

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Cooking is not my specialty, only because I don’t do it often. But when I do find myself making a dish, I always let someone around know that I burn water. (I should probably stop saying that 😛 ). I informed plenty of my friends today because, for our Saturday cultural even, we went to the Korea Tourism Organization near Eilgiro 1-ga for cooking lessons. The chosen recipes? Japchae and Bulgogi.

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Japchea (잡채) is a Korean dish made from sweet potato noodles mixed with vegetables and sesame oil. Bulgogi (불고기), which literally means “fire meat,” is thin sliced, marinated beef or pork. (This dish is normally accompanied with lettuce and rice to make a small Korean taco, at least that’s how a put it). Both dishes, if made right, can taste very sweet and VERY delectable. I was very happy to be taught how to make these dishes from a professional chef because so far, these were my favorite dishes in South Korea.

Our chef didn’t speak English, so there was a translator nearby as we were given a cooking demonstration.

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It was cool watching the chef prepare the meals, especially when she would quickly chop vegetables even when she wasn’t looking. After the lengthy demonstration, it was our turn to try.

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We chose partners to cook with. At our stations, the ingredients and seasoning where already prepared, which was good. We didn’t want anyone trying to cut like the chef and accidentally cut off a finger. Even so, we weren’t really making the meals from scratch. How my friend put it, we come here and feel like we did something or cooked well when in actuality, we simply three things in a skillet. If we had to mix the seasonings ourselves, we’d all probably be in the hospital.

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When I was cooking, I kept looking for the chef or chef assistant to help me. I had no clue what I was doing even though a recipe was on the screen for us. Every step I completed, I’d ask my partner, “What now?” I felt a little bad when I overcooked the vegetables because we would have to eat it. And the entire time, I had to cook with chopsticks.

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Finally, our meals were finished. We had to transfer the Japchae and Bulgogi on separate plates to make it look presentable. We put or lunch on trays. I was going to pick mine up and head to the other room to eat, but my partner stopped me. in the counter, there was a drawer that she brought out. That drawer was actually a table we were supposed to eat at.

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The meal was actually very good. I thought the Japchae (which I cooked) could have been better. I had tried it before that Wednesday I went out to lunch with my boss and professor. But the Bulgogi was very sweet and heavenly. Loved it!

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After we finished eating, everyone cleaned up their station and did the dishes. We took a group photo with the chef, went in a separate room to take a survey, and received our own Korean recipe book.

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I thought the day was over after that, but we ended up moving on to a tour of the tourist center. Being the loud, obnoxious group, we sometimes were, I felt bad when my professor introduced a tour guide to us. Half the group bantered over her as she was giving us a tour of a food and spice (maybe kimchi) museum. I tried to give her my full attention because of that. Other than that, I thought the museum was nice. The guide told us how spices would be mixed and left in jars for months to make certain pastes. And she showed us a display of how meals used to be set up in the past. (People were given a lot of food).

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We ventured upstairs to the Health section after having three minutes to take photos. I really liked this part of the tour because there were different machines that measured body mass, body fat, and stress levels. There was even a monitor that (after you answered the question it gave you) chose a tea that would be best for you and your health. (They gave us these nice scented bags with tea material in it. But we are not supposed to use it for tea, only as an incent). When our guide was through explaining, she left, and we were free to play around and explore.

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I decided to go to the part of the floor that had virtual reality. It was very basic, but it was nice pretending to tour Korea and ski.

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There was a room where K-Pop fans would go, and I thought it was hilarious. They had life sized cut outs of a famous K-Pop group called BigBang so people could pose and take photos. There was even a room where you would sit on a couch, look at a monitor, and a celebrity would virtually appear and pose with you.

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As out final activity, we as a group decided to head to the top floor to do arts and crafts. (Really only because it was free). It was a small section to a large room, however, so we had to share tables. I ended up at a table with small children. Still, we proceeded to craft fans. I thought it was a simple project that benefited the maker, especially since it was so hot out.

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Of course, we took more group photos before it was time to leave.

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But the day doesn’t stop there!

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After stopping at a café and going back to the hotel to change, half of our group went out to a traditional Korean restaurant where we had to take off our shoes and sit on the floor.

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I wasn’t very hungry at the time, so I decided not to eat, but it was still a great time nonetheless. The only thing I didn’t like was when it came time to pay. Normally, cashiers prefer a bill to be paid all at once, but they decided to pay separately. They tried to calculate who owed what for what meal, and it held up the line. Like we foreigners didn’t bring enough attention to ourselves. After ten minutes or so, we finally go it all settled and headed to Itaewon to a club called Fountain. That in of itself is a story that should be told at a different time.

(For photos and videos, go to my Flickr and YouTube account).

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