A Korean Cooking day but where’s the Birthday Cake? (Day 222)
Today’s experience started at Siliim Station, lucky for us. We had a Korean Cooking day but where's the Birthday Cake?
Sillim Station is just a 7-minute walk from our Airbnb. We arrived but there was no sign of our Host. After a few minutes, I had a look at the booking form. Ah – we had arrived 30 minutes early! How on earth have we managed to travel to 11 countries on our own! If we can do it, anyone can! At 10:30 am (the correct time) we met Anne our host for the next 4 hours, plus Sindy, a young lady from Taiwan and Nami, who is from Busan and has an Airbnb there. We were there to have a market tour and then an authentic sobaan cooking experience. We walked out of the station to a government built market, down a long alleyway with an arched glass ceiling high up. Anne stopped at various stalls and shared with us about the different foods and Korean life. It was so interesting. There was a very weird looking pear, Pyrus pyrifolia which looks more like a massive apple and used in a marinade as it tenderises the meat, a delightful little Korean melon which looked as if someone had peeled part of the skin away. Pigs trotters (luckily she didn’t buy any of them), various tree bark used in a lot of Chinese medicine, and Perilla leaves which have a very strong minty flavour. We also saw packets of Seaweed, and Anne explained that after childbirth, the mother would drink seaweed soup 3 to 5 times a day, every day for 3 weeks! Anne explained how in November they would make lots of Kimchi, a traditional side dish made from seasoned, salted and fermented vegetables, mainly cabbage and Korean radish. They used to bury the kimchi jars into the ground in the garden to keep cool, but now, as most people live in apartments, they have a special fridge just for the kimchi. In September they would pick Omija berries to make concentrate fruit juice. We saw some dried Omija berries on one stall and the lady gave us all a sample to drink. It tasted very much like cranberry juice to us. Anne then drove us to her mother’s apartment. What a delightful lady her mum is and so talented. All around the lounge and dining area were examples of her incredible talent – embroidery. She spent two years embroidering a wedding kimono type gown that both Anne, her sister and her sister-in-law wore at their weddings. It was stunning and what a labour of love. There were also beautiful delicate cabinets all inlaid with embroidered panels and an embroidered screen depicting a famous artist’s painting of flowers. We got going with the cooking. First, there was a lot of chopping to do, making julienne of various vegetables, then mixing with soya sauce, sesame oil, sugar, salt and pepper. We all made Japchae with glass noodles, vegetables and soaked mushrooms plus beef for the meat eaters. Tim and I made small pancakes with the vegetables and seafood whilst the other two ladies made Bulgogi with beef. Anne was such great fun, very informative as well as being patient, explaining everything as we went along. Lunchtime, we sat and ate our own dishes we had cooked and Anne and her Mum had been busy making tons of other side dishes. When Anne was a little girl, her Mum would cook 10 different dishes every day for their main meal! The lunch was delicious and it was lovely to get to know Sindy and Nami, who gave us some advice about places to visit around South Korea. Afterwards, we made three types of small Korean sweets made from the pollen of pine trees, black sesame seed paste and soya bean paste and then enjoyed eating these with some of Anne and her Mum’s Omija Berry Juice. Delicious. The whole experience was wonderful, Anne was a perfect host, excellent English, warm, friendly and informative. It turns out she used to be an IT Engineer, like Tim, but the long hours meant that she was just not seeing her two girls, so learnt to cook and set up these cooking classes three years ago.
She dropped us off at Sillim station and we rushed back to call George, our son.“Happy Birthday to you…” we sang. Our wonderful son is 25 today.