Just a few days after reading Chong Go Sunim’s fascinating post the other week about Korean temple food, and after having just finished a very fine Korean meal myself, I was asked if I’d like to attend a class in kimchi-making – part of a whole series of hands-on Korean cooking tutorials – right here in in Bangkok!
The classes are organised by the Korea Tourism Organisation and are held in their Bangkok office on the ground floor of the Esplanade department store on Rachadapisek Road, a beautiful showcase for Korean tourism with lots of free information, a little movie theatre and even a rack of traditional Korean costumes to dress up in.
Best of all, the cooking course, consisting of four subsequent Sunday afternoon sessions, is entirely free of charge and is available for the next six months. In the first session participants learn to make bibimbap, in the second they tackle kimchi, this is followed in the third week with gimbap, and the final week consists of a class making japchae.
On the day I went along I was not an official participant, I hate cooking, but more of an interested observer – mostly interested, of course, in the end result! I arrived early and helped set things up. There were tables to move and bowls to put in place and then I watched as the chefs arranged the ingredients and the cooks donned their aprons.
The teachers were four lovely ladies from the Bangkok Hanmaum Seonwon, which explains where my lucky invite came from, all volunteering their services for free. And with just ten student chefs, everyone enjoyed a really intimate learning experience. Then again, when making kimchi, intimate is certainly the word!
As the chilli paste got mixed with the garlic, ginger and whatever all those other ingredients were – I’ll never be a real food correspondant! – I chatted to some of the students. Everyone was a fan of Korean culture and cooking, and one woman at my table had visited Korea more than nine times!
Then I asked one of the ladies from the temple why she’d volunteered to give up her Sunday afternoons to help with this project and she said “well, first of all, I like the idea of helping to share Korean culture, plus I want to help the work of the Seonwon too.”
I later discovered that the funds raised by the Seonwon through this project are earmarked for the centre’s scholarship programme, which helps support a number of Thai students, who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it, study Korean at university. I met some of these students, and one of their teachers, about a year ago, and was impressed by their dedication and skill.
But of course the real winner of the day was me! I went home that evening with a huge bag of kimchi which I left out overnight to ferment before putting in my fridge. I’ve almost finished it now and I can tell you that it’s gorgeous. Crunchy and fresh and just the right tangyness and heat. When’s the next class?
In these fresh vegetables
I see a green sun.
All dharmas join together
to make life possible.
– Thich Nhat Hanh