How I Learned to Cook Korean Food… in Korea!

Photos by Manuel Chua

Cooking is not my forte. While I do appreciate a good meal, I am totally clueless about how they are made. So when my friends and I were in Seoul and I was told that we would be attending a cooking class, I was scared. I had visions of my fingers getting cut off while chopping onions or setting the entire kitchen on fire. Luckily, the chefs at OME Cooking Lab were patient. I ended up learning how to cook five dishes and they were good!

OME means five tastes. Our class was hosted by Kim Min-seon, who has extensively studied Korean traditional cuisine. She has also traveled the world to experience different cultures and traditional dishes. Her classes are so popular that OME was designated by the Korean Tourism Organization as a Tourism Business Venture!

The dishes vary by day (you can see the menu you will prepare on their website) and on the day we visited, we were assigned to prepare bulgogi, or marinated and grilled slices of pork or beef; gimbap, a Korean version of sushi with pickled yellow radish; tofu stew; tteokbokki; or stir-fried rice cakes; and buchimgae, or Korean pancakes.

The day started with buying our ingredients at the Kyung-dong market and Yangnyeong market. Min-seon did the shopping because of the language barrier with the elderly vendors, but she explained everything to us. We were surprised at the size of the produce available! The fruits and vegetables were twice or thrice as big as the ones available in the Philippines. Despite being public markets, both Kyung-dong and Yangnyeong were clean and orderly.

After shopping for our ingredients, we walked for a few minutes to their studio in a quiet neighborhood. The studio was spacious and well-lit, with all the equipment we needed to prepare our dishes. At OME, you really have to cook. If you think you’re going to spend most of your time watching Min-seon prepare everything while you chop garlic, think again. You’ll be working with your group to cook while the chef facilitates.

What I enjoyed about this class is that everyone plays a role. In the preparation, everyone slices and dices a certain ingredient. Min-seon was incredibly patient, especially with me. I sliced a carrot the wrong way but no one minded. During cooking, everyone took turns adding ingredients and stirring the pots. We also rolled our own gimbap.

The last part of the class was my favorite: eating! We got to enjoy the fruits of our labor and it was delicious. I liked how Min-seon helped us choose the freshest ingredients and to use a lot of it in our dishes.

The environment that Min-seon fostered during the class made me realize how cooking is not intimidating. It’s fun seeing how all the ingredients work together to create the complex flavors of one dish. It was a relaxing experience, too!

If you want to learn how to cook traditional Korean dishes when you’re in Seoul, you can book a class on using this link. You can create a customizable tour of your visit to Seoul, and they have airport transfers, city tours, amusement park entrance tickets, Korean Star Make-overs, K-Pop Song Recording Experience and even a real K-pop dance class! Yes, they also have tours of Gyeongbokgung Palace and Nami Island.

To enjoy this cooking class and the rest of South Korea, AirAsia has the lowest fares going to Seoul.

For your accommodations, we recommend Novotel Ambassador Seoul Yongsan, which is part of the Seoul Dragon City hotelplex. It’s near a central train station and is a few minutes away from Seoul’s top tourist destinations!

For more information on OME Cooking Lab, check out their website.

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