…At the Seoul Kimchi Academy House in 명동 (Myeongdong).
With my time in 서을 (Seoul) drawing to a close its become my mission to get as much done as possible before I fly back to Canada on the 12th of June. One of the things that had been high up on my list of things to do before leaving was to attend a Korean-food cooking class.
A quick Google search for English-language based classes brought me swiftly to the Seoul Kimchi Academy. The class, which runs ~90minute costs 30,000원 for just the 김치(kimchi)-making class. For an additional 15,000원 and another 30-40minutes you can also learn how to cook 떡볶이 (ddeokbokki – spicy rice cakes). You can call or email to make a reservation and the school overs classes every 2 hours from 10am until 5pm. I emailed the school and got back a response within a day or so. I made a reservation for Wednesday, May 22nd at 10am and excitedly awaited the day to arrive.
This is actually my second attempt at making kimchi. The first was when I was still living in Canada and had wanted to try making it. It turned out…oookkkaaaayyyy…but way, WAY to spicy for my sister and I to eat. This is my ‘take-2’ attempt ^^
When I got to the building at 9:50am, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be the only on there. Thankfully, already there was a Japanese woman, and we were soon joined by a mother-daughter couple from Hong Kong. I was the only one in the group who was living in Korea however, with the other two sets only in for shopping trips.
To start the class off, our instructor, 이상미 (Lee Sang-mi), offered us all a glass of 유자차 (yuja cha – citron-honey tea) and our choice of 한복 (hanbok – traditional Korean clothes) inspired apron. Because the class was only 90minutes, all of our ingredients were already prepped for us.
Seasonings: 고추 가루 (gochu karn – red pepper powder), 생선 소스(sangseon soseu – fish sauce), 새우 젓 (saeu jeot – salted shrimp), 설탕 (seoltang – sugar), 참깨 (chamggae – sesame seeds), and a paste made of boiled sticky rice powder, and 마늘-생강 (maneul-saengkang – a 5-1 mix of garlic-ginger)
Core Ingredients: 배추 (bachu – Chinese/Napa cabbage), 파 (pa – spring onion), 향신료 (hyangshinryo – chives), and 무 (mu – radish).
We all received a printed copy of the kimchi recipe so we can attempt the re-make the kimchi when we return to our home countries. She did go on to tell us though that when you make kimchi you aren’t limited to only those 3 core ingredients. You can throw in whatever you like.
The teacher was great! She not only spoke Korean and English. She was also fluent in Japanese, and could speak Chinese as well, though she had some trouble with the tones. She would guide us through the steps and take pictures constantly.
**NOTE** the kimchi we made was a small individual sized-kimchi. So my seasonings are measured out for ~ 1/2 of a head of cabbage, and 3” thick radish cut in half.
Step 1: Cutting the ingredients.
Start by cutting the radish width-wise into slivers ~2mm in thickness. Stagger your slices and jullian(DC) cut into 1mm pieces.
Next, cut the spring onion and chives into 3cm lengths.
Put all of the cut pieces into the bowl and prepare the seasonings.
Step 2: Seasoning
Add 3 teaspoons of gochu karn and 1 teaspoon of the other 6 ingredients. If you can’t find fish sauce or salted shrimp you can simply use salt.
Step 3: Mix
Time to dawn those sexy plastic gloves! Because of the red pepper powder, if you try to mix this with your bare hands, chances are you’re going to have a burning sensation running through your fingers. Mix the lot until everything is well mixed and you have a bit of excess liquid.
Step 4: Preparing the cabbage.
Because our cabbage came already salted, we didn’t have to worry about making the brine and salting our own cabbage. If you’re to make this at home though, you’re going to have to let your cabbage sit in a pot of salted water (~15% salt) for 6-8 hours (in the summer) or 8-12 hours (in the winter). Once your cabbage has been sitting in the brine, you need to rinse it under running water 2-3 times and let it sit for ~2 hours in a coriander to drain. The seonsaengnim was very clear that you should never squeeze out the excess water.
Step 5: Adding the mixture to the cabbage.
With one hand, lift up your cabbage so that only one leaf is still lying down. Now, with your sexy gloves, take a handful of your mixture and rub it over the green part of the leaf. You won’t need to leave any of the mixture on that part of the leaf because it’s so thin. Pat down the mixture over the thicker white part of the cabbage leave and pull down the next leaf and repeat the process until all the leafs are rubbed and coated in the kimchi mix.
Step 6: Fermenting
Woo! You’re 98% done making kimchi! All that’s left is to let your little bundle sit in the fridge for 3-4 days to ferment and then it’s good to eat! Your kimchi will be good for ~1 month.
I was pleasantly surprised by the class! It made kimchi-making seem like a breeze. I was also super happy during the taste test. My attempt this time was lacking any sign of over powering spiciness of the last batch!
After we had wrapped all of our kimchi into plastic bags and removed as much air as possible, Sang-mi placed them into thick bags and double sealed them so they could be safe for air travel.
After the class was done, we got to play dress up! At the back of the classroom there was a rack filled with dozens of different hanbok. Sang-mi picked out one for each of us to wear. I got a lovely deep blue and red hanbok to wear.
Woo for funny props!