October 15, 2006

Exploring the kitchen...in Korean

Having spent lots of time exploring Korean cuisine and culture with Jo and his family recently has got me caught up in an exciting whirlwind of "Information-Overload!" with all things Korean. I was invited over for lunch this afternoon and Jo was very thoughtful to have mentioned to his mom about my interest in cooking and requested for her to involve me in the "lunch-making" process. She doesn't speak English too fluently, but was happy to show me around. As soon I stepped into the kitchen and she began pointing out ingredients, kitchen utensils and tools; the language barrier disappeared in a blink. We were communicating in universal culinary terms we both understood well.She gracefully butterflied several fresh tiger prawns and allowed me to dust them in flour as we prepared tempura prawns, Korean seafood "pancake" Hae-Mul Pa Jeon with mussels and a traditional spicy zucchini dish stirfried in birdeye chillies, green onions and garlic. (I intend to replicate these dishes in my own kitchen very soon; so watch out for new Korean recipes everyone) *grin*
I offered to help her at the stove with the deep-frying but she told me to stand back so as not to burn myself with the hot bubbling oil. I didn't think she was convinced that a young girl like myself actually spends most of her time cooking in the kitchen until I showed her my battered and bruised hands from daily "accidents" and shear carelessness. She laughed and shook her head but I bet she understood how "kitchen-scars" are common on hands working around sharp knives and stove tops. I'm almost always easily amused by different languages spoken, cultural traditions and foreign food ethics. My shiny pair of metal chopsticks got me all excited! *laughs*(us Chinese have boring wooden ones). "Pap" steamed rice was scooped into bowls for everyone at the table and a range of tiny Korean side dishes referred to as Banchan were introduced to me.
This included Shi-Geum-Chi (seasoned spinach), Seasoned seaweed salad and a bowl of Kimchee seasoned Korean radish. Each small dish of Banchan was unique and intriguing. I smelt and savored a little of each with my pretty pair of chopsticks as I studied the many different combinations of flavors with each mouthful. She could tell I loved the spinach as I devoured almost the entire bowl on my own! *blush*

Watching her cook was delightful. She spoke to me about her experience with food, dining out, cooking for the family and various formalities in a Korean kitchen as she conveyed to me her knowledge of Korean cuisine. We had a brief discussion on common Korean ingredients and special condiments usually found in Korean cooking.
I was intrigued by the many different Korean products I was oblivious to in the past and she was very patient with my endless questions on differences between Japanese and Korean cuisine, why specific salts, rice and oils are used and the cooking techniques commonly applied in Korean dishes. Its amazing how much I learnt in such a short period of time with such limited words being spoken in English. Most of our conversation involved pointing, basic descriptions and nodding or squinting of brows but most of everything we spoke about, I understood and appreciate.Lunch was fantastic and conversation at the table was fascinating and educational. I hope to be learning lots more from her soon. I'll probably bake her a cake the next time I'm over to bribe coax her into showing me around her kitchen more often! *sneaky grin* She even packed delicious freshly made Pa jeon for me to bring home to Pinky and Amrit! *sigh* so very generous of her.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I loved the Korean pancake very much and can't wait for your version..

I love Korean dishes like Bulgogi, pork rib soup and cold noodles very much when I visited Seoul last month...Hope to see more Korean recipes in your blog in the future.

Your blog bring back memories when me and my housemate used to cook during our uni days in Melbourne. However, there were no blog to keep all the recipes.So, enjoy this lifestyle/ experince as it was the 2nd most happiest time of my life.

I enjoyed your blog very much and "cowtau" to your creativity and initiative.

TehSee

Brilynn said...

What a great lunch! I'm jealous!

QuaVadis said...

Korean food aint exactly my cup of tea, guess everyone has their taste buds tuned to certain food groups and korean is not really one of them..but u made it sound very interesting..have a great week ahead

the yUmMie dUmMieS said...

Hi Su yin!
Those korean food looks good and I want to compliment your site again. Its really a very nice site with innovative cakes and its no wonder your site is so popular! Keep it up! :)

Helen (AugustusGloop) said...

Wow. Looking from a Mum is the best way I think. And I love pajeon. Did she use frozen baby mussels?

na said...

What a gorgeous interpretation Su-Yin! I loved the write up and mention of the fact that you spoke between nods and broken english. It reminds me of the period in my life where my head chef was French and too spoke with facial expressions. You learn very quickly without a common language, food speaks its own language and the beauty of it is you dont need words!

<3

Carol said...

Sounds like a delicious meal! Yummy!