Cooking Classes at the Institute for Royal Court Cuisine

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hey everyone, if you are looking for some Korean Cooking Classes, there is one over at the Institute for Royal Court Cuisine next week. I'm going to try and make it. Here is an article written by Hwang Hye Jung about the classes. I took the photos.  This article is also over at the Seoul Tourism Website. If you can do me a favor, please leave a comment under their article at this link. They sponsor me.








Bossam
Here is the Teacher
Boiling Rice Cakes
Turnip Kimchi
Our finished Bossam

Cooking Classes at the Institute for Royal Court Cuisine
written by Hwang Hye Jung
photographs by Daniel Gray

Okay, be honest now: how many of you have fantasized about being a palace maid after watching the Korean Drama: Dae Jang Geum? I'll be the first to confess that I have--feel free to laugh. Now would you still snicker when I tell you there is actually a chance for this experience?
First, relax- it's the experience minus the uniform and headdress. We all know it's the cooking that made the whole phenomenon called Dae Jang Geum, and now there is an opportunity to try your hand at making these royal dishes. The Institute of Royal Cuisine (Gung Jung Eum Sik Yeon Gu Won) in Seoul, run by Dr. Han Bok Ryeo-food advisor to the famed series- is now offering classes in English.

It is not for frivolous reasons that the Korean government designated Chosun Dynasty Royal Cuisine as Korea's Intangible Cultural Asset no. 38.
During the days of Chosun Korea, palace maids took almost thirty years of training to become a Sang Gung, equivalent to what we would call today a real chef.
Dr. Han's mother, the late Prof. Hwang Hye Sung, was instrumental in keeping the art of Chosun Royal Cuisine alive by arranging for Han Hui Sung Sang Gung, one of the last surviving royal chefs, to teach at Sookmyung Women's University. After Han Sang Gung and her mother Prof. Hwang, Dr. Han was designated as the third generation holder of upholding the traditions of this art and cuisine.

It's easy to talk about cooking with love; but when Dr. Han talks about cooking with love, she refers to the highest spirit of the palace chefs: being a servant of the court they had nothing but the well-being of the royal house----hence of the whole nation----on their minds.
And according to Dr. Han, the essence of Korean flavours come from the maker's finger-tips. When you look at the sheer intricacy of some royal dishes, and imagine the hours spent on them before the dawn of modern machines, you will understand the meaning of the two words "heart" 心 and "sincerity" 誠.

However, lest you be intimidated, let me state here from the start: no experience necessary. Moreover, not everything you will learn here are of the utmost intricacy. Aside from visually-stunning pieces of art like Gu Jeol Pan (nine-sectioned platter), you will also learn popular home fare like Kimchi Jigae, Duenjang Jigae (soy bean paste soup), irresistible comfort food like Kalbi Jjim (beef ribs stew), and, of course, the indispensable Kimchi-making class!
Also do not expect the atmosphere of the class to be anywhere near Jane Eyre-like: the Hanbok-clad instructors are very friendly and approachable, Yi Won Il, a youthful, charming graduate of the institute who interprets the classes, speaks fluent English. Classes normally run on Saturdays from 10am-1pm, the typical run of the class is one hour of demonstration, one hour of hands-on practicum, plus one hour of sit-down lunch and clean-up. I must say this is a glorious way to spend a Saturday morning, especially with the leaves falling outside the paper-framed windows as you cook.

As of now, there is an ongoing session that ends November 28th, so the Institute is still taking students for three more sessions. Check out the Institute's website at www.food.co.kr, or call them at 02.3673.1122, ask for Yi Won Il or Yi Eun Kyung, who both speak fluent English.
If you can't make it this fall, there should be a new session starting next spring. The English classes have been running twice a year since last year. Classes run usually for nine weeks, one has to attend about 7 to get a certificate. Courses are quite flexible, one can register for individual classes as well, fees are very reasonable.

So come with me on this journey of eye-popping, mind-elevating, not to mention mouth-watering edification. Be the first westerners to know Korea's royal secrets, enter the Dojang of Royal Cuisine!

Additional info:
The Institute of Royal Cuisine (Gung Jung Eum Sik Yeon Gu Won) is located behind Changdeokgung, in one of the alleyways of traditional houses near the historic Bukchon Hanok district. Check out their website at www.food.co.kr, click on the English version and you'll get most of the info you need.

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