Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Tourist Diary with Hitchhikinginheels

Hi everyone, welcome to the first in a series of 'A Tourist Diary with Hitchhikinginheels'! 

We are Janine & Janice aka Hitchhikinginheels.  You can find us at 
Check us out and follow our journey as we travel the globe one heel at a time! 

Today we took a stroll around Seoul in Gyeonbokgung area, close to the cultural heart of the city and the very popular Insadong and Samcheongdong. This is, in my opinion the most beautiful area of the city and you could easily get lost in the hustle and bustle of the market stalls, tea houses and quirky streets of Bukchon Hanok Village.

We had the pleasure of taking part in a Traditional Korean Cooking Class. Here's how it went! 

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Day 1 ~ Making Haemul Pajeon

When we first arrived in Korea and were introduced to the Korean palate, I have to say it took a while to adjust. We had previously travelled around South East Asia and were comparing the food with the curries of India, the pho of Vietnam and Laos and the delicious flavours of Thailand and Malaysia. In my opinion, they are hard to beat so you can understand why our initial reactions to the cultural foods of Korea were less than enthusiastic. 

That perspective has changed dramatically since, and we have grown to love and appreciate Korean food in it's own right. The simple flavours, the generous side dishes, the one-pot-wonders, all add to the zest that is Korean Food Culture. Not only has my own spice intolerance surpassed it's limits, but I have learned to adore kimchi, crave rice, embrace soju and fall in love with the ever changing food scene in Seoul.

It's no surprise then that when we were presented with the opportunity to take part in a Traditional Korean Cooking Class, we jumped at the chance.

Located in the heart of Seoul's traditional culture zone, the "Food and Culture Academy" offer numerous classes to suit all needs.  Choose your dish or dishes, take a class on your own or with a group and learn all you need to know about Korean Cooking from the very talented and humble host Kim, Soo Jin.

Having taught classes for over 30 years and interacting with locals, expats and tourists for more than 15 years through the academy, Soo Jin has mastered the art of making cooking look effortlessly easy.  

We enjoy cooking at home and we try our best to create Korea's staple dishes as best we can.  We especially like cooking Pajeon, so for the class we decided on the popular dish "Haemul Pajeon".   For anyone unfamiliar with the Korean culture or the local dishes, this simply translates as' Seafood Pancake ".

It is a quite simple and inexpensive dish to cook but for some reason we could never quite capture the flavours of that in a Korean restaurant or when cooked by a local.   This was our chance to perfect it and learn from the professionals.

We joined a group of Singaporean Tourists and the class lasted around 45 minutes to an hour. 
We used simple ingredients like scallions, shrimp, squid, oysters, clams, green pepper, red pepper, cabbage and vegetable oil.   

Once slicing all the ingredients finely and mixing it in the batter mix with one egg and water it was simply a matter of frying it off in the pan. Be sure to add enough oil for that crispy golden texture that makes the pajeon delicious! A few flips of the pancake and your haemul pajeon will be good to go. Best eaten with chopsticks and soy sauce for that authentic feel!

We had lots of time to enjoy our pajeon and the barley tea it was served with (no makkoli in sight!) and relish in our triumphant cooking experience. 

Soo Jin was very obliging, filling us in on a little history behind the academy and some interesting facts about "Pajeon".

Originally a working class dish, pajeon varried depending on region, which continues to this day. The mountain villagers added potato to make 'Gamja jeon'.   While the seaside town's mixed the catch of the day from the local shores, known today as haemul pajeon . Gangwon province worked with their locally grown produce cabbage kimchi adding and rolling it into a crepe form. This has now filtered through the country and is eaten in a restaurant's and homes alike.

Kim went on to describe how pajeon is now still an inexpensive dish cooked and served throughout Korea using the readily available batter pancake mix. This was not the case in traditional days however when flour was expensive and difficult to source. The method for making pajeon was to use rice powder or starch making it more cost effective due to the abundance of rice paddies across the country.

The market has developed and Korean's have taken a modern approach to pajeon.  With over 100 variations of the dish and makkoli to accompany it, it's no wonder it still remains very much part of the daily cuisine here in Korea.

Do not be disappointed if you can not find the traditional mix jeon when you leave Korea. Soo Jin assured us that you can supplement it with plain flour and seasoning for that tasty familiar replica.  

I would definitely recommend a class if you are a tourist or simply an expat wanting to make the most of your time here in Seoul and learn the culture. We had a great time and it definitely made ​​our Sunday stroll around Seoul much more enjoyable.

To book a class simply visit their website on:  or email: or you can always give them a call on: 010-2915-9226 for more specific questions!

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