Knowing my interest in world foods, my sister in law gave me a gift card to the Institute for Culinary Education. Around since 1975, their notable alumni include Marc Murphy of Chopped and Gail Simmons from Top Chef. Reflecting the area’s diversity, the school offers scores of recreational classes ranging from the expected (Italian, French) to Thai, Indian and even Puerto Rican. Apologies for the crappy pictures. I’ll soon be upgrading a phone with a better camera.
“The Essentials of Korean Cooking” stuck out since I enjoy bibimbap (rice bowls with all kinds of toppings), kimchi (fermented spicy cabbage) and the previously blogged about Dak Dori Tang (spicy chicken stew). After reporting to the receptionist we affixed name tags and took the elevator to the 14th floor (technically the 13th floor). The classroom was fairly large and had wall to wall ovens, cookware and ingredients.
There were a total of eleven students (it wasn’t sold out). The instructor, Renee Marton has been with the school for nearly 10 years. Prior to that she was a chef in restaurants for 17 years. Initially, we were asked to introduce ourselves, why the interest in Korean cooking and if it was our first time at ICE. The answers varied. One student said she ate it all the time so she might as well learn how to make it. Another was a chef who knew “how to make most foods” but little about Korean. There was even a women in town from Chicago with her in-laws and decided to take a class. Several were repeat ICE customers which says quite a bit since there are several competing schools.
Chef Marton explained that the basis for many Korean dishes is chili paste, sesame oil, soy sauce and garlic. She then demonstrated how to cut Napa cabbage (used in kimchi) and leeks. We were assigned into teams and. My team of 4 was tasked with making kimchi, seasoned cucumbers, scallion pancakes, and bibimbap. I worked with a retired electrical engineer named Phil, who often cooked Chinese food but wasn’t extremely familiar with Korean.
Initially, it was a little chaotic. I wasn’t sure where to find pots, pans, cups since it was a whole lot larger than my home kitchen. The instructor pointed me in the right direction and slowly we got started. We prepped the seasoned cucumbers which is served atop bibimbap. It was relatively easy. We chopped, salted and squeezed the water out of the cucumbers. It was then sauteed for a few minutes with sesame oil and garnished with sesame seeds. Note: Sesame seeds were amazing after being toasted in the oven for a 7 minutes. The second dish was the scallion pancake which involved a simple batter, scallops, green onions and shrimp. After the batter rested for about 30 minutes, we shallow fried it on the stove top.
The classes started at 6pm and ran till 10:30. All the groups were finishing up around 9:30. The final spread looked great. The “quick” kimchi was fresh and crispy. My favorite was the bibimbap because it was colorful with cucumbers, mung bean sprouts and carrots on top; additionally, the sesame oil aroma filled the room. Other highlights included the marinated bulgogi meat.
The list of dishes/toppings included:
- Seasoned Bean Sprouts (Kong Namul)
- Seasoned Cucumbers with Sesame Seeds (Oi Bokkum Namul)
- Quick Kimchi
- Miso Soup with Spinach and Bean Sprouts (Sigeumchi Kongnamul Doenjang Guk)
- Dumplings (Mandu)
- Chicken Wings (Dak Gangjung)
- Seafood Pancakes (Haemul Pa Jeon)
- Barbecued Beef Short Ribs (Sokalbi Gui)
- Seasoned Sliced Beef (Bulgogi)
- Seasoned Vegetable Rice Bowl (Bibimbap)
- New Potatoes with Roasted Sesame Seeds (Haetgamja Jorim)
At the end we plated the food buffet style. We sat and discussed our favorites. I’m proud to say that the scallion pancakes were devoured quickly. Available to have along with dinner was wine and soju. I loved taking this class overall. The teacher was great, the class well- constructed, and the price reasonable. To show what I learned, I’ll be making bibimbap this week.