What's Cooking in... Seoul

By Sandra Scott
This item appears on page 54 of the April 2016 issue.
John Scott with (left) Dak Dori Tang and (right) Mushroom Japchae (see Feb. ’14, pg. 53) ready to serve. Photo by Sandra Scott

So many recipes can be found in cookbooks, which are some of the most popular-selling books, and we all have family recipes. However, when I’m looking for something different to make, I refer to recipes from the cooking classes that my husband, John, and I have taken in a variety of countries. 

I like the fact that we completed each recipe under supervision and have taste-tested the result. Also, we know the recipe is ethnically authentic because the class was taught by a local chef in the country we were visiting. An added benefit is getting to relive our trip when making the dish at home.

When John and I were in Seoul, Korea, in March 2013, we took a cooking class at O’ngo Food Communications (Nagwon-dong 55-1, 3rd floor, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea; phone +82 2 3446 1607, www.ongo food.com) for $65 per person. 

We made several dishes, including a spicy chicken stew. The teacher/chef, Hyejin Kim, said it was the recipe that most people wanted to learn how to make. 

There was another couple in our cooking class, which made the class more enjoyable, and when the class was finished we all dined together on what we had made. The chef joined us, and we discussed Korean table etiquette.

Politeness and respect of elders is very important to Koreans. Chef Kim said that while manners have relaxed in Korea, just as they have elsewhere, many families try to retain the old ways. 

Korean meals consist of several dishes placed on the table “family style,” to be shared by everyone. The oldest person sits down first, then everyone else may sit. Eating begins when the oldest person picks up his or her chopsticks. Guests should try to eat at the same pace as the oldest person. 

When offered an alcoholic drink, it is considered impolite to refuse, especially if it’s offered by an elder. If you do not want more to drink, do not empty your glass/cup. 

When offered more food, and if you would like more, decline twice and then accept the third time it is offered. Leave a little food on your plate at the end of the meal; this indicates that the host has provided enough to eat. There is no point in saving room for dessert because it is not commonly served after a meal. 

Koreans eat quietly, saving discussion for after dinner. 

Sandra Scott can be reached by email c/o ITN.

Dak Dori Tang
(Korean Spicy Chicken Stew)
1½-2 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (drumsticks, breasts and/or wings)
2-3 onions, cut in quarters
4-6 potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into about 1-inch pieces
2 scallions, cut into 1-inch-long pieces
1-2 tbsp oil (enough to cover the bottom of the cooking pot)
1 tbsp chili sauce
½ tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp chili powder
½ tbsp rice wine
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
½ tbsp sugar
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tsp sesame seeds, crushed
1-2 cups of water
Cut all the vegetables and set them aside. Mix all sauce ingredients (except the water) and set aside. Heat oil in cooking pot (or use a crockpot) on medium for 3 to 4 minutes. Add vegetables and chicken slowly, being careful that the oil doesn’t spatter. Sear meat for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sauce mixture and water and bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium and cook about 1½ to 2 hours or until all ingredients are cooked and the sauce has thickened. Serve with rice.