|▲ “I learned to make many Korean dishes,” said Oknari from Cambodia about the multicultural cooking classes in Hagwi, Jeju City. Photo byKim Jinmi
The spicy fragrance of sesame oil, the aromatic scent of oyster mushroom and the colors of red and yellow peppers were dancing in the pan. The Vietnamese, Cambodian and Korean languages mix in with the aroma filling the room.
The teacher calls them a little closer. The women from the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam all follow the teacher’s instructions on how to season vegetables. The recipe for the day was oyster mushroom stir-fry.
The teacher asks them, “If the vege-table’s color is white, which one do we add, salt or soy sauce?” The answer was not forthcoming. She offered the answer: “If the vegetable is white, we add salt because it doesn’t spoil the vegetable’s white color.” They gave a slight nod of acknowledgement.
This cooking class opened on Oct. 8 and will run twice a week for two months at the International Family Culture Center (IFCC), Hagwi-ri, Jeju City. The class was organized by Seolmundae Women’s Center and the IFCC.
Mybelle, from the Philippines, said, “I have been in Jeju six months. My husband said my Korean food is good. He is very happy because I have already learned some Korean foods.”
International wives often learn Korean cooking from their Korean mothers-in-law. However, it is sometimes difficult to remember the correct ingredient ratios and procedure when cooking alone. In this cooking class, they can cook alongside their teacher to perfect their skills.
“I used to learn Korean foods from my mother-in-law … I have been in Jeju for five years now. Through attending this class, I learned to make many Korean dishes,” said Oknari from Cambodia.
Chaoramte from Vietnam has a similar story.
“I have been here for five years. However, I don’t know many Korean dishes. Here I can learn properly,” she said. Chaoramte says her husband is more than happy with her sundubujjigae [spicy tofu soup] and she likes the fact that recipes use simple, healthy ingredients. “We use different seasonings and artificial flavors in Vietnamese foods, but in this class, we don’t put in any,” she added.
In addition to the simple recipes, like oyster mushroom stir-fry, there were also some more difficult ones.
“It is difficult to cook Korean dishes, especially making kimchi because there are many steps in the process ... This is my second time to attend this class … It seems vegetables are important in Korean cuisine,” said Nariye from the Philippines who had only arrived on Jeju a month ago.
Cambodian Oknari said she has been really helped by the variety of the cooking, saying that her favorite is the japchae, the mixed dish with boiled bean, stir-fried vegetables, and shredded meat. “The most difficult recipe was galbijjim (beef-rib stew) because we need to add all sorts of spices and various fruits.” Oknari then smiled shyly, adding, “I used to cook just fried eggs, fried fish and soybean paste soup before.”
As the students were working on their recipes, the teacher told me that the location of the class is important for multicultural families. Seolmunda Women’s Center is located in Shin Jeju, far from where many international wives reside in Hagwi-ri, and where this class is held, making it easier to attend.
The teacher also emphasized the practical usefulness of the class. “I try to teach them simple recipes with common ingredients collected from their kitchen gardens, so they can easily make them at home ... They are responding well to this cooking class.”
The sparkling eyes and cooking flames of the class had already burned away the worries of what to cook for the evening’s dinner when they returned home.
Director Kim Yeongyoon of Sulmundae Women’s Culture Center says the center will expand to include more classes in the future so more citizens can participate.