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Foreign residents learn about K-food

“What does ‘neobiani’ mean?”
“Neobiani means thinly sliced grilled beef seasoned with soy sauce.”

Foreign participants listen to Yoon Sook-ja (center right), director of the Institute of Traditional Korean Food, explaining Korean royal court cuisine “neobiani” during a Korean food experience program titled Have you ever K-food on May 24 (photo: Jeon Han).

Foreign participants listen to Yoon Sook-ja (center right), director of the Institute of Traditional Korean Food, explaining Korean royal court cuisine “neobiani” during a Korean food experience program titled Have you ever K-food on May 24 (photo: Jeon Han).


That was one of so many questions from a 60-or-something female participant at a Korean food-making program titled Have you ever K-Food hosted by The Institute of Traditional Korean Food on May 24.

The hands-on program, running on a regular basis until October, will offer foreign residents an opportunity to “look” around Korea’s best tourist destinations, and “cook” and “eat” a variety of traditional Korean foods.

Those participants in the May 24 program had a chance to look around Changdeokgung, one of the five grand palaces of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) early in the day, and move on to a cooking class where they, in person, made neobiani, one of the Joseon era’s royal court foods, and tasted their own results.

Betty Williams, an American participant uses her chopsticks on a piece of neobiani she made during the cooking class on May 24 (photo: Jeon Han).

Betty Williams, an American participant uses her chopsticks on a piece of neobiani she made during the cooking class on May 24 (photo: Jeon Han).


The institute will run the regular program under the theme “Look and Cook” for foreigners residing in Korea starting from May until October. From May to June, the program titled “K-Palace” will lead the participants to the main palaces of the Joseon Dynasty including Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, and Changgyeonggung, where they will also explore Korea’s royal court cuisine, by cooking and eating.

The next program, “K-Museum” running from July to August, will walk selected participants through Korea’s representative museums including the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History, Bukchon Museum, and the National Palace Museum of Korea, where they learn about invigorating foods which help one stand the sizzling summer heat.

A September-to-October program will offer an opportunity to go shopping and taste various street foods at traditional markets including Gwangjang Market, Namdaemun Market, and the food alley located in Sindang-dong known for tteokbokki (sliced rice cakes seasoned with a special sauce).

During a hands-on cooking class held on May 24, the foreign participants smile, holding a plate of neobiani they cooked (photo: Jeon Han)

During a hands-on cooking class held on May 24, the foreign participants smile, holding a plate of neobiani they cooked (photo: Jeon Han)


In addition, there will be a series of Korean food experience programs themed with kimchi on the fourth Friday of the month from May to October as well. The first program will be held at Namsangol Hanok Village in Jung District, central Seoul.

Through this regular program, various kinds of kimchi made of ingredients including cabbages, cucumbers, bok choy (Chinese cabbage), and chili peppers are set to be introduced. Those participating in the program will make kimchi in person and are allowed to pack and take home their kimchi.

The host organization will also produce and distribute the video footage introducing “Korea’s 12 Best Foods” in three languages (English, Japanese, and Chinese) for foreigners interested in Korean food.

The Institute of Traditional Korean Food holds the first class to introduce neobiani as part of Have you ever K-food, a Korean food experience program running until October (photo: Jeon Han).

The Institute of Traditional Korean Food holds the first class to introduce neobiani as part of Have you ever K-food, a Korean food experience program running until October (photo: Jeon Han).


For registration, please visit the website (www.kfr.or.kr) and fill out the application form. The number of participants for each program is limited to only ten.

Registration

1) The application form should be submitted for registration.
- You can download the application form at www.kfr.or.kr.
- Submit the completed application form via e-mail to tradicook@naver.com.
- Selected participants will be announced individually.
2) One person can apply for only one program, based on the menu and the date, and will be registered in order of application.
* Contact: 02-708-0746

□ Interview with Yoon Sook-ja, director of the Institute of Traditional Korean Food

Yoon Sook-ja, director of the Institute of Traditional Korean Food, has been credited with her contributions to studying and promoting traditional Korean food. Born in Kaesong in Hwanghaebuk-do (North Hwanghae Province) in southern North Korea in 1948, she spent her childhood with her extended family. All the learning about how to make Kaesong foods from her mother has made her what is now called “the person who makes food from the heart.” Yoon got her Master’s degree in Food and Nutrition at Sookmyung Women’s University and went on to take her doctoral course in Food and Nutrition at Dankook University. After graduation, she served as the associate professor of Traditional Cookery at Baewha Women’s University. She is now the head of the Institute of Traditional Korean Food established in 1998.

Yoon Sook-ja, director of the Institute of Traditional Korean Food, gives an explanation in an interview with Korea.net about Korean food and the program “Have you ever K-food” (photo: Jeon Han).

Yoon Sook-ja, director of the Institute of Traditional Korean Food, gives an explanation in an interview with Korea.net about Korean food and the program “Have you ever K-food” (photo: Jeon Han).


- What made you use Korean food as a means of communicating with other countries all around the world?

I’ve been teaching about Korea’s royal court cuisine at Baewha Women’s University. Whenever I was overseas, I found it embarrassing to know that there were not many books about Korean food available at bookstores, whereas there was a diverse selection of materials introducing foods of other countries. Then I thought that it was more important to promote Korean food to as many from all around the world as possible, than to just teach at the university. That’s why I decided to write “The Beauty of Korean Food: With 100 Best-Loved Recipes." The book has been published in eight languages including English, Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish over the last decade.

- What do you think is the most fascinating thing about Korean food?

Korean food is good for health as it is mainly made of natural, healthy ingredients such as seasonal vegetables and fruits. And such fermented foods as soy sauce, doenjang (soybean paste), gochujang (red pepper paste), and kimchi are rich in nutrients, too. The combination of the five colors (green, red, yellow, white, and black) in Korean food is also pleasing on the eye. The mere sight of foods mixed with vegetables in various colors such as gujeolpan (dish consisting of nine delicacies on a plate), sinseollo (royal court cuisine consisting of meatballs, diverse vegetables, and mushrooms cooked in a rich broth), and japchae (dish made from sweet potato noodles mixed with various vegetables including carrots, onion, and spinach). It has long been believed that the five colors have much to do with the health of internal organs. The green color is related to the liver, the red to the heart, the yellow to the stomach, the white to the lungs, and the black to the kidneys. As the old saying goes, “Good meals will keep you healthy.” Korean foods full of healthy ingredients keep the doctor away. Finally, Korean food holds the cook’s philosophy, sincerity, and consideration for the eater.

- What does Korea’s royal court cuisine mean to us?

I think such traditional culinary relics should reach more people, instead of merely sitting at a museum.
A book about dietary therapy published in 1460 during the Joseon Dynasty clearly indicates what to eat before, during, and after pregnancy when healthy, balanced diets are more important than ever.

Those foods introduced in the book are possible to make even with ingredients we can obtain these days. It is very meaningful for us to bring back and introduce such traditional and historical foods enshrined in our ancestors’ wisdom and dignity.

By Wi Tack-whan
Translated by Sohn Ji-ae
whan23@korea.kr

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