Thursday, 22 May 2014

Cooking classes in Seoul, South Korea

I attended a private cooking lesson while I was in Seoul at the Food & Culture Academy.

The school is located 800m from the Gyeongbokgung subway station. The directions on the website are very clear apart from the very end... I found the cafe and apparently the building is "right there". It's not... it's a few doors down and around the corner. I had left myself plenty of time so even with backtracking and trying to find the entrance, I was still 15 minutes early.

This is the entrance you should look for
There is a sign on the door but it's hard to miss when the door is open
 The website has a schedule and a menu but unlike other schools, the schedule doesn't have timetabled classes. Instead it tells you when an English language cooking class is available and when a class delivered in Japanese is available. You fill out a web form requesting your desired time and the dishes you'd like to learn to make. The menu list is very comprehensive and after much deliberation, I selected Cabbage Kimchi and Yukgaejang (a spicy beef soup).

As I was doing the class alone, I had an extra fee of 10,000W (approx $10AUD).  The total cost was 85,000W (approx $85) which is amazing value for a cooking class but crazy cheap for a private one-on-one class!

My lesson started with Jae but 2 minutes in, Jae spoke with Ellie and left. Apparently she was feeling unwell. (Thankfully I didn't get sick, as she had done quite a bit of the food prep for my dishes).
Ellie was delightful. A Curtin University alumni who had studied in Perth during the 90s. Upon returning to Korea, she found herself in a Marketing and PR role for a hotel. Much of her work was with restaurant and chef promotion which she really enjoyed. She then went to culinary school and now (and for the past 10 years) has worked at the F&C Academy teaching, consulting and food styling.

Yukgaejang (spicy beef soup)
This soup is rarely found in restaurants in Korea but can be found in many homes. The dish is usually made using beef brisket but the recipe has been adapted for the purpose of the class and to make it a quick and easy dish for home cooking.

The ingredients

Spices, chilli, oil, garlic

The finished product

It was a really simple dish to make with ingredients that you would be able to find at your Asian or Korean supermarket.


In traditional times, there were over 200 varieties of kimchi. These days there are around 30. Kimchi varies throughout Korea because of climate. Kimchi along the coast, in areas like Busan is much spicier and salty;  while kimchi in North Korea is white and quite bland in comparison to the red kimchi most people would be familiar with.
Cucumber kimchi and cabbage kimchi
Kimchi making is a two step process.

Firstly, the cabbage must be soaked in salt water for a day (or overnight). It is then thoroughly washed and salted (again) and the kimchi marinade is added.

After it has been folded, it is stored in an air tight container at room temperature for a day or two (depending on the weather) and then put in the fridge. As kimchi matures, it gets a sour taste. Sour kimchi is best used for dished like Kimchi Jeggae and Kimchi Fried Rice.

My kimchi
The final product

After the cooking was over, I got to eat the meal I'd prepared while my kimchi was vacuum sealed for me to be able to take home. I was also presented with a certificate and the recipes that I had made. Ellie also gave me the recipe for the delicious cucumber kimchi.

The cooking class was a really fun way to spend a few hours in Seoul and although it's quite far from many of the tourist hotel areas like Itaewon, Gangnam and Hongdae - it is walking distance to tourist spots like the Blue House (where the President lives), Gyeongbokgung Palace and Insadong.

After the class, I walked through Gyeongbokgung Palace and then walked around Insadong before meeting friends at the Jogyesa Temple to see the lanterns for the Lotus Lantern Festival.

Gyeongbokgung Palace


 The streets of Insadong 

 Lotus Lantern Festival at Jogyesa Temple in Insadong


Traditional tea house in Insadong 

Later that night at the Lotus Lantern Festival at Jogyesa Temple in Insadong



  1. Great post and such gorgeous pics Pia! Xxx

    1. Thanks Martine! Was such an enjoyable day! One of my favourites :)

      Ps -
      Just realised that my editing hadn't saved so have done a quick blitz and fixed the glaring ones. Sorry if it was weird to decipher.

  2. I am very pleased to read your post! I also had such a great time cooking with you, Pia!! Gamsahamnida!!! :)