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Ms. Kim Nasarima, Ms. Hirom Nakamura, and Ms. Marisa Bitas came from different countries to marry Korean men: Ms. Kim Nasarima from Uttaradit in Thailand, Ms. Hirom Nakamura from Saitama in Japan, and Ms. Marisa Bitas from Bohol in the Philippines. But now, on settling in Korea, they are attending a cooking class offered by the Geumcheon Volunteer Service Center for foreigners resident in Korea to learn how to make Korean food.

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The Center helps non-Koreans by rendering useful services like teaching how to use a sewing machine, cooking classes, and so on. After learning how to make ‘Mitbanchan’ (assorted side dishes) in the cooking class last year, foreign housewives are learning how to make traditional Korean ‘Tteok’ (rice cake) and traditional Korean teas on Tuesdays. Recently they have been learning to make ‘Hobaktteok’ (pumpkin rice cake) and ‘Dunggeulre’ (Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum) tea.

One of the housewives attending the class, Ms. Kim Nasarima, is very interested in Korean food and learning how to make it not only from the class but also from Korean friends, or by looking up information on the Internet. Although she came to Korea just a year and a half ago, she can now make various Korean dishes like ‘Tang’ (soup) using fish, ‘Miyeokguk’ (brown seaweed soup), and ‘Gamjajeon’(pan-fried grated potato pancake). Nasarima thinks that Korean food and Thai food have some similar qualities in common, especially freshness and spiciness, but she points out that the Korean diet use more raw dishes.

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Nasarima says: “I like ‘Yangnyeom-gejang’ (seasoned crabs) for its freshness and spiciness and ‘Doenjang-jjigae’ (soybean paste stew) which is similar to Thai cuisine that uses spices and a lot of vegetables.” And she said she has been impressed when she goes to Korean restaurants and sees ‘Bokkeumbap’ (fried rice) being made after the main ‘Jjim’ (braised dish) or ‘Jeongol’(hot pot) is finished. Narima says that Thailand does not have anything similar to the Bokkeumbap-making food culture. “If Korea wants to spread its unique food culture it can hold cultural events and exhibits in local areas as well as big cities like Bankok,” Nasarima added.

In comparison with Nasarima, a relatively veteran housewife, Ms. Hirom Nakamura, came to Korea from Japan seven years ago and is also enthusiastic about making Korean dishes. She said that participating in the class has given her the opportunity to meet many foreign wives. And last year, through attending the Mitbanchan-making class, she is now a proficient cook of Korean side dishes at home.

Hirom thinks that Korean food is characterized by “mothers’ ‘Sonmat,’” which means that it is homemade taking much time and elaborate effort on the part of housewives. In comparison, “In Japan,” she says, “we embrace various kinds of food from other countries; and there’s no equivalent to the concept of the Sonmat,” she said. Hirom continued saying that many Japanese - especially women of course - became interested in Korean food after the Korean drama ‘Dae-Jang-Geum’ (A Jewel in the Palace) was a big hit. Since this success Korean dishes like ‘Samgyetang’ (ginseng chicken soup) and ‘Bibimbap’ (rice mixed with vegetables and beef) have been getting popular among Japanese. She pointed out: “I think to spread Korean cuisine in Japan, or other countries, many cultural events should accompany food promotion and, in this regard, the role of media is very important.”

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Beside Hirom, Marisa Bitas, from Bohol in the Philippines, smiled gently holding her baby in her arms. She said: “When I came to Korea five years ago I couldn? make Korean dishes well. But through attending this cookery class I’m becoming good at making Korean dishes and my Korean husband likes that.” Now she can confidently prepare dishes like ‘Kimchi-jjigae’ (Kimchi stew), ‘Doenjangguk’ (soybean paste soup), and ‘Dongteatang’(frozen pollack soup).

Comparing Korean food with Filipino, Marisa remarked that, whereas there are many raw foods in Korea, Filipinos always fully cook all main dishes. All told, she commented regarding the cooking classes that many housewives from different countries are happy to be able to make delicious Hobaktteok and Dunggeulre tea.

For more info on the cooking class call +82-2-839-1365 or volunteer@gc.seoul.kr.

Park Sung Eun  parkse@agrinet.co.kr

<저작권자 © AgraFood, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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