Chef Ye-Bin Lee of O'ngo Food Communications // © 2014 Shane Nelson
Feature image (above): Class participants are likely to collect ingredients at local markets. // © 2014 Thinkstock
Who knew squid, shrimp and chili peppers could be combined to create such a tasty pancake?
On a recent visit to Seoul, South Korea, I joined a small group of visitors in the O’ngo Food Communications’ cooking classroom to whip up my first-ever savory seafood pancake — and a tasty Sundubu jjigae stew — with all sorts of helpful instruction from chef Ye-Bin Lee.
During class, Lee poured a palm-size layer of batter consisting of water, all-purpose flour and a pinch of salt and pepper, into a hot pan. Sounds and aromas filled the room as she worked.
“When it’s raining outside, it always sounds like you’re cooking a seafood pancake,” Lee said.
While the sizzling batter did remind me of a light rain shower, the pancake was unlike any other I’d ever eaten, filled with squid, green onions, shrimp and red and green chili peppers. We also mixed up a tasty dipping sauce combining soy sauce, vinegar, more chili pepper and sugar.
An excellent instructor, Lee was armed with a warm smile, endless energy and a pair of assistants who handled all of the prep work and swooped in regularly to help students follow the recipe order and keep the ratios of ingredients on track.
After cooking up our stew and pancake meal, we all sat down to enjoy our creation. The pancake was not only my favorite dish but also a big hit with most of the Westerners in the class.
Immediately following lunch, Lee led us over to a nearby market, located a few blocks from the school in a cavernous underground space. It was packed with a range of different products and stalls. During the tour, Lee pointed out the best soy sauce and explained the kimchee process at a stand piled high with red pickled vegetables, giving us a sense of what shopping in Seoul was like before large supermarkets began pushing smaller vendors out of business.
Travelers can book hands-on cooking classes with O’ngo and a number of different food tours that take travelers across town to different markets and restaurants. On these tours, an expert guide will teach about Korean cuisine and culture as visitors sample a selection of terrific Seoul food. Packing a hefty appetite in preparation for any O’ngo outing is highly recommended.