By Darren Lum
Food has always served as a gateway to culture. It bridges any perceived gap between strangers uniting them at the table to savour the soul satisfying practice of eating together.
Such an interaction happened this past Saturday when SIRCH food services team member Lydia Kim not only led the first of three Learn to Cook Authentic Korean classes but also provided insight about Korea through the dish bibimbap at SIRCH Central in Haliburton.
Six people learned how to cook bibimbap a dish comprised of a short-grain rice base with an array of individually prepared fresh vegetables such as carrots bean sprouts zucchini burdock root sauteed mushrooms lettuce and meat served with a sweet and spicy sauce called gochujang.
Bibimbap is a beautiful dish full of flavour and character.
There are contrasting textures from the crunch of carrots and bean sprouts to soft mushrooms. Sweet salty and spicy balance in each spoonful and along with the bright greens reds and yellows tickle and stimulate the senses.
Bibimbap has many variations. Some can include meat some tofu. At home the dish is often made up quickly using the ever-present banchan side dishes of vegetables (kimchi and different pickled vegetables) served with every Korean meal.
This dish required a lot of preparation from the cutting of the fresh ingredients into julienne strips and slivers frying them boiling or blanching individually to making sauces for that little something more to add at the end.
Once complete the dish was served with rice in bowls and then vegetables were added one grouping at a time with chopsticks. Chopsticks are then used to mix all the ingredients topped with meat and the gochujang sauce. With a dolsot everything is topped with a raw egg sunny side up and then mixed together in the heated stone bowl to cook before eating the comforting meal.
What makes this learn-to-cook offering special is the introduction of the Korean culture imparted by class instructor Kim who wanted to share her culture and give back to the community she really appreciates. She said in Korea it’s important to “respect obey” your elders. Everyone must wait to eat until the most senior at the table has started.
Her infectious smile and welcoming demeanor helped to diminish any anxiety around cooking a new dish.
The past graduate of the SIRCH Cook It Up program is originally from Shinchon Seoul Korea.
She came to the Highlands in the 1990s as a teenager with her mother to live in Peterborough.
It was a difficult transition for the teen who was used to the buzz of the city with a night life that comes with having five universities.
Married with three children two in high school and one adult she has grown to love Haliburton County. She has lived in Minden for close to 17 years.
Kim is interested in vacationing in Canada rather than go back to Korea where her connections to issues and interests has diminished since raising a family here.Now she can’t imagine living anywhere else.
“I like this community because in town everyone knows each other the attitudes and the willingness of the community to participate and support each other is wonderful” she wrote in an email after the class.
The next class will feature kimbap a fish cake soup and the final class will teach how to make kimchi the fermented spiced cabbage side dish (similar to sauerkraut) including other Korean dishes.
The classes are all held at SIRCH Central located at 2 Victoria Street in Haliburton on May 11 and May 25. They will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Space for each class is limited to eight participants.
Cost per class is $65. Those interested in registering and paying for the cooking classes can call SIRCH at 705- 457-1742 or drop by 49 Maple Ave. Unit 4 in Haliburton.