Two months belated, this post dates back to September (구월 gu wol), the time when Koreans donned their hanboks, overspent on spam gift sets and set out on a 3-day food extravaganza in celebration of the traditions of their ancestors. Chuseok (추석), generally believed to date back to the Silla Kingdom (approx. 57BC), the time when Gyeongju wore the title of Korea’s capital city, is Korea’s 3-day thanksgiving festival. Most foreigners, or waygooks (외국) as we are Koreanly known, ditched the Korean traditions and embraced the long weekend opportunity for freedom by fleeing the country. Myself included. September was a special month for me, not only because I got to witness the build-up to one of Korea’s biggest traditional cultural events, Homeplus’s shelves over-stocked with an obscene amount of spam, tuna and canola oil gift sets, but more so because of my special visitor, Papa Glocks (my dad).
I plan to write more about his trip in a seperate post. Papa Glocks and I arranged a non-Korean 추석, destination: Japan. Stuffing my face is always a highlight of any trip I take. And this trip was certainly no exception. During my travels to Thailand, Hong Kong and Laos I partook in cooking classes and was lucky enough to be imparted with culinary wisdom from great chefs native to those countries. All of these lessons in food creation could be labelled both memorable and delicious, however, Uzuki cooking really took the biscuit (or sushi) in creating a truely unique experience. Beyond food, the charming and talented Emi offered us an insight into a locals life that we might have otherwise struggled to achieve in a well-visited country such as Japan. Escaping the heavily touristed Gion district, we embarked on the scenic journey out of the bustling city to the peaceful countryside where we met our teacher, Emi Hirayama. Emi taught us how to cook a few select, taste-bud tantalising dishes, enlightened us with knowledge about Japanese cuisine, and beyond that, invited us into her charming Japanese abode, obliging in responding to my neverending interrogation about her life and Japan in general. The class was a bargain at 5,000 yen a piece for an afternoon in the company of Emi, the class consisting of only myself and Papa Glocks. The menu we cooked included the following 5 dishes:
1. Sesame dressed cucumber salad 2. Dengaku of kamonasu/Kyoto eggplant/aubergine 3. Grilled Sawara (Spanish mackerel)
4. Sauteed beef and some vegetables
5. Shiratama mochi balls with red bean paste and grapes/kyoho, served with green tea ice-cream During the preparation we got our mits on wasabi, in pre-paste plant form, a first for both Papa Glocks and I. One would traditionally grate wasabi using a dried shark-skin grater, an Oroshigane (おろし金 or 下ろし金), favoured for its fine surface. A tradition we got to (potentially controversially) enjoy! Prior to this class wasabi was in my mind, like mustard is with a hot dog, and ketchup fish and chips, to be naturally paired with sushi. However, we ate this to compliment our sauteed beef. And wow it opened my mouth to a whole new world of amazingness. I couldn’t recommend it enough! All of the ingredients were fresh, and Emi explained them as we went along. For example, miso, a form of fermented soy, is and has been for a long time (a staple during hard times), heavily used in Japanese cooking. I ignorantly only knew it had purpose in flavouring miso soup, but it’s a very versatile ingredient, one which we used in the creation of the Kyoto aubergine. Miso also comes available in different colours, the lighter the sweeter! As much as I’d love to share the recipes Emi provided, I fear her grandmother would be rolling in her grave if I leaked her methods to deliciousness. Therefore, if you’re one for food, preparing it, and enjoying the company of a charming local when you head overseas, I couldn’t recommend trying this 3-hour experience enough, and landing those recipes for yourself. And if you want a second, third or even fourth opinion please check out these fellow bloggers who also have a similarly glowing review! The recipes are fairly simple in terms of preparation requirements and can easily be recreated when you get home (no matter which country that may be). I have personally, attempted, re-creating both the sesame dressed cucumber salad and Kyoto aubergine since my return, and will be expanding in said re-creations in the near future. Emi offers 5 courses in total, 3 in meal-dishes and 2 in sweet, details can be found here. If you’re interested in booking yourself into Uzuki cooking, for a memorable afternoon in a charming Kyoto neighbourhood, please check out her website. And feel free to leave a message here if you have any questions! *Disclaimer: Emi had no influence in the writing or details of this post! I merely want to share this enjoyable experience with others.