Saturday afternoon I had the pleasure of attending K-Cook Delight’s 1st ever Day-Restaurant and International Social Gathering. The Day-Restaurant was a one day cook off with 20 chefs. They spent the last month learning how to cook Jungae, Pajeon and Bimbimbap and then fuzed it with their native culture. I found out about this Korean Food Foundation and inspiredsteps.org event online and thought it would be a fun way to try some new food. When I saw it was free to foreigners I signed up right away!
Shortly after arrival we were gathered around my new best friend, Chris. He was the man in charge, the man in the suit and the MC of the afternoon’s events. He informed everyone we could begin to “eat, meet, and be merry” soon but the food would be a few moments so we should skip the first step and just start the meeting part.
He told us after we tasted the dishes we would all use our “stickers” to vote for the best dish. Oh wait, nobody got stickers? Chris polled the audience and confirmed that he was the only one who thought there were stickers. He stood there and played it cool; giving the crowd a thumbs up and laughing as he ushered us onto the next topic. Awards and a raffle! At the end of the day the 3 best chefs would get a prize as well as 10 lucky raffle winners. With that he told us to go meet, and meet, and meet before we could eat.
I strolled the deck and found a view of the nearby bridge. Too bad it was such a cloudy day; I hoped the rain would hold off as I started meeting expats from all over the world. I met plenty of Americans and Canadians, a South African whose wife was one of the chefs, some Europeans and East Asians from outside of Korea. It was a lot of fun but got a wee bit crazy when the food came out. We attacked the pajeon like vultures before Chris came back out to let us know we should be more civil. I guess the hour and a half of hungrily mingling really worked up everyone’s appetite. We weren’t that vicious but the 3 plates that came out did disappear within seconds. Luckily I got to taste two of them and they were a great start but just made me crave more.
Pajeon is like a pancake. Traditionally it has eggs, seafood (squid, oysters or mussels) and some onions although these fusion creations included bacon, southwestern sauces, an assortment of western vegetables and more.
While waiting I around I happened upon a group of lovely ladies. They were all teachers and spoke English; most of them from America with a few native Koreans and other foreigners. Together we developed a strategy to try as many dishes as possible. Really it was just to send out a few of us in different directions and share the pickings.
After a few more dishes came out their friend Ryan, one of the chefs, brought out his Texas meets Brazil fused with Korea dish. It was spectacular; a pajeon crepe stuffed with pork belly, spices and a savory sauce. He easily won my vote for best dish of the day!
Next I tried a few courses of Bimbimbap; essentially a bowl of rice topped with beef and vegetables (usually sprouts, eggplant, mushrooms, squash and radish). Mix it all together with a chili paste and you’ve got a traditionan Korean Bimbimbap. The eccentric entrees brought out on this occasion included one with an Indian twist and another with a middle eastern array of spices, raisins, cashews and minced meats. There was a delicious vegetarian bimbimbap with a French accent and some of the best peppers I’ve had since I’ve been here too. It was all delightfully full of flavor and had me excited for what was next to come!
The afternoon continued with dish after dish being brought out. I didn’t get a chance to try the shrimp spring rolls with a Thailandish twist although I was able to check out a few types of Japchae. This glass noodle is traditionally cooked and stir fried with beef and veggies like carrots or spinach in a soy sauce base. Today I got to broaden my horizons with Japchae fused with flavors from Singapore, Japan and a few Western countries.
My favorites for the afternoon had to be the pork belly crepes, the first pajeon which had a Southwest American sauce topped with bacon and the Iraq meets Britain and Korea Bibimbap topped with cashews and raisins. K-cook Delight was a great way to make some new friends and try traditional Korean dishes with a twist. The fact that it was free means I highly recommend it to all foreigners who happen to be visiting when the Day-Restaurant is taking place.