Last year Jen and I bought Groupons for a Food Tour from I Wish. I Wish is a company that tries to help you answer the question, “What do you wish you could learn?” In their food section they have many different kinds of cuisines that you could choose from for the Groupon.. and the Groupon got you in for $20 instead of the usual $40 – 45.
Jen and I choose the Korean culture and food class at Waba Korean Restaurant. We were to learn the the staples of traditional Korean cuisine while you are guided through a tasting tour of some favorite Korean dishes. Learn all about Korean culture, here and abroad, and how food has influenced the culture and history. And all the while, we of course got to eat.
Waba is a decent place. Nice, but not too fancy. Lots of TVs in the dining room. The food was great. It’s basically one room with a bar. In the photo below, the bar is kind of to the left and behind me:
The reason I mention the bar first, is because that’s where we started out. I had this Korean beer called Hite. They also had soju on special, but I’d had that before and I’d never had Hite, so I decided to try that.
Good beer. Light and refreshing. Cool and Fresh! Just like the label says!
Now, I just want to make a note before I talk about the food that we had. Jen and I attended the course in November. I took a couple notes, scribbled on a scrap of paper, but not a lot…. and I can’t remember every detail now that a few months have passed. With each dish we were told how it was prepared, when its served, some history and we were also told stories of historic as well as modern-day Korea. Well, I’m just going to try to at least remember the names of the dishes I took photos of and try to do a little bit of internet research on them!
Banchan are side dishes that are usually served in small portions and come out at the beginning of the meal. There’s always kimchi, maybe even multiple forms of it. My favorite banchan was a potato dish, shown on the bottom right.
Next up was japchae, a dish made from cellophane noodles, stir fried in sesame oil with various vegetables. It can be served hot or cold, in our case it was cold. I thought this noodle dish was ok, but it was not my favorite. I don’t think I was expecting it to be cold. This dish is always made with vegetables and sometimes with meat. Ours had some bulgogi (grilled marinated beef) in it.
This is kimchi bokkeumbap, which is kimchi fried rice. The photo doesn’t look very appetizing because we used the same plate that we used to eat our japchae. Don’t let that deceive you, though. The kimchee fried rice was one of my favorite dishes of the night. Ours was made with rice, kimchi, vegetables, and SPAM. Gasp! This might be the first time I ate SPAM. I’ve actually had it a few times since November, though.
This is miyeok guk, or seaweed soup, made from seaweed and soup stock. Ours also had a bit of meat in it. I think it was bulgogi again. Bulgogi seemed to be sprinkled in everything! Our instructor told us this is a very nutritious soup and is served to pregnant women and on special occasions like birthdays.
Next we tried a serving of bulgogi and somehow I did not take a photo of this. I think it’s because this was my other favorite dish of the night and I dove right in! Bulgogi is made from thin slices of sirloin or other prime cuts of beef. This meat is then marinated in a mixuture of shoyu, sugar, sesame, garlic and the like. Then the meat is grilled or pan fried.
Sitting next to us were some actual Koreans. Haha. They were really fun and filled us in on additional information about all of the food we were eating. I was wondering why they took this class, then I found a Yelp review from one of them. They thought they were signing up for a cooking course when they bought the Groupon. I must admit, I thought the same thing.
Bibimbap literally means “mixed meal,” which is appropriate because everything you see is stirred together just before it’s eaten. Bibimbap ingredients can vary. Ours had rice, vegetables, sprouts and bulgogi. What doesn’t vary is the egg on the top. We also stirred in gochujang (chili pepper paste), which is very common.
Next up was budae jjigae or “army base stew.” This soup is named this because after the Korean war, meat was scarce in Korea. People ate a lot of spam and hot dogs and other types of canned meats that were available as surplus foods from US Army bases. We’re told that budae jjigae is still very popular in South Korea and that SPAM is also surprisingly popular to this day. This reminded me of Hawaii a bit!
And one last photo of the outside of Waba Korean Restaurant as we were leaving. Jen and I had a fun time at the class. The food was good and you can see that we got to try a lot of different things. At the end they were even giving people seconds on things they had more of. We bought the Groupon for the lesson for $20, so we totally got our money’s worth. I don’t know if I’d think the same if I paid the full I Wish price of $40. Fun night, though.
[Read more →]