Sunday, June 12, 2011

Italian Cooking Class at the Seorae Global Village Center

A few weeks ago I went to the Seorae Global Village Center for an "Italian Cooking Experience". The menu called for a salad and a lasagna and I purposely didn't eat breakfast or lunch before going so I could fill my belly with Italian goodness. After getting to the class I realized about 5 minutes in that there was going to be no salad and that the lasagna needed to be cooked in a home oven (good thing I have that little toaster oven now or I'd have been in trouble) and the next two hours were quite painful watching all this food being cooked on an empty stomach.

Anyway, the class was good enough I guess despite some challenges we faced. Mainly in a lack of cooking supplies. Two cutting boards and 4 knives to share between 7 people. Only three working gas ranges.  Not to mention that I was the only native English speaker in the whole group, including the teacher. Cooking has a lot of specialized vocabulary much of which even our teacher was unaware of so understanding directions and following them was a bit challenging for everyone. It was also a little awkward because all the women in my class were from around Asia most of them had never even seen a lasagna before. Things that seemed like common sense had to be explained in detail to them because they just had no concept of how the end result was supposed to look or taste like.

But the one thing I did learn here is that it's possible to make a lasagna without ricotta cheese, which is something of a commodity here (I've never seen it). We instead made a meat and tomato sauce and layered it with a bechamel sauce, something I'd never seen done back at home (heck, I didn't even know what bechamel sauce is... am I uncultured?)

The bechamel sauce is made by boiling milk, butter and flour together. It doesn't sound very delicious, but when layered with a nice tomato meat sauce it was really lovely. The other women were worried that the flour would be bad for their health. Personally, I was more concerned about the copious amounts of butter and milk than the little bit of flour. Although, frankly, I wasn't thinking about my waistline much at all while making this.

Then we made enough lasagnas to feed a (small) army, or a large group of hungry Italians with all the sauce we had cooked up. A production line was set up and layer upon layer was added. Unfortunately our little lasagna tins were not quite large enough to fit all the 5 layers that the teacher had prescribed. This didn't stop our teacher and the other students from trying to fit 5 layers. It took some convincing that I didn't want all the sauce to seep out on my hour subway ride home. That all the tape in the world would not keep that sauce from leaking out of one tin upside down taped to the top of the tin containing the lasagna. Heck, even with only 3 layers I still got some sauce leaked on me on my ride home.

But all the frustration was worth it when I finally got to eat my lasagna at home for the next two nights. I got to take two home, which I think was well worth the 15,000 won that I paid for the class. I recommend folks to get signed up on the global center's mailing list to keep up with all the Seoul Global Center's events and classes. They have a lot going on and there's a lot of exciting events for foreigners and Koreans alike to try.

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