Sunday, April 8, 2012

Play with Culture Cooking Contest at Culcom in Sinchon

Last Saturday, we were invited by a friend to Culture Complex (CulCom) near Sinchon Station, to compete in a cooking competition/ cultural exchange organized by a group called Play with Culture. Of course, the boyfriend, being quite the culinary artist, jumped at the opportunity to prove his skills in the kitchen. So, we found ourselves in CulCom's lounge at 4pm, partnered with other Koreans and foreigners in group #6, preparing to prove our culinary skills.

Playing the ladder game to choose a recipe

After finding our group and getting to know each other a little bit, the event organizers explained the rules of the contest. Each team would be randomly assigned a recipe by doing the ladder game. Some forigners were a little confused by this, but eventually we got it all settled and each team was assigned one recipie. We got chap chae. Other teams were assigned Royal Dukbokki, Haemul Pajeon, Dalkdoritang, sujaebi, and sundubu jjigae. We were a little nervous about our chap chae since it is quite hard to make and involves a lot of preparation.

So Mi asking questions, winners get extra money for their team

The next part was getting money to buy ingredients. While each team was given 30,000 won as a base amount to buy ingredients, you could win extra cash for your team by competing in some games. After several attempts, we finally one game... and got a whopping extra 2,000 won.

Next, the participants were given 2 hours to do all the shopping, cook the entire dish and clean up. We all went racing to the supermarket to buy supplies. Our team members wanted to have a dish that was not only pleasant to eat, but also was also visually appealing. With our 32,000 won budget we were able to choose very colorful vegetables like red, yellow peppers (also known as "paprika" in Korea), bell peppers, onions, carrots and spinach. And we bought an expensive (meaning 2,000 won) bottle of makkoli, too, since we still had extra money. And we still had nearly 10,000 won left at the end... what happened to that money?

Preparing the Spinach

Very colorful assortment of vegetables

Me, cutting meat with an enormous knife...

A shy team member boiling noodles for the chap chae

Then it was time to go back and cook. We didn't expect it to take so long just to prepare the basic ingredients. Working with limited utensils, cutting boards, pots and pans, it took us the full time to cook our dish. The boyfriend instructed all of us culinarily (is that a word?) inept team members exactly how to cut each of the vegetables, how to marinate the beef, and how to fry the vegetables. But, with his help, we started to make some progress.

Frying vegetables

The final stir

Chap Chae, the noodles themselves, need to be fried together with all the veggies and soy sauce once everything is prepared. Having one, medium sized frying pan was certainly a challenge, but the boyfriend skillfully alternated frying one half at a time until it was perfect. As we were tasting it before it was done frying, we started to have our doubts about our work. It was too salty... it was tasteless... we started eying the other group's work wondering if it would be possible to win. But, once we were done frying everything and we gave it one last stir.... we realized it was perfect. There was no way we could lose the contest.

Introducing the judging part of the competition

Sample cups for passersby to taste

In order to avoid bias from judging within our own members, each team prepared small sample cups to bring outside for passersby to taste. While the group organizers took everything to the streets, we stayed in, tasting a little bit of everyone's food. Some groups were better than others... some were completely indistinguishable from what they were supposed to be making (that's not to say they didn't taste good... but...) but other groups had done pretty darn well. We started to get a little worried. But, the free makkoli that started coming out from the back room made us quickly forget that.

Group #6, the winners!

Celebrating victory with a box of Manoffins

After about 20 minutes, the organizers came back from the streets with the results from the taste tests. And who do you think won? Of course, team #6, our amazing team lead by my amazing chef. We were presented with our grand prize... a box of 6 muffins from Manoffin. Well, the prize wasn't much to show, but we had the glory of knowing we were the best chefs in the room.

Immortalizing the prize winning chap chae

The Recipe: 
1 package of fresh spinach
1 medium sized carrot
1 onion
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper 
1 green pepper
1 package of mushrooms
100g of beef
1 bag of sweet potato glass noodles
soy sauce
sesame seed oil
sesame seeds
cooking oil (vegetable oil, grape seed oil, etc)
(other vegetables as desired)

Cut all vegetables and meat into thin medium sized strips. Put the meat in a marinade of soy sauce (add oyster sauce to the marinade for extra goodness). Saute the mushrooms in soy sauce for several minutes. Boil the spinach for a few minutes. Add a little soy sauce and sesame seed oil to the boiled spinach to taste. Fry onion, peppers, and carrot together in a frying pan with a little soy sauce. Fry marinated beef separately. Boil the noodles until soft. Wash and rinse noodles thoroughly under cold water for several minutes. In a bowl, add cooking oil to the noodles and mix thoroughly. Fry noodles in a frying pan with soy sauce, to taste. Fry for several minutes, but don't allow the noodles to burn. Remove from heat and add the fried vegetables, meat, spinach and mushrooms to the noodles. Mix. Add more soy sauce if needed, add some sesame seed oil to taste and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Enjoy! 

Not hard, but it is a little time intensive! Good luck! If you try this recipe, blog about it and leave a link here! 

For more events run by Culture Complex, join their facebook page:

The ad which got us interested in the event:

And the official video from the event:


  1. Congratulations!!! :) It looks wonderful!
    Can you please share the recipe? I'd love to make this. :)

  2. Recipe has been posted! Be sure to blog about it if you make it!