Ando: Prior to attending this exclusive event, Belle and I have never heard of the Korean Cultural Office on Elizabeth Street. At first, I thought it was strange to be attending a banquet in an office building but once i stepped into this space, I realised that this was more than just a office filled with pamphlets and handouts.
Established in April 2011, the Korean Cultural Office’s mission is to enlighten and entertain through quality contemporary and traditional cultural content, in order to strengthen the emotional bond between Australia and Korea. The office houses a multimedia exhibition area, craft exhibition area, cooking facilities, multipurpose hall, class rooms and even a library which holds approximately 2,000 books and 1,000 DVDs and CDs containing everything from Korean history to traditional arts and novels. The library is free of charge and there are plenty of learning opportunities such as cooking classes, language classes and cultural classes (calligraphy, Korean music instruments and Korean arts). I think I might register myself for a Korean cooking class soon! Do check out their website for more information.
Once seated, we were treated with an impressive solo Korean drum performance in the Arirang Hall (aka. multipurpose hall). I thoroughly enjoyed the drumming and wished it went for longer, but that would only delay our banquet! A speech by the Director Dr Dong-ok Lee came next. He welcomed all of us and gave some insight into the food that we would soon be eating. The Director informed us that Korean Kings and Queens were offered this banquet and that Korean food is a recipe for happiness and wellbeing. After the speech, popular cooking teacher and caterer Heather Jeong gave us a cooking demonstration on Nurbiani. I never knew that Koreans were pioneers of soy sauce and that green onions played such a tremendous part in Korean cuisine!
Three canapés were on offer that night. Mu ssam – pickled radish with seafood. Yachae twigim – root vegetable twigim. Wrapped with a vegetable leaf, I had two rounds of these crunchy servings.
Yeon geun jorim – soy based lotus root. I love my lotus roots and this one had a sweet sticky taste to it.
12 servings of different side dishes (banchan) including regional kimchi were located on a central table and was available on a self-serve basis. My favourites included the Myulchi Bokkeum (sauté tiny anchovies with sunflower seeds) and the Gyeran Mari (egg roll).
The first dish to start off the banquet was Hobak Juk – pumpkin congee shots. This is a Korean porridge made with steamed pumpkin, glutinous rice flour or rice soaked in water and is meant to line your stomach before you start on the other dishes. The pumpkin was very subtle. I would say it’s an acquired taste.
Seasonal Hwae – Korean style sashimi. We were served delicately cut pieces of salmon, abalone, king fish and squid. Belle and I haven’t had raw abalone before so this was a first. What a delicacy!
Haemul Pajeon – seafood pancake. Our camera was playing up during the serving of this dish and unfortunately we didn’t take any pictures of the Haemul Pajeon. In this dish seafood is mixed with flour, egg and green onions. The pancake was lightly browned and wasn’t too heavy. I’m used to eating this dish in Korean restaurants and enjoyed this plate.
Tang Pyeong Chae – savoury bean jelly with soy and sesame. The Director earlier told us how the Kings and Queens invented this dish for the cabinet to share. A very colourful dish with an array of crunchy and soft textures.
Bo Ssam – slow cooked pork with chilli radish. Eaten wrapped in a vegetable leaf, this dish goes perfect with alcoholic beverages. We complimented our dish with some Korean plum wine and Korean raspberry wine.
Gyerja Chae – salad with mustard dressing. The salad comprised of prawn, capsicum, cucumber, asparagus and what I believe was chicken? The dressing was creamy yet provided a touch a acidity. Though I wanted more of this salad, I would have to say it was an appropriate serving size considering there were still 4 dishes to go!
Japchae – stir fried sweet potato noodles with beef and vegetables. Commonly served as a side dish, this can also be served as a main dish. Japchae was first made in the 17th century and was created to please the king’s palate. I love the strong sesame oil aroma from this dish.
Bul Dak – fire chicken. I’m a victim to chili food and I was holding my breath when I took my first bite. Thank goodness Heather Jeong and her staff toned down the chili. The chicken was tender and the chili was subtle. I thought the enoki mushrooms on top of the chicken was a bit random, but it did slightly neutralise the spiciness.
Nurbiani – beef fillet with pine nuts and garlic chives. The idea behind Nurbiani is that the beef is “not too wide and not too narrow” and it was exactly that! Perfect!
Mul Mak Guksoo – cold soba noodle soup. This dish was refreshing though I felt that the smell of radish was quite intense.
Assorted Ddeok with Sujeonggwa – Korean rice cake with cinnamon punch. Served with nashi pear slices, the explosion of filling (red bean and sesame) from the Korean rice cakes were highly pleasurable.
We would like to express our gratitude to the Korean Cultural Office for broadening our appreciation for Korean cuisine.
Korean Cultural Office
(02) 8267 3400 – Information. (02) 8267 3488 – Library.
Ground Floor, 255 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, NSW 2000.
DISCLAIMER: The Lamstock was invited and dined as a guest of the Korean Cultural Office. Opinions are however, our own.