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Feature

Warning: Hot class ahead

What’s causing such a stir at the culinaiRE kitchen on campus? The flavour of the month: Korean japchae
by Chrystal Chan

Korean japchae, anyone?

By the looks of it, many NTU hall residents are saying “aye”. Three nights a week, the culinaiRE kitchen in Tanjong Hall is sizzling with activity.

“Put a little more oil in the pan” and “Those need to be julienned more finely,” says professional culinary instructor Priscill Koh as she shuttles between students.

Inside the glass-walled cooking studio, apron-clad students are hard at work. A group of four are busy slicing green, red and yellow capsicums into thin strips. Clustered around an adjacent table are three girls stir-frying onions and shimeji mushrooms.

On today’s menu is japchae, a Korean stir-fry noodle dish. Chef Priscill is teaching these 18 students from Hall 8 how to make a simplified version of the one-dish meal, so that they can easily recreate it in their hall pantries.

“I’ve made it easier to cook this with minimal tools. For example, students can fry the japchae ingredients using a pair of chopsticks instead of a spatula,” she says.

Chef Priscill shops for the ingredients before each class, so students don’t have to go on a grocery run and can simply show up with an appetite to learn.

This culinary class is part of the upgraded Residential Education programme that hall residents can enjoy. Cooking sessions held here have become such a hot ticket item that classes now take place every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with slots allocated to one hall per week.

The cuisine that is taught changes every two weeks, and the classes have covered Spanish paella, Indian tandoori chicken and naan, and Thai tom yum kung.

This is the first time cooking lessons are run centrally and open to students of all NTU halls. This means they can attend them if their own halls do not organise such classes. Each free two-hour session can accommodate up to 18 students on a first-come-first-served basis, and unsurprisingly, the Korean cooking classes fill up the fastest.

“Ever since I picked up cooking while I was on exchange, I’ve found myself enjoying it, and felt hungry for more. I had so much fun in this two-hour class and I’m glad that more of us can get a chance to learn cooking,” says third-year communication student Belynda Hoi, tucking into her plate of freshly tossed glass noodles as her classmates Insta-story their colourful creations.

“The popularity of a class is what helps us determine if we should run it centrally, so we can reach out to as many students as possible,” says Assoc Prof Valerie Du Toit-Low, the Deputy Associate Provost overseeing the Residential Education programme, which was rolled out at NTU for hall residents to pick up practical skills such as the culinary arts right at their doorstep.

Mum would be pleased.

Would you like to take a cooking class? Official student groups may book the culinaiRE and REfresh kitchens for group activities, subject to approval by the Residential Education office. To ensure food hygiene and proper handling of food, you will need to hire a certified chef such as Chef Priscill.

Recipe for japchae

Korean glass noodles 150g
Boiled spinach 30g
Carrots 30g
Eggs 2
Shimeji mushrooms 30g
Onions 30g
Capsicum 30g
Boiled chicken breast 100g

For the japchae dressing:
Sesame oil 20g
Dark soya sauce 40g
Soya sauce 60g
Corn syrup 40g
Minced garlic 20g

Directions:

  • Thinly slice carrots, capsicum and onions.
  • Cut spinach and chicken breast into bite-sized pieces.
  • In a hot pan, stir-fry the onions, mushrooms, carrots and capsicum. Remove from pan.
  • Pour beaten eggs into the pan and cook evenly on both sides before slicing omelette into thin strips.
  • Boil the glass noodles for six minutes. Drain.
  • Assemble all the cooked ingredients before pouring the dressing over. Toss to mix.