In January 2009 in Seoul I had the pleasure of meeting a gracious lady-Dr. Sook-Ja YOON-who is the foremost authority in South Korea for the making of traditional Tteok, cakes, cookies and for her knowledge of the varieties of tea available.

Dr. Sook-Ja YOON was born in GAESUNG-now in North Korea-and comes from an intellectual family. Her father was employed by the government in the capacity of a researcher/administrator in the field of Agriculture. Her mother was one of the very few women who graduated from university and subsequently became a teacher.

Her family was well known and respected in the area due to their involvement in social gatherings and ancestral ceremonies. Her mother was responsible for preparing and presenting the food on all of these occasions.

Dr. Sook-Ja YOON therefore had the benefit of developing the skills and knowledge for the preparation of traditional Korean food by emulating her mother.

After her mother passed away Dr. Sook-Ja YOON studied at “the Korean Food School” in Korea whose principal Dr. Wang also originated from GAESUNG. She continued her studies in Royal Cuisine under the guidance of Professor Yom Cho Air and in Tteok under Professor Kang In Hee. Other courses were attended in order to further her knowledge about Tteok.

Dr. Sook-Ja YOON is using her culinary background to achieve the same worldwide recognition for Tteok as is afforded to Kimchi.

She is the author of thirty major publications. Some of the titles are:

* The Beauty of Korean Food-with a hundred Best Loved Recipes ( printed in English, French, Korean, Japanese and Chinese )
* Korean Food
* Traditional Korean Food
* Korean Traditional Tteok
* Cookies and Beverages
* Good Morning Kimchi (printed in English, Korean and Japanese )
* Gyuhapchongseo
* The Beauty of Wedding Food
* Beautiful Korean Tea
* Beautiful Korean Liquor
* Korean Seasonal Food
* Korean Pickles and Fermented Food
* Adulthood Ritual and Korean Food
* Korean Tteok, Cookies and Desserts
* A Landscape with Tteok
* Traditional Food of Aristocrats and Noted Families in the Eight Provinces

Dr. Sook-Ja YOON’s achievements are formidable:

* Director of the Institute of Traditional Korean Food
* Professor of the Department of Traditional Cuisine-Baewha Women’s College
* Chairperson of the National Culinary Professor Association
* Member of the Judges for the National Culinary Examination
* Member of the Screening Committee for the Culinary Masters of Korea
* Member for the Screening Committee for the Master of Traditional Korean Food
* Head President of the Institute of Traditional Korean Food
* Director of the Tteok and Kitchen Utensil Museums
* Member of the Advisory Committee for the provision of meals for the 1988 Seoul Olympiad
* 1999-Member of the Advisory Committee for Food providers for the third ASEM
* 2002-Recipient of the Presidential Award for the Contribution to High Quality Rice Production and Expediting Consumption
* 2003-Advisor for in-flight Korean meals for Korean Air Lines
* Organiser of the Special Exhibition of Korean Royal Court Food for the APEC summit Conference in 2005 in Korea
* 2006-Recipient of the Award for Female Inventor
* 2007-Publicity Ambassador for the Promotion of Agricultural Products and Food
* 2007-Promoted the Korean Food Festival at the UN Headquarters in New York
* 2007-Advisor for Food for the Dinner at the North and South Korean Summit Talks
* Recipient of the President’s Cheoltap medal of the Republic of Korea
* 2008-Promoted Korean Cuisine at the Thames Festival in London

She is formulating an action plan for the globalisation of traditional Korean food. Elements being considered are:

* Standardising Korean cuisine
* Localising Korean food by seeking non Koreans’ opinions on taste
* Using the correct and universal descriptions of Korean food
* Instructing professional cooks and chefs
* The continual introduction of Korean cuisine by presentations at exhibitions outside Korea

Government lead initiatives
* The introduction of Korean food and culture
* Informing and involving people of prominence
* Expanding RGD
* Establishing an infrastructure
* Obtaining financial support from businesses

Family input
* Promoting the importance and benefits of Korean food and culture

Domestic Food Industry
* Developing the taste of Korean food to suit non Koreans

Korean Food Industry abroad
* To standardise and re-educate owners of Korean restaurants outside Korea to the authentic tastes, menu preparations and new cuisine.

A specialised organisation for the research, development and popularisation of traditional Korean food

The Institute, located in front of the beautiful Chandeok Palace of Jongno-gu district, is a professional research organisation established and devoted to the research, development, popularisation and globalisation of traditional Korean food. It was founded in 1998 with the headquarters in the ULCHIRO area of Seoul but then moved on the 8th of November 2001 to the current location.

164-2 Waryong-dong
Telephone number: 82-2-741-5411
Fax: 82-2-741-5415

The building comprises of ten floors:

1. The main JILSIRU Café which offers patrons –fifty types of Tteok, Hankwa
(Traditional Korean snacks) and thirty traditional Korean Teas
2. Tteok Museum-Tteok ulture Exhibition
3. Tteok Museum-Tteok making methods
4. Research and Development Room Kyusudang
5. Sojubang-Recording studio
6. Sarangbang
7. Royal Kitchen
8. Culinary Department Library
9. Jilsiru-Tteok Research Room
10. Hanulchae

Centre for the popularisation and globalisation of Traditional Korean food

In order to popularise and globalise traditional Korean food through education, the Continuing Education Division -an auxiliary teaching institution of the Institute of Traditional Korean Food- offers various systematic and professional learning programmes from introductory to advanced levels incorporating theory and practice.

The division has numerous qualified faculty members with Dr. Sook-Ja Yoon as Director. Her support staff comprises of researchers in cuisine, accreditation holders in cuisine, government appointed human cultural assets in cuisine and other professionals. Teaching is conducted in modern classrooms and in laboratories, which are found on the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 10th floors, using educational equipment and facilities of a high standard. Professional courses offered include the making of Tteok, Korean cookies, ritual wedding and gift food, Royal Court food, traditional liquor and traditional tea. Terms are quarterly beginning in January, April, July and October. Night courses are also available. The total number of students enrolling during a year exceeds five thousand.

Walks of life after graduation

Besides receiving diplomas graduates are presented with “ The Certificate of the First Class Technician in Traditional Cookies “ and “ The Certificate of the First Class Technician in Wedding Food “. Some graduates secure employment with the mass media or in the fields of Education and Cookery, whilst others start their own businesses. Many have previously participated in food fairs and competitions having distinguished themselves by winning gold medals. Anyone, young and old alike, who is interested in traditional Korean food and has a love and passion for learning is welcome at the Continuing Education Division where they are encouraged, through the excellent programs and facilities provided, to realise their dreams and aspirations.

The main café at the Institute was opened on the 3rd of October 2002 and the second in Insadong on the 4th of November 2004

Jilsiru Tteok cafés are special meeting places where distinctive and beautiful rice cakes together with the fragrance of teas are in abundance. Korean culture and tradition can also be experienced here. Patrons can enjoy an assortment of cakes and cookies-traditional and new recipes that have been developed by the Institute of Traditional Korean Food. Thirty different teas are also available. Discerning customers can purchase beautifully decorated cakes for special occasions, Tteok, cookies and gift sets.

Information on the Exhibition

Room 1 displays Tteok according to the seasons. Rice cake soup is made on the first day of the New Year. Azalea pancakes are made on Samjit day-falling on May 3rd- heralding the coming of spring. Sweet coated fried stuffed cake-Juak-is made on Yudu day on June 6th. Various rice cakes, especially stuffed Pine cake are made on Chuseok-the August Moon Festival-when newly harvested cereals and fruit are available and so on. Other seasonal rice cakes are displayed along with the utensils required to make them. In this way visitors can learn about Korean rice cakes and their preparation.

Room 2 shows food used in traditional rituals. Also displayed in this room, theme-wise, are relics worn shiny with age in bygone days. In a man’s life, from life to death, there are at least four major sequential rituals. The paraphernalia, especially food and dress, is on view to help visitors to understand their significance.

A four year course for a Bachelor’s Degree aiming at educating leaders in the Field of Cuisine

The Culinary Department with a credit bank system for a Bachelor’s Degree is another educational branch attached to the Institute of Traditional Korean Food. This Institute was established to provide its students with the theory and techniques of Oriental and Western cuisine thereby honing their skills in the art of cooking. Such acquired skills making them distinguished leaders and professionals in dietary lifestyles by exploring traditional Korean cuisine. They also acquire similar theoretical and technical knowledge of food world-wide.

Activities and results of the Culinary Department

1. Competed in the Seoul International Food Exhibition in 2006-all five entrants won medals.
2. Competed in the Wellbeing Culinary Competition-Exhibition in 2006-all fifteen entrants won medals.
3. Competed in the Seoul International Food Competition in 2007-all six entrants won medals in the Individual Competition Category.
4. Participated in the Osaka Food Exhibition in Japan and the Taiwan Food Exhibition.
5. Actively engaged in the Tteok and Traditional Liquor clubs’ activities.

It has been said in the past that “Korean Traditional food is just medicine”. A more modern way of expressing this sentiment would be to say that such traditional food can be highly nutritious and restorative.

Korea produces a variety of seasonal ingredients to complement the four distinct seasons.

Rice is the chief grain for cooked rice, porridges, rice cakes and Korean cookies. Wheat flour, Barley, Buckwheat flour, Foxtail millet, Chinese millet and African millet are also used for an assortment of dishes.

Soya beans, Red beans, Mung beans and peas are constantly used.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes contain a lot of starch and sugar and can be substituted for a main course.

There are various vegetables grown throughout the seasons and are ingredients for numerous dishes.

Pine mushrooms, Brown Oak mushrooms, Oyster mushrooms, Stone mushrooms and Snow Puff mushrooms are the most edible in Korea.

Fish and clams
Being a peninsula country a variety of fish, clams, oysters and crab are readily available. Cooking methods include braising, simmering in Soy sauce, grilling, steaming and cooking in soups.

Methods of cooking are braising, grilling and drying.

Chicken’s and quail’s eggs are often steamed or pan-fried.

Apples, pears, peaches and strawberries may be soaked in wine or vinegar. Persimmons and jujubes are often dried. Hard shell nuts such as walnuts, chestnuts, gingkoes and pine nuts are used for garnishing.

Salt, Soy sauce, Soybean paste, Red pepper paste, Green onions, Garlic, Ginger, Ground Black pepper, Ground Red pepper, Mustard, Cinnamon, Edible oils, Sesame salt, Sugar, Starch syrup, Honey, Glutinous starch syrup, Vinegar, Chinese pepper and Salt fermented seafood

Kinds of Korean food
Main dishes
Bap (Cooked rice)
Juk (Porridge)
Guksu (Noodles)
Mandu and Tteokguk (Dumpling and Sliced rice cake pasta soup)

Side Dishes
Guk (Soup)
Jjigae (Stew)
Jeongol (Hotpot)
Jjim (Steamed dish)
Seon (Steamed or parboiled stuffed vegetables)
Jorim (Braised dish)
Cho (Janggwa) (Seasoned and braised seafood)
Bokkeum (Stir-fried dish)
Gui (Grilled dish)
Jeon.Jeok (Pan-fried dish, Brochette)
Mareun-chan (Dry side dish)
Jangajji (Pickled vegetables)
Jeotggal (Salt fermented seafood)
Sukchae (Par-boiled vegetables)
Saengchae (Fresh salad)
Kimchi (Seasoned and fermented vegetables)

Tteok (Rice cake)
There are more than fifty different types both traditional and modern in colours and shapes eg round, rectangular, bows, fans, sandwiches, flowers, hearts, twists, leaves, hearts, ribbons and an open chrysanthemum flower.

Hangwa (Korean cookies)
A wide selection of colours and shapes eg Yakgwa (Deep fried honey), fried ribbon, Pine nut, traditional pressed sweets and Omija (flavoured jelly)

Eumcheong (non-alcoholic beverages)
Rice Punch, Cinnamon Punch with dried persimmon, plum tea, Ginseng tea etc

The Institute Of Traditional Korean Food is the leading organisation in Korea for the promotion of traditional Korean cuisine both within and outside the country. Dr. Sook-Ja YOON, her associates and support staff are committed to achieving this goal.

Her enthusiasm for and pride in the work of the Institute of Traditional Korean Food is patently obvious as are her leadership qualities.

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