A Different Kind of Tourism
At the risk of letting my privilege show, I’m going to boldly argue that travelling the world has never been easier, for most of us at least. With cheap flights, Airbnb, multilingual signage, and easy-to-obtain visas, many of us in the western world have the opportunity to visit the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Wall of China, and the Burj Khalifa before we hit thirty.
But this freedom can leave a sour taste in your mouth when the tourism industry has milked these iconic landmarks and locales dry; automating our experiences and creating a kind of museum glass box atmosphere. There is also the issue with treating the most wonderful parts of world history and geography as checkboxes.
Fortunately, there is an alternative for those wanting to dig beneath the surface and experience the beating heart of a culture: Airbnb Experiences (Use our code at the bottom of the page for a discount). Booked through the usual airbnb site, it’s a way to do something more personal on your trip.
We’re writing this as we had such a great time, we went for Jess’s birthday and were not sponsored to take part or paid to write this review.
How Was Cooking with Airbnb Experiences?
We are very pleased to say that our first Airbnb Experience was perhaps the best thing we have done in Korea: Korean Home Food Cooking At Home (incidentally I’ll get over the only negative of the entire experience right now: bit of a clunky name, isn’t it?).
Run by an incredibly gracious host, Hogan Park, Korean Home Food Cooking At Home (henceforth known as KHFCAH) is a day of his own design, wherein you and Hogan will do as follows:
- Book the experience online at https://www.airbnb.com/s/experiences
- Hogan will contact you with a suggested place to pick you up in his car. For us (and likely for you too) it was Mok-dong station (exit 5) on line 5 at 10:40am.
- If you are alone or with a friend/partner you may be joined by one or two other people. For us it was two kind and wonderful women from Macau.
- Once at his home, you will be greeted by his lovely wife and beautiful daughters.
- You get stuck into some cooking! You’ll prepare a huge spread of traditional Korean dishes over the course of about two hours, all of which you then get to sit down and eat together.
How was the Host?
Easily the best part of KHFCAH is Hogan himself. He speaks perfect English and has both an enormous passion for cooking and hosting (he is also a food blogger of ten years), and a deep well of ambition which feeds into everything he does.
He will make you feel very much at home in his beautiful apartment, tell you about all of his hobbies and crafts, his family and the things he loves. He will ask you about your home country, your job, and the things you love. He very much wants to be your friend, and you really should let him. Hogan and his wife are kind people full of love and warmth, and they make the experience what it is.
They even said that anyone who wants a repeat experience will come as guests and not pay. Literally come as friends. He also presents you with a wonderful gift to take away with you. We were truly touched by his generosity.
How about the Food?
Of course, the other thing that makes the experience unique is the food itself. During your two-or-so hours of cooking and preparing, you’ll be introduced to ingredients and sauces that Hogan, his wife, his mother, or his wife’s mother prepared, sourced, farmed, and fermented themselves.
You’ll learn the history of such traditional Korean staples as kimchi, glass noodles, sesame oil, and even why Koreans use metal chopsticks as opposed to wood or plastic.
You’ll walk away from this experience with not only a full belly and some new friends, but also a far richer understanding of Korean food culture and history, and the ability to apply what you’ve learned to your own kitchen.
You’ll learn how to make such dishes as:
Jabchae (glass noodles with veg)
Doenjangguk (soybean paste soup)
The atmosphere of the whole experience is very much one of cooking with friends. If you’ve ever been invited to a friend’s house, and they’ve cooked you something you’ve never tried before, showing you how it’s done and having fun in the process, this is pretty much that.
Our family for a day.
What Hogan offers is for outsiders to become insiders of Korean culture. The best way to a culture’s heart is through its stomach, as I believe they say; Hogan and his wife know this and they are very excited for you to become a part of their culture through their cuisine. And what a cuisine it is.