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Bon appetit! Enjoy eating alone

May 13, 2011 - 19:34 By Oh Kyu-wook
Cooking solo grows up, classes offer recipes for one

Have you ever eaten over the sink or in front of an open fridge and felt miserable? Cooking for one is not typically seen as an exciting proposition. Whether you are a student or a single working adult, many people living alone end up eating leftovers or the same thing meal after meal.

So it was for 24-year-old student Kim Hye-seon, until she found CIY cooking class.

On a Monday evening, Kim was chatting away with her group at the CIY cooking studio near Sincheon Station in Seoul.

From the outside, the studio looks narrow, but inside is the kitchen of your dreams ― sleek and modern, packed with different cooking utensils.

“I didn’t much like spending time in the kitchen, but it is now my favorite place,” said Kim, while chopping onions.

Kim admitted that before taking up the cooking class, she often ate a bowl of rice with “banchan,” side dishes, over the kitchen sink. But she now enjoys cooking for herself and even baking cookies for her friends.

“So many recipes serve four or six, not one. But here, you can get recipes for single-portion cooking with plenty of tips,” Kim said.

CIY class ― which stands for cook it yourself ―- is ideal for people looking to enjoy eating alone at home, according to Lee Kyung-hee, 32, a cooking instructor, who has run the class for three years.

On Monday the menu was rose pasta with crab and mushroom soup.

“It’s easy and quick to follow, but still very delicious,” Lee said.

“Bring the water to a rolling boil and salt it, before putting in the pasta,” Lee told the students.

“Cook the pasta according to the timing directions on the packet. But take them out one minute before the prescribed time,” she said and the students followed suit.

“So that the pasta will not be overcooked when you mix with the sauce,” Lee explained as one student looked puzzled.

Anyone can now look up recipes on the Internet. But this is no good for people who don’t already know the essential techniques, Lee said.

“That is why people come here. I teach skills that people can use in a bunch of different ways with a few tips.” 
Participants at CIY cooking class prepare rose pasta with crab at CIY Cooking Studio in eastern Seoul. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
Pulmuone’s salad bar options. (Pulmuon)

Her hands-on cooking classes take no more than 10 students at a time so that participants are not mere bystanders but can actually do the cooking.

Apart from the CIY class, Lee teaches two different food-themed courses ― ABC Cooking and Banchan class.

ABC Cooking is focused on the classical preparation of Korean dishes, and mastering the essential cooking techniques. The class also includes an introduction to spices, which explains the origin and use of many types of spices, their flavors and how to incorporate these into your everyday meals.

“A few simple tips can make a difference. For instance, many use dried anchovies to make jjigae or soup. People tend to put them directly into boiling water. But if you cook the dried anchovy just 1 minute in a frying pan, before putting them into water, you can make jjigae without the fishy smell,” Lee said.

As the name suggests, the banchan class mainly teaches about Korean side dishes. The best part of this class is that you can learn how to make various types of banchan, and have them packed to bring home.

One of the students, Lee Eun-kyung, said: “Cooking here gives me great pleasure, and whets my appetite.”

Eating a meal alone can be a pleasure, if you know how to cook it yourself, according to the cooking instructor. But she agrees that eating together with family and friends helps improve your appetite.

“I come here not only for cooking, but also making friends, and having fun,” she added, heating the tomato sauce and garlic in a small saucepan.

“So, after our class we sit down at the table together and share the meals we have just prepared,” she said.

CIY cooking studio runs classes from Monday to Saturday, starting at 10:30 a.m. Afternoon classes start at 3 p.m. and evening classes commence at 7:30 p.m.

The drop-in fee is 35,000 won per day, which includes the class, ingredients, a meal and free beverage. After the class, you can also purchase a tray of ingredients specially packed for a single person. For more information, visit or call at 1577-0680.

Men’s cooking class

There are a few all-male cooking classes in Seoul. Check out Sempio Jimiwon located in Pildong, central Seoul. Sempio, the renowned soy sauce maker, opened the men-only class in 2010, offering courses ranging from basic Korean food to fusion food. For more information, visit

Mayfield Hotel School also offers cooking classes for single men with its top-class chefs providing hands-on tuition. For more information, visit

By Oh Kyu-wook (


Full-size lasagna or an entire chicken can take a while to eat on your own. So here are some tips for solo eaters to avoid leftovers.

First, avoid recipes that have rare ingredients you won’t use often. If the recipe asks for a bunch of expensive ingredients that you can’t buy a little of, find alternatives. For instance, instead of buying expensive fresh herbs, go for a piece of fruit.

Using greens in more than one way is also useful for reducing leftovers. Vegetables are the first things to go in the fridge, so use them to make a salad or add them to your main dish.

It is also helpful to go to a local market instead of a department store, according to cooking instructor Lee.

It’s often more expensive to buy ready-prepared chicken breasts than a whole chicken in a department store. But you can get a small portion of different ingredients, and also fresh vegetables and fruits for a single-size meal in local markets, Lee said. 

Buy ready meals

If you are really not in the mood to cook, ready-made meals can be an option. Some of the restaurant chains and packaged food makers now offer various single-size ready meals. Ashley, the Italian restaurant chain, now sells its pasta menus in supermarkets and shops. Daesang FNF, producer of packaged kimchi under the Jonggajip brand, produces ready-made classic Korean dishes, such as kimchi-jjigae.

Another local food producer, Pulmuone offers salad bar options, such as potato salad and squash salad. Although these are a little more expensive than a home-cooked meal, they can be a treat once in a while to give you more variety. Browsing through their stores can also give you ideas of foods you might be able to prepare at home.

Want to save money, and whittle down your waistline? Then, it is always better to cook at home.

So why not get into the kitchen this weekend and make something special for yourself?