SEOUL — Kristi Finn chased the narrow strands of carrots around her frying pan with a pair of wooden cooking chopsticks and struggled to lift them one by one onto a plate.
"They’re harder to use," she said of the more-than-foot-long chopsticks, each thick as a felt-tip pen, "because they’re fatter."
Finn was one of 25 women — 11 Americans and 14 South Koreans, mostly wives of senior military officers — who attended a Korean cooking class Thursday at the Institute of Traditional Korean Food. The class was sponsored by the Korea-America Good Neighbor Society.
For some, the hardest part wasn’t the cooking. It was cutting, dicing and mixing the food under the lens of a half-dozen photographers and reporters who also showed up.
Cooking instructor Lee Jung-hee said the American women struggled most with chopping vegetables to the right thickness — fat chunks of cucumbers and finely minced leeks for kimchi, and slivers of carrots and cucumbers for kimbap-style rice-and-seaweed rolls.
At one cooking station, she pointed to a slender wedge of cucumber and told the American "chef" to chop it into thirds, leaving each slice no more than a centimeter thick.
"It’s not easy," Lee said. "It’s the most important thing in Korean food, but they do not really know [how to do] it."
She said the Americans seemed to like making kimbap the most.
Jamie Holovich said the recipes weren’t difficult, just time consuming.
"Each meal — there’s so much effort and preparation that goes into each little thing," she said.
Vicki Porter, assistant station manager for the American Red Cross at U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan, said she and the Korean women at her cooking station communicated largely through gestures.
"The cultural interaction to me is very special. It creates a bond, and it makes everybody more comfortable," she said.