I started working as a part-time language tutor when I was a university freshman. I was not really looking for a job that time, but the opportunity was there, so I grabbed it even if didn’t really have any actual working experience. Luckily, the job only required me to teach conversational Filipino to Ms. Jayanthi, a Bangladeshi who was working for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) at the time.
Riding tricycles and army trucks
Our lessons were not really lessons but more like two friends talking to each other. I got to learn about a different culture, and even met her friends from other countries, like Ms. Yang Mi-lan. She was a member of the Korean Youth Volunteers who had been assigned to the Golden Acres in Quezon City. Upon learning that I was teaching Jayanthi conversational Filipino, Ms. Mi-lan got my services to help her improve her English and help her commute around Metro Manila.
Ms. Jayanthi and Ms. Mi-Lan even joined me and my family on our annual summer trip to the province and stayed there for about a week. We went to the beach and the farm. We rode the back of the tricycle because it was full. We looked at the stars while laying down on the roof!
We did so many things together—both fun and meaningful, like going to medical missions and feeding programs. Then, Mt. Pinatubo erupted and we rode army trucks just to bring food and medicine to several communities of indigenous tribes. It was really an eye-opener for someone like me who grew up in a sheltered environment.
And it was because of the Mt. Pinatubo experience that I met Ms. Mi-lan’s senior, Mr. Park Chung-gyo, and had my first taste of kimchi.
Mr. Park’s “kimchi”
Mr. Park was the team coordinator for the Korean Youth Volunteers in the Philippines. He was a towering bloke who liked to smoke and munch on crispy chicken skin sold on the streets. I helped him and his team find a place to stay somewhere near his office in Quezon City. I negotiated for the rent, since the apartment owner had this idea that foreigners were wealthy and could afford to pay an exorbitant amount.
“Park”—what we called him, instead of his given name—made me eat raw pechay with spicy paste, his version of kimchi. I think he couldn’t find some of the traditional ingredients and made do with whatever was available in the store near his apartment. Aside from kimchi, he also liked to eat raw onion and tomatoes.
Korean Toast (Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Kimchi)
Kimchi is a fermented vegetable that’s akin to our atchara. It is often made with cabbage, but other kimchi varieties use cucumber, spring onions, and other vegetables.
Kimchi is typically paired with grilled meat or seafood, but this versatile ingredient can also be used for other things—stews, pancakes, and even a sandwich. Here’s my version of Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Kimchi, aka Korean Toast.
- 6 slices of white or wheat bread
- 3 slices of Havarti cheese (or any quick melting cheese)
- 3 slices of ham
- Fried egg (optional)
- Fry the egg.
- Lightly cook the ham.
- Assemble sandwich by layering the following: bread, ham, egg, kimchi, cheese, bread.
- Heat the pan or griddle.
- Butter the bread before placing it on the pan / griddle. Once it turns a bit brown, flip it, and butter the other side of the bread before cooking.
You can buy store-bought kimchi or make it at home.
- 800 grams napa cabbage
- 200 grams radish, julienned
- 4 tsp ginger, grated
- 70 ml cane vinegar or apple vinegar
- 3 tsp fish sauce
- 5 tsp sugar
- 20 grams scallions
- Half clove garlic, thinly sliced
- 5 tsp Korean chili powder (add more if you want it spicier)
- 7 tsp gochujang paste
- 1 cup rock salt
- 1 pair disposable gloves
- Cut the cabbage in half (lengthwise) and remove about 2 inches from the core.
- Prepare a big basin or bowl with water and mix in the rock salt.
- Submerge the cabbage in the salt water and leave for about 2 to 3 hours.
- Prepare another bowl and mix in the chili powder, vinegar, fish sauce, ginger, sugar, and Gochujang paste.
- Remove the cabbage from the salt water and rinse the leaves one by one. Drain leaves to remove excess water.
- Prepare your Kimchi container. This can be a bottle or the square plastic containers.
Time to use your disposable gloves!
Take a leaf of cabbage, a few radishes, garlic, scallions, and rub it with the spicy mixture and place in the container. Repeat process until all leaves are in the container. If there’s remaining spicy mixture, pour into the cabbage.
Allow to ferment inside the fridge for 2 to 3 days for best tasting results.
Kimchi always reminds me of the Korean volunteers I met in college, and how those experiences broadened my horizons, and imparted lessons that weren’t taught in school. These helped shape my life and how I was able to guide my daughter when she was growing up.
This is where my philosophy of intentional parenting comes in. I can say that I have a healthy and open relationship with my daughter. We enjoy doing things together like shopping, traveling, cooking, watching Netflix, discussing books and politics, among other things. I was also able to impart to her that experience is the best teacher.
Like me, she also had an opportunity to have a part-time job as a Mandarin language tutor when she was still in junior high. Our neighbor asked me if she could help her son, and after discussing the pros and cons, my daughter made the decision herself that she can fit the tutoring job into her schedule.
I hope that she will also find many more experiences that will teach her more about life—and even a good recipe.
About The Writer
Edel Santiago is a mom to one daughter and a black cat named Cleo. On her spare time, she likes to read books like The Silmarillion, Neverwhere, A Tale For The Time Being, and currently finishing The Bridgerton series. Of course, she was also into K-Dramas although she got hooked on it more than decade early when her daughter entered big school and she realized that she has extra time on her hands. She got her first Lock&Lock set and a Samsung phone thanks to a favorite K-Drama. Presently, she keeps herself busy tending after her pocket edible garden and perfecting her tom yum and pad kra pao gai, thanks to the abundant kaffir and basil leaves in her garden.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.