Kosher in a Non-Kosher Communal Kitchen
You’re in South Korea to study at a university in Seoul or to work at Samsung or you’re touring Korea for a few months and want to save on the expenses, so you rent a Goshiwon. How do you keep Kosher in a Goshiwon?
OK. First of all what in the world is a Goshiwon? Is it a person, place or thing?
A goshiwon (고시원 in Korean) is a small room around 5 square meters that students will often live in for a several months to focus on a test. A goshiwon will have a dozen or two people living on one floor. Regular goshiwons have one to three bathrooms and shower rooms on a floor that are shared; thus, using the bathroom or the shower will involve a short trip down the hall. Goshiwons have a shared kitchen with a minimum of free rice, and will often have free kimchi, with eggs, ramen noodles, and condiments. Some goshiwons have kind owners that cook full meals from time to time as well. Check out this video to get the picture (he calls it an “Officetel”)
This is a common issue with university student housing worldwide. If you’re lucky, you can find Jewish student housing with people who keep kosher. In most cases the common kitchen is absolutely NK (non-kosher).
Guidelines for Kosher Cooking
The following are basic guidelines for keeping Kosher with a NK kitchen.
Utensils: You’ll need a set of Kosher dishes, cutlery, cups, pots and pans. If you intend to eat both meat and Parve (or milk), you’ll need separate equipment for the meat. If you can afford using disposable dishes then it’ll be easier for washing up.
Stove: Buy a single or double burner electric stove for all your cooking needs, whether you cook in the room or in the communal kitchen. If you can’t get your own stove then you can cook on the communal stove using a metal sheet a bit larger than your widest pot, as a separation between the pot and NK stove.
Surfaces: Use aluminum foil or a plastic sheet to cover the counter surfaces when preparing the food or washing up.
Microwave & oven: Ideally get your own microwave. You can use it for both meat and milk – on condition that you cover up one type consistently. If you can’t buy your own microwave, than you can use NK equipment as long as your food is DOUBLE-WRAPPED. For the NK microwave use plastic bags, paper, cardboard boxes or cling-film to create a double wrap. For a NK oven use a double layer of aluminum foil (This is what they do for Kosher airline meals. The food is double-wrapped and heated on the plane together with the NK food).
Washing up: Don’t put your Kosher dishes in a NK sink. Either wash by hand without putting them in the sink or get 2 plastic basins (meat & milk) to put in the sink.
Cold storage: Ideally get a small fridge for your room (in a Goshiwon it’s standard). If not, then your Kosher food mustn’t touch NK products. In addition, meat, chicken & fish products must always be sealed to avoid Basar Shenisalem Min Ha’Ayin (PDF on Kosher food in the hands of a non-Jew).
Keeping Kosher in a NK kitchen is a challenge, but when you stick to these guidelines, you’ll be able to cook up a storm and enjoy your trip to the utmost.