This article was written for Mochi Magazine, an online destination for Asian American women to share their stories, experiences, and passions. Click on the link to read the entire article.
Mochi’s Favorite Korean Food Blogs, May 25, 2020
Growing up, making instant Shin ramyun was the extent of my Korean cooking skills. My mother taught me how to eyeball the perfect soup powder-to-water ratio, when to listen for the beugeul beugeul simmering sound to drop in the dried noodle cake, and how to get the noodles jjolgit jjolgit (nice and chewy). Mama Park was too busy working odd jobs and supporting her siblings and then her children to ever learn my grandmother’s elaborate recipes, let alone teach them to me.
For most of my young life, she worked long hours with my father all day in Flushing, Queens, commuted in rush hour traffic back to Long Island, and still somehow managed to put simple meals on the table. She often relied on buying banchan (side dishes) from H-Mart or bringing home take-out. All I needed to do was make rice, which she taught me to measure with my knuckles.
Like many ethnic cultures, Koreans tend to forgo measuring cups and written recipes, simply knowing what to add and how much to add by taste alone. But as we assimilate more and more into American culture through each generation, how do we hold onto our cuisines and their individual histories? How do we pass them down?
It was while I was studying abroad in Lyon, and there wasn’t an authentic hansik restaurant in sight, that I began to despair at my lack of culinary education. I bought a tiny jar of kimchi for 6 euros and made a long-distance call to my mother for a kimchi pancake recipe. She paused. And then she told me to mix in enough flour and water “until it drops ddook… ddook from the spoon, not ddook ddook ddook.” Did I somewhat understand what she meant? Yes. Did I know how to execute that? Absolutely not. That kimchi was expensive.
Cue a quick Google search and stumbling upon Maangchi’s blog, which had step-by-step instructions, pictures, and — wait for it — precise measurements. After more than two decades of scribbling haphazardly in frustration, I was finally learning how to color in the lines. Six years later, there is much more diversity in the food blogosphere, and I am more competent and confident in both the kitchen and H-Mart aisles. I get to flex my cooking skills for my parents and show them this part of our cultural heritage will not end with me.
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(Featured image from The Plant Based Wok’s “Spicy Korean Cauliflower Wings,” HannahChia.com)