Taste for Korean Food

Posted September 22nd, 2011 by Michelle in Food


Kimchi jigae photo courtesy of Jetalone, Flickr

My mom had a full, traditional Korean dinner on the table every night for my dad when I was a kid.  My evening meals consisted of fluffy, sticky white rice paired with rich, spicy Korean jigae.  Noodles, tofu, and a variety of banchan rounded out the steady diet of strong flavors and spices.

As a second generation Korean-American, I longed to be like my friends.  I desired dinners of pizza, burgers, and French fries!  Embarrassed by the strange smells of Korean food, I attempted to hide my dinners as much as possible.  Going away to college was a welcome relief;  D-hall offered traditional American fare that allowed me to blend right in with fellow students.

Imagine my surprise when I would experience flares of homesickness that included missing my traditional Korean foods!  It took a few years, but I have since become comfortable in my Korean heritage and foods.  I most definitely favor the spicy, strong flavors of my youth and I love having a good Korean meal.  I look forward to times when my mom takes over my kitchen to cook up my favorite dishes.

I want to expose my own children to the foods I grew up with, which presents a challenge since I am clueless how to do so.  I never had to prepare my own Korean dishes!  I keep my kitchen stocked with some basics: soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, soybean paste (doenjang) and hot red pepper paste (gochujang).  Every few weeks, I prowl around the local Lotte to purchase ready-made banchan and other favorite foods such as dubu, mandu, kimchi, gim, and dduk.  I can even hold my own when it comes to a marinating and grilling the well-known Korean dish bulgogi for special occasions.  But it’s the every day main dishes I find myself helpless to prepare:  the spicy jigaes that I love.  I worry that my kids’ tastebuds won’t be awaked to the rich, fiery tastes of Korean foods.  It physically pains me to order and pay for a Korean dish at a restaurant.  Every now and then I call my mom in a frantic attempt to have her talk me through making something I am dying to taste.  It’s just never the same.

And so I hang on between visits from my mom, making do with what I can find at Lotte.  Sometimes I stare longingly at Korean ajummas, hoping they will take pity on a poor Korean-American gal who didn’t appreciate her Korean foods when she was a youngster.


Michelle blogs at Wife and Mommy, writes online a few other places, and can be found on Twitter!



3 Responses to “Taste for Korean Food”

  1. Andrea Meyers

    I know what you mean about all the variety of Korean flavors. One of my favorite things about going to Korean restaurants is all the small dishes that come out , the pickles, kimchi, all sorts of things. I’ve made kimchi and bulgogi and would love to try other Korean dishes.

  2. Jill

    You need to camp yourself in the kitchen the next time your mom visits and learn how to make this stuff. You will regret it if you don’t.