27 February 2013


KDrama Culture: Restaurant Food

Posted by CM Shukmeister on February 27, 2013
Today's post is going to be about the food found in KDramas when a scene is staged in a restaurant or pojangmacha.  Warning: drool can be hazardous to your keyboard.

Restaurants in Korean Dramas are as ubiquitous as the evil Mother-in-law. From humble to elegant, they can set the stage for either cute moments or disastrous scenes.  Here they are, in no particular order.

JOKBAL -  Braised Pig's Feet (or Pig Trotters)
A link to the Visit Korea Tourism site calls jokbal "Chewy Memories of The Past".   Well, I'm not sure how far in the past you should go, but they were Ji-an's favorite pregnancy food in I Do I Do (2012), and So-young's love of the meat in Baby-faced Beauty (2005) made Jin-wook happy.  And anything that makes Daniel Choi happy, makes me happy too!
Jokbal is made by boiling pig's feet or the shank portion of the front legs over several hours in a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine, garlic, cinnamon sticks, green onions, ginger, and other spices, then deboned and served with a spicy fermented bean sauce or shrimp sauce for dipping. 

Full of gelatins, jokbal is said to be good for skin and preventing wrinkles.  The amino acid of methionine is  known to detoxicate alcohol, and therefore prevent hangovers.  Most Korean restaurants will serve it with lettuce to make wraps.  So it yummy food, great with soju, and you can jam it into your friend's face!

For more information on this yummy food, the KDramafoods site has MNiKSS's jokbal recipe!

BULGOGI - or Korean Beef
According to a U.S. Meat Export Federation report late in 2007, Korean consumers are now paying the highest prices for average-quality beef in the world, in part because of overly strict import policies toward U.S. beef. At 2007 exchange rates, reasonably priced kalbi and bulgogi meals were no longer within the reach of many Koreans.

"Calculating U.S. dollar equivalent prices for common grain-fed beef in Seoul shows Australian short fed chilled rib-eye roll was $20 (US dollars)  per kg. while domestic Hanwoo beef was $22 (US dollars) per kg. wholesale and higher in supermarkets."

The above DDD (Data Dry as the Desert) says one thing: eating beef is a status symbol in Korea, even if it comes from Australia.

In most dramas and at more modest restaurants, it is served flash cooked on an open table grill, surrounded by banchan, small portions of different items used to flavor your experience. From a gumiho's point of view, raw or cooked, you can't beat beef!

DUKBOKKI - Spicy Rice Cakes
For some reasons, these are called "cakes", but in reality, they are rolled-up tubes of rice flour. You have to be careful cooking them; not enough and they are crunchy in the middle.'; too much and they unroll into soggy slabs.  I find them a bit slippery to eat, given their size and slick surface, so I always make sure to wear a colored, washable shirt to match the sauce.
At my favorite Asian market, rice cakes come in several shapes.

Most recipes (and scenes you see in KDramas) have the rice cakes and bite-sized fish cakes in a sauce of red pepper flakes, garlic, and dried anchovies. 

Other variations can be found at Korean restaurants (my local one uses vegetables and a clear broth), but you rarely see these on screen.

These are often described as Chinese-style noodles when mentioned in recaps.  The original of the dish is Chinese, using wheat-based noodles and a thick mixture of black beans and onions in soybean paste on top.  Sometimes, green onions or other vegetables are mixed in as well.  It is normally served in a big bowl, already mixed up and ready to eat, with pickled radish as a side dish. 

In April 2011, according to a survey conducted by the online music site Bugs, Big Bang's Daesung was the number one singer people thought would end up eating the noodles by himself at home on Black Day (a traditional day for singles).

The name "jjajang" comes from the Korean pronunciation of the Chinese characters that mean "fried sauce":  .   "Myun" is hangeul for "noodle". A USC student wrote an article on the prevalence of jjajangmyun in Los Angeles.


Most of us would react closer to Cha Chi-soo than Song Jie Xiu!  This 'delicacy' shows up in a few KDramas, but more frequently in the Mandarin-speaking Asian dramas.  A lot of people would look at them as a leftover part best left to the trash can, but Savannah, GA, USA's international port owes it's success in part to the export of chicken feet to China, as explained in a December 2012 Bloomberg Report. And even England is jumping on the chicken-feet bandwagon.  

In China, it's used as beer snack, cold dish, or soup. In SK, they are normally cooked with red peppers and then grilled; it's main purpose is as a second course or served while drinking alcohol.  Similar to pig's feet, it's mostly cartilage with little muscle or fat.  And, in case you ask, they do remove the claws first!


This is probably everyone's favorite part - savory finger foods that just beg to be devoured while strolling with your honey down Restaurant Row, or doing a bite-shot-bite-shot at your favorite p'macha, hand-held snacks can be some of the best local flavors you can find when you travel.   This is just a short view of different types of street foods found in South Korea:

And there you have, a short journey through the various types of food you can enjoy if your life were just like an Asian drama!


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