Ever since college, I have been approached by countless people asking if I was of Korean ethnicity. Perhaps I share many facial features that are common to Koreans, or that I cooked lots of things with kimchee, or that I was taking Korean classes at that time and could fool someone with my two-lined relatively accent-less Korean. Anyhow, I have to confess that I did have a phase of Korean-craze back in high school. Everything started with Korean dramas. Of course.
Back when I was in high school, the classic “Winter Sonata” dominated the K-drama scene throughout Asia and had even spread to North America. My mom was watching it religiously and got me hooked as well. These Korean fairy-tales-coming-true on the silver screen along with their handsome protagonist and gripping story lines were enough to rope me into watching one drama after the next. Now come to think of it, many of my early worldviews on romance were shaped by K-drama, and not all were positive. For instance, it can be easy to have a falsely elevated expectation on your own romantic relationship after watching these soap operas. Somehow, the ideal boyfriend is painted to be either a wealthy heir or CEO who falls in love with a poor yet ambitious girl from a humble background, or a ruthless gangster made into a gentle and loving man when he meets the love of his life. A bit dramatic and idealistic, if you asked me.
Aside from dramas, I also became a follower of Korean-styled street fashion and started to ascribe to their standard of beauty. It seemed to me when I was young that every Korean woman had impeccable and flawlessly radiant skin, and a quirky and individual sense of fashion. One thing that I adapted is Korean skin care products. Different from American women, Koreans use at minimum five products nightly to moisturize their skin. Starting with toner to balance the skin’s pH after cleansing, to a light almost runny emulsion/lotion, to a concentrated essence that decrease wrinkles/ minimize pores/ control sebum, to a sleeping pack, to a eye firming cream, the Korean skin care market is filled with innovative and relatively cheap products that promise youthful and dewy looking skin. And I have to testify that using these products long term actually has made my skin softer, less likely to break out and brighter. (I promise I am not paid by any skincare company to advertise here).
Lastly, you cannot have a Korean craze without learning to appreciate their unique cuisine. The sheer amount of variety in Korean food is too lofty of a topic for me to undertake in one blog post, but I can tell you about a popular summer noodle dish I made awhile ago- Korean cold noodles (Bibim naeng myung). It uses buckwheat noodles, when boiled, leaves a chewy texture. Then you make a bibim sauce that consists of onions, red pepper paste, sugar and other spices to mix into the noodles. You then top it off with kimchee, carrots, boiled eggs and cucumber. By the way, the whole bowl of noodles is supposed to be soaked in icy water in the beginning so that when eaten, it’s spicy, cold and refreshing. Try this for your next summer time dinner meal when you’re craving for something to help you cool off the heat!
Korean Cold Noodles
- 1 handful of dried Korean buckwheat noodles (found in any Asian grocery)
- 1/4 onion, chopped
- 2 Tbsp gochujang (red pepper paste)
- 1 Tbsp vinegar
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
- sprinkle of salt
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup beef broth or water
- 1 hard boiled egg
- 1/2 cucumber, sliced thinly
- sesame oil, for drizzling
In a pot, boil buckwheat noodles according to instruction. Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water so that noodles are completely cooled.
In a blender, puree ingredients for the bibim sauce, from onion to beef broth.
To assemble the noodle, put a handful of noodles in a bowl, mix bibim sauce into it thoroughly. Top with egg, cucumber and kimchee. Drizzle with sesame oil. Enjoy!