One of my mother’s closest friend lived in the Yanbian region for a long time. In fact, she is Chaoxianzu or Chosunjok, an official name for Korean immigrants in China. She was born and raised in Yanbian, located in Northeast China. Her parents immigrated to China when she was only 11, and it hasn’t been long since she got married to a Korean man and returned to Korea. My mother met her at an English academy, and they built their friendships by going to restaurants together as they both enjoy eating good food.
One thing I always find interesting about her is the way she talks, or acts is very much like a Korean person as much as it is like Chinese person. Both Chinese and Korean culture is innate in her. I chose to conduct a study about a meal she once prepared for our family as it showed the blend of two different cultures. One thing that interested me the most about the dinner meal she prepared was the genuine mixture of Chinese and Korean food.
On the dinner table that she prepared for us, there was white steam rice with many other dishes to eat with rice. Along with rice, there also was chaomian (Chinese fried noodle), Bulgogi (traditional Korean dish) and Fanqie chao dan (Chinese style stir-fried egg and tomato, 番茄炒蛋). There were also both kimchi and zha cai as small dishes. One dish I thought was most unique was the mala-ramen. The dinner table together was a mixture of Korean food and Chinese food. Among them, the Mala-ramen was even fusion food. She mixed the Chinese Mala sauce with Korean ramen noodles. The servings of both kimchi and zha cai was also very interesting. Korean Kimchi and Chinese Zhacai are very much like Italian pickle. They serve to relieve the greasy and heavy taste from the main dish. Serving of both the Korean and Chinese pickles was very interesting. Apart from those, I could see a very traditional Korean food – Bulgogi next to typical Chinese food – thee Fanqie chaodan. The serving of both the rice and noodle was also very new to me. In a typical Korean dining table, we would normally see either the rice with other dishes or noodles. They are usually not served together. She said she prepared all the food because there were many of us eating, but the combinations of the food she prepared were very unique and interesting.
While doing the study, I believe I used the comparison method the most. Comparisons is made “between different members of society, such as by age, and gender, and between different cultural or ethnic and associations to be highlighted”. (“Eating Culture An Anthropological Guide to Food” by Gillian Crowther in University of Toronto Press) I compared Korean and Chinese culture and their food. There was a presence of both Korean and Chinese styled food in her meal, so I believe it would be most effective to compare it to a typical Korean meal and to a typical Chinese meal. One other research method I used was participant-observation. It incorporates the insider’s perspective with outsider’s perspective to draw a wider conclusion. Although I wasn’t able to interview her for a long time, I was able to get an insider’s perspective by listening to her speak about her food at the dinner table. She mentioned that she feels herself as a Chinese person as she lived in China for a long time. Yet, because of her connections with her family and relatives back in Korea, she believes Korean culture innates in her. As an outsider, I felt like her meal was a genuine combination of Chinese and Korean culture too. Although I know more about the Korean culture than the Chinese culture, many of the food she prepared, made we think of Chinese food I saw in Beijing last summer.
It was interesting to see the presence of two different cultures in one dining meal. She was born in Korea and her parents were from Korea. Yet, she lived in China for most of her life and thus created her new style. In fact, many Chaoxianzus, Korean immigrants in China show a blend of Korean and Chinese culture and created their own and unique styles. I believe my mother’s friend’s dining meal showed the Chaozianzu’s culture and their unique style of food.
Crowther, Gillian. Eating Culture: an Anthropological Guide to Food. University of Toronto Press, 2018.