A Bowl of Nostalgia: Ramyeon- Sarah Kim

Abstract: This paper outlines the impact ramyeon noodles have on the Korea. The noodles that originated from China found its way to Korea and today is an integral part of the Korean culture.  Ramyeon has greatly impacted Korea both economically and culturally. It has become an important part of the Korean eating culture; it has become a staple food; and it has become a part of Korean pop culture. It is intertwined with our culture, our family histories, and our lives. Ramyeon noodles today greatly impacts cultures all around the world. It has become a popular and affordable way to satiate hunger for people not just in Korean but to everyone.

            These days it may be hard for the whole family to sit down and enjoy one meal. Now a days, both parents in the household have jobs. This also applies to my family. Moreover, my parents’ work schedules are so different that we only have two or three meals when the family sits down and puts everything else in their life aside to eat and talk face to face. My sibling and I call these meals “family sit-together” meals. When my sister comes into my room saying “It’s family sit-together time” I stop what I am doing and join my family. I usually help my grandmother and my siblings set up the table by putting the spoons and chopsticks out, one for each person. Then, for the final step, we get the trivet set up. Korean instant noodles, or formally called ramyeon (라면in Korean), is the perfect meal for times like this. It is a simple but filling meal that is quick to make and eat. It takes less than 15 minutes to make and all the instructions are listed on the back of the packaging. However, for me, as a person who does not know how to cook, it is still hard to get myself to make the ramen. My mother tried to teach me, but she says it does not taste the same when I make it. I remember the last time we had a family sit together, we ate my favorite type of instant noodles, Chapagetti. Chapagetti is the instant noodle version of the black bean noodle, jjangmyeon. This noodle dish is similar to the Beijing Fried Sauce Noodles. Our family did not even bother to put the cooked Chapagetti into bowls before serving it. We have a certain ritual like procedure when eating ramen. First, my mother, who usually cooks the ramen, brings the pots with the ramen and boiling broth. The smell is amazing and nostalgic. Whenever, I smell this outside of my home, it reminds me of these small yet meaningful dinners. Then, everyone grabs their chopsticks and waits to get a few chopsticks of the Chapagetti on the small side plates. But of course, we wait for my grandmother to take her first bite and then we start eating. Ramyeon has played a significant role in my family and in my memories, despite the fact that it is such a simple and inexpensive meal to prepare.

            Ramyeon surprisingly has a long history to it. And when I researched the history of ramyeon, I was surprised it did not originate from Korea. Especially since, “Koreans now lead the world in instant ramyeon consumption, eating about 80 packages a year per capita at home and at restaurants, which add toppings for their customers” (Hurwitz). Moreover, according to Nongshim, a Korean food and beverage company, “Korea’s annual consumption of ramen per capita…is number one for decades.”

            The first traces of noodles were found in China approximately four thousand years ago. “The beautifully preserved, long, thin yellow noodles were found inside an overturned sealed bowl at the Lajia archaeological site in northwestern China” (Roach). Then, from China the noodle was brought to Japan during the Meiji era (Hurwitz). The style of noodle dish that was brought over consisted of noodles with broth made from a variety of different ingredients.  According to Hurwitz, making the broth may take a couple of days to prepare to make the taste. This style was brought to Korea during the early 1960s. A former member of the Board of Directors of the United States Committee of the Council for Security, Kongdan Oh describes the life of a Korean in the 1950s and 1960s. “The Korean economic miracle that was achieved under President Park’s leadership in the 1960s and 1970s is a story of dazzling national transformation from poverty to wealth” (Oh). However, as Koreans were earning money, they had less time spent to enjoy meals. They relied on quick, simple meals. At this time, the instant food companies started to build their profiles. All you need to make ramyeon is the noodles, a pack of sauce or seasoning, and boiling water. The simplicity aspect of making ramyeon helped it boom in industries. Similarly, in Japan “ramyeon’s popularity is due in part to the fact that it is simple to make and quick to eat. It is also inexpensive, making it an ideal lunch, dinner or after-a-night-on-the-town snack for businessmen and budget-conscious students” (Hurwitz). And ever since, the popularity of ramyeon has been on the rise. Today, “by value, instant noodles were the top-selling manufactured food in South Korea in 2012, the most recent year figures are available, with about 1.85 trillion won ($2 billion) worth sold, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety” (Klug). Ramyeon has greatly impacted Korea both economically and culturally. It has become an important part of the Korean eating culture; it has become a staple food; and it has become a part of Korean pop culture.

            Eating ramyeon has become so common in Korea. According to Tim Alper, a writer from the U.K., “Many also have plastic chairs and tables outside, mostly used by noodle fans. In fact, you will very rarely pass a Korean convenience store at any time of day or night without spotting a keen ramyeon eater” (Alper). Ramyeon has inevitably become an important part of the Korean eating culture.  There is now a “Korean custom of eating yasik, or a late-night snack, according to the Korea Tourism Organization” (Hurwitz). The most popular yasik is ramyeon. Interestingly, it “is often called “the food of the people” since it is liked by almost every Korean. It takes only a few minutes to cook. Bring 500ml of water to a boil and put in the ramyeon noodles and seasoning. Stir with chopsticks and let it boil for three to five minutes. Let it cool off for a bit and enjoy” (Hurwitz). Moreover, there are ubiquitous convenience stores that sell ramen ranging from 50 cents to 2 dollars. Inside the store, they have stations that serve hot water so that you would be able to make ramyeon and eat it right away. Unlike the convenience stores in the United States, those in Korea have eating areas both inside and outside the store. At Hangkang Park in South Korea, there DIY (do-it yourself) ramyeon making stations. All you have to do and scan a barcode. Then, the machine will automatically pour in the correct amount of water, set a timer, and tells you when to put in the egg. I have seen these machines on Youtube and I think it is very fascinating. Since it is so easily accessible and easily made, ramyeon bring pleasure to all ages ranging from students who are having a late-night snack after studying to businessmen who are looking for something to eat after long hours of work. At Emory University, I made new friends through eating yashik with classmates who were studying late at the library. Gathering and eating the ramyeon was a spontaneous thing. If it were not for ramyeon, I might not have the friends I am close with today. But the most surprising thing was the fact that they sell Korean instant noodles, Shin Ramen, at Pete’s in the Woodruff Library.

            According to the businessdictionary.com, a staple food is one in which “is regularly consumed in a community or society.” Ramyeon has become Korea’s staple food. Statistics confirm that Koreans consume the most ramyeon each year for the past ten years and it is estimated that each Korean eats up to eighty packages of ramyeon a year (Hurwitz). Ramyeon has also become a food that Koreans need on a daily basis. “Instant noodles carry a broke college student aura in America, but they are an essential, even passionate, part of life for many in South Korea and across Asia” (Klug). Mostly because of how affordable, convenient, and simple ramyeon is. Whenever, my family goes on a vacation, we always pack a couple of ramyeon packages as a safety food. According to my mother, if she eats American food three meals a day, she starts to feel sick. At times like this, eating a pack of ramyeon helps her feel better. I also agree with this. Being away from home and Korean food at Emory, ramyeon provides some relief from eating American food all the time. Ramyeon also comes in many different ways. The basic flour-based noodle part is the same, but “some add chopped leeks or bean sprouts, others add an egg, while still others add a slice or two of processed cheese, which melts into the spicy soup. In fact, there are almost as many ways to customize this dish as there are stars in the sky” (Alper). This reminded me of the noodles that we learned during our class discussions. Noodles are also staple foods in China and Italy. For example, there are different types of Bing for a certain season. Mostly because the Chinese believe that with different seasons, there are different needs and the Bing for each season is able to give you the appropriate nutrients to nurture the body and the mind for each season. This shows us how regularly Bing is consumed by the Chinese and reveals important Chinese cultural values.  The Italians have pasta as a staple food. Pasta comes in many different shapes and sizes to fit the ingredients and the sauces used in the pasta dish. Most importantly, all these staple foods serve as culinary connections to our past and they evoke a sense of nostalgia when consuming the comfort foods. They serve as reminders of our roots and help reinforce our different identities other than our American identity.

            Finally, ramyeon has become a part of the Korean pop culture. Mukbangs are very popular in both Korea and the United States. “Mukbang is a mashup of two Korean words: “mukja,” or “let’s eat”; and “bang song,” meaning “broadcast.” It originated in South Korea, but it’s gone on to garner international attention and recruit legions of mukbangers and fans alike, all united by the desire to watch ordinary people consume extraordinary amounts of food” (Matthews). There are literally millions of these broadcasts online streamed live and on Youtube about ramyeon. When I am at Emory, Korean restaurants that serve this dish are a thirty-minute car ride away so during the semester, I see a lot of Chapagetti mukbangs. Mukbangs are very popular today. They are videos people upload on social media and Youtube of them eating specific foods. Some people to an ASMR version, in which I recommend listening to the video with headphones or earphones on. Some people may say that watching people eat makes them hungrier, but for me I feel better. There is a specific challenge called the Fire Noodle Challenge that became really popular. Many famous Youtube channels participated in this challenge like Buzzfeed, REACT, and the World of Dave, just to name a few. “The noodle, officially called buldak ramen, became popular in Seoul after YouTube users took on the “fire noodle challenge,” which requires a person to consume the incredibly spicy food as fast as possible” (Lee, H.). In most of the videos people are panting, running for a glass of milk, and some end of tearing up because they cannot handle the spice. I personally tried this noodle and there is also a “nuclear” version of the buldak ramen, which is two time spicier. It was very spicy and the pain seemed to never end. Through these challenges and the birth of mukbangs, ramyeon has become the most popular it has ever been. “It was just a spicy ramen kids like. But in the second half of last year, it began to reverse. The jackpot exploded abroad. More and more people are looking for products in China, Thailand and Malaysia. Revenue, which increased by 5% annually, soared 30% last year. I didn’t do much marketing” (Lee, J.). Ramyeon is an integral Korean dish that helped further share the Korean culture.

            Not only did ramyeon help spread the Korean culture but as it became more associated with pop culture, it also became more popular in Korea. In the United States, the advertisements we see online and on television, rarely feature celebrities. They usually consist of normal people. On the other hand, there are a lot of advertisements that feature celebrities or influential people in Korea. In Korea, “they’re a means of persuading viewers that celebrities are just like us, to encourage us to make associations with them in our minds. After all, why else would companies…. present celebrities in such unglamorous situations as getting food all over their faces while slurping noodles” (Turnbull).  Even a former LA Dodgers baseball player Ryu Hyun-Jin shot an advertisement for ramyeon in 2014.  An interesting trend I noticed was that the models for the ramyeon changes often. If another celebrity’s profile is on the rise, the ramyeon companies will most likely shoot another advertisement with the new celebrity.

            Last but not least, ramyeon became the center of a new Korean slang term which holds the same meaning as “Netflix and Chill” in the US. The phrase “Ramyeon meokgo galrae?” translates to “Do you want to eat ramyeon at my place?” This phrase was taken from a movie called “One Fine Spring Day” released in the year 2001. Saying this enables “young people to ask their date to come over to their place without having to muster up the courage to say the words out loud” (Yim). Ramyeon has also infiltrated Korea’s dating culture and also Korean dramas. This phrase is often said playfully and by young characters to check if feelings are mutual. A recent Korean drama “What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?” released in June 2018, used this phrase. The short clip featuring this scene has up to 300,000 views. Hence, Ramyeon has become a part of the Korean pop culture in many different ways through its presence in Youtube videos, advertisements, and Korean dramas.

            For me personally, I realized that ramyeon plays a bigger role in my life than I thought. It is not just a comfort food, but a memory with family. Eight-hundred and sixty-eight miles away from home, ramyeon helps remind me of memories I had back at home. It is these memories that fuel me to get through everyday life. Not only do I think ramyeon this way but also the many people on social media. On Instagram, people use the captions like Ramyeon: ten percent noodles and ninety percent love and No ramen, no life. Last semester, I had a disagreement with my roommate. It was really awkward when we were both in the room and I tried to avoid her from time to time. However, by having a bowl of ramyeon we were able to put our differences aside. We apologized to each other and reconciled. Moreover, the act of eating ramyeon together forced us to sit face to face and eat. By doing this, it made it impossible to ignore her and eat my noodles. I felt like I had to talk to her. At first, it was uncomfortable, but I broke into laughter when we were both slurping up the noodles so loudly. Ramyeon reminded us that we are similar, and we were not all that different inside. It served as a common ground and through establishing that my roommate and I were able to connect to each other. Of course, I did not realize this at the time. I was just happy I had my friend and room mate back. But the class discussions and the assignments reminded me of this event. I come to realize how heavily my life is impacted by noodles- from my Korean culture to my everyday life things like reconciling with a friend.

            In the final analysis, ramyeon has become an important part of the Korean eating culture; it has become a staple food; and it has become a part of Korean pop culture. Ramyeon may not be one of the healthier foods in South Korea, but as the many Koreans believe that “there’s no way any study is going to stop me from eating this,”… his red face beaded with sweat as he adds hot water to his noodles in a Seoul convenience store” (Klug). I recently saw a Youtube clip about ramyeon. In a Korean variety show called, New Journey to the West Season 5 (Shin Seo Yu Ji in Korean), there is a game in which a show participant had to guess five different brands of ramyeon correctly. I was shocked when the participant got them all right without any hesitation. This is how prevalent and important ramyeon is to Koreans. All Koreans know the taste of ramyeon and it goes to the point where we can decipher which companies make which ramyeons. It is intertwined with our culture, our family histories, and our lives. It is a staple food, an affordable way to satiate hunger for people not just in Korean but all across the world in many cultures. The following statement from an enginner from Seoul really sums up what ramyeon is to Koreans. “Ramyeon is like kimchi to Koreans,” says Ko Dong-ryun, 36… referring to the spicy, fermented vegetable dish that graces most Korean meals. “The smell and taste create an instant sense of home” (Klug). Although ramyeon may be an instant food, the effects it has on us are timeless and forever.

Works Cited

Alper, Tim. “Instant Success: Why Koreans Are Crazy for Instant Noodles.” KOREA.NET, 13     July 2016, www.korea.net/NewsFocus/Column/view?articleId=138467.

Hurwitz, David. “They Call It Ramen, We Call It Ramyeon.” Stripes Korea, 19 Nov. 2014,          korea.stripes.com/travel/they-call-it-ramen-we-call-it-ramyeon.

Klug, Foster. “South Koreans Defend Instant Noodle Diet despite Health Warning.”         Thestar.com, 21 Aug. 2014,            www.thestar.com/life/food_wine/2014/08/21/south_koreans_defend_instant_noodle_die  _despite_health_warning.html.

Lee, Jung-jung. “불닭볶음면 2500억 ‘화끈한 매출’… 삼양식품 간판라면          꿰찼다.” Hankyung.com, 4 Dec. 2017,            www.hankyung.com/economy/article/2017120485741.

Lee, Hakyung Kate. “Foodies across the Globe Are Taking Part in the ‘Fire Noodle Challenge’.”  ABC News, ABC News Network, 5 Dec. 2018, abcnews.go.com/International/foodies           globe-taking-part-fire-noodle-challenge/story?id=59594235.

Matthews, Melissa. “These Viral ‘Mukbang’ Stars Get Paid to Gorge on Food-at the Expense of   Their Bodies.” Men’s Health, 22 Jan. 2019,            www.menshealth.com/health/a25892411/youtube-mukbang-stars-binge-eat/.

Oh, Kongdan. “Korea’s Path from Poverty to Philanthropy.” Brookings, Brookings, 14 June         2010, www.brookings.edu/articles/koreas-path-from-poverty-to-philanthropy/.

“Ramen History.” 메인페이지, www.nongshim.com/ramyun/history1.

Roach, John. “4,000-Year-Old Noodles Found in China.” National Geographic, 12 Oct. 2005,     www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/10/4-000-year-old-noodles-found-in-china/.

Turnbull, James. “The Korean Ad Industry’s Celebrity Obsession.” Haps Magazine, 9 Apr. 2012, hapskorea.com/korean-ad-industrys-celebrity-obsession/.

Ordinary yet Extraordinary – Sarah Kim

Each family has its own special dish/snack with a secret recipe that is passed down generation to generation. It may be something special as a ping a mien noodle or something as common as spaghetti and meatballs. My family has a special yet common dish that we hold dear to- Japchae.

Japchae means “mixed vegetables” in Korean. The jap means to mix and the chae means vegetables. It is made from cellophane noodles and various vegetables stir-fried together. Meat was introduced to the japchae years after its invention and is always used in japchae today. It is a traditional celebration dish served at parties and special occasions like weddings and birthday parties.

My grandmother learned to make japchae noodles from her mother back in Korea and then passed the recipe on to my mother. Japchae is my grandmother’s favorite food since she first had it when she was 7 years old. The recipes to make japchae are readily available on the Internet today, yet my grandmother never liked these recipes and she disapproved me making japchae following an online recipe. When I see her making the noodles, I do not see a big difference in the procedure and I never understood the difference. It was such a common Korean food and readily available everywhere. I did not think that my grandmother had to spend an hour in front of the stove trying to cook this when we can go to a grocery shop and buy a pack.

Every year during Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving Day, our family serves Japchae as the main dish. The whole family gathers and shares the just-cooked japchae. As we have the first bite, I hear my sister thanking my grandmother saying “Grammy, it gets better every year!” followed by a bunch of Mmmm! and “Wow.” This was such an ordinary, annual thing that I did not put much thought into what this food meant for me and my family until my freshman year at Emory University.

Eight-hundred and sixty-eight miles away from home, the Chuseok in 2017 was uneventful. I had a hard time adjusting to my studies. A few days later, I received a package from home. It was wrapped in different boxes and cold. My family had sent me a surprise gift-container full of Japchae with a little note saying “Hwaiting!”- a Korean phrase of support and encouragement. All my worries faded and all I felt was a sense of security. This ordinary food became an extraordinary one that day.



I chose to imitate the short memoir “Ping A Mien, a Chinese Family Noodle Story” because there were many parts of the memoir that resonated with me. According to Susannah, “Ping an mien means “peaceful noodles” in Chinese. In Mandarin, ping an translates to “peaceful,” and when sending someone someplace far away, you say zhu ni yi lu ping an, or “wishing you a peaceful journey.” I remember when I leave my family to go on a trip for a few days, my grandmother would cook me a grand dinner to send me off. My grandmother believes that food is considered as a nourishment for the body and soul. A good meal is a hundred times better than taking medicine. Another part that resonated with me was the ending. Families can get into arguments and eventually they reconcile. My family is peculiar in that we reconcile through eating a meal together, especially a spicy one. I found this little odd similarity in the memoir and it reminded me of the time my mother and I reconciled after a meal. At first, the meal was awkward since we both did not want to see each other, but we were hungry. Then, my stomach growled. We both looked up at each other and laughed. After, we talked through our problems and reconciled.

The author elaborates on the following motifs: food is the language of love and affection and the preservation of family tradition. Susannah writes, “After I was all packed she handed me a bowl, and I fought tears, as well as feelings of anger, shame, and pride, as I gingerly ate small bites of every element: chicken, mushroom, noodles. She’d slipped two eggs into my bowl. I knew I’d be back.” After long, tiring fights with family, this simple bowl of Ping A Mien reminded Susannah of how much her mother loves her and always will. Moreover, Susannah decides to create this dish for her boyfriend when he leaves. She preserves her family tradition although she is just learning how to make the dish. Similarly, my family expects us to uphold the family traditions is place. For example, filial piety, respect for elders and parents, is very important in our family. In Korean culture, we use honorifics to adults or people we are not familiar with. We wait for elders to take their first bite of the meal and then everyone else start to eat the meal. I discovered that the Korean culture is influenced by Chinese culture, which is why I made a lot of connections with this memoir.

The emotional tie Susannah had with Ping A Mien is the cultural DNA embedded in the piece and parallels mine, my emotional tie to Japchae. Susannah shows us that Ping A Mien is more than a type of noodle dish. The dish is a memory and evokes a sense of nostalgia, which make it a comfort food. It provides a sense of familiarity and brings you back to your roots. As Professor Ristaino mentioned “I am one of the first members of my extended family to earn a Ph.D. I teach at Emory University, but deep inside I am working class, blue collar. I have immigrant blood running through me.” This is what Japchae means to me.


Picture from https://www.koreanbapsang.com/japchae-korean-stir-fried-starch/


Works Cited

Chen, Susannah. “Ping An Mien, a Chinese Family Noodle Story.” Chowhound, Chowhound, 5  July 2014, www.chowhound.com/food-news/152845/ping-an-mien-a-family-noodle story/.

Dana, Yeon. “Versatile Japchae, a Dish for Special Occasions.” The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily News from Korea – Inside Korea > Food, 23 Sept. 2010,english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2010/09/23/2010092300228.html.


The Dining Table as a Cultural Artifact- Sarah Kim

The dining table is seen as an ordinary and typical item in most if not all household. However, this tables holds a cultural significance and is an important part of our family culture. I decided to go to my grandmother’s apartment for this assignment. Coincidently, my mother wanted me to pick her up from my grandmother’s apartment and my whole family stopped by for dinner. The reason I chose to study the uses and purposes of my grandmother’s dining table is because my grandmother introduced me to the Korean culture and helped me establish my Korean identity. As a second-generation immigrant, meaning children born in America with parents who were born outside of the United States, I assume the identity of a Korean-American. At first it was hard to find my place between my American and Korean cultures. However, my grandmother advised I embrace both and find friends similar to me. My grandmother taught me about Korean culture and exposed me to many traditional Korean dishes. I remember eating my favorite Korean dishes on her dining table as she asked how my day was. Just to give a little description of my grandmother’s dining table is a foldable one and we open the table whenever it is needed. It is a medium-sized wooden table that my grandma found at Home Depot, according to my grandmother. I used the anthropological method of participant observation. I also asked questions while we were eating dinner, but I did not have the time to interview my grandmother separately.

As a family, we set up the dining table. First, we put down the napkins and eating utensils. Then, we would set up the banchan, or side dishes in Korean. Finally, the main dish comes in, in this case, it was Samgye-tang. or ginseng chicken soup. My mother was having a hard time during work, so my grandmother cooked this soup so that replenish her. This setting up of the dining table was very interesting. Whenever we went to a restaurant, whether it is Korean, Chinese, or Italian, the table is always set up in this order. We waited for my grandmother to take her first bite and then we started to enjoy the meal. Filial piety, respect for elders and parents, is very important in our family. In Korean culture, we use honorifics to adults or people we are not familiar with. When we start eating, we also start up conversations ranging from school to work to any concerns we have. During the meal, I asked my grandmother what other uses she has for this table. She told me stories and happy memories regarding the table. Apparently, it was where I learned how to write my name in Pre-kindergarten and when I used a whole tube of red lipstick on my face. My grandmother told me she almost had a heart attack after seeing me like that. She also uses the table to practice writing her name in English. I saw pieces of loose-leaf paper in the corner of the table with her name written repeatedly. She also has small tea parties with her friends in the morning on the table. My grandmother told me the only thing grandmothers talk about is their grandchildren. It is funny how when I meet grandmother’s friends, they know me, but I sometimes do not have any clue as to who they are. After the meal, as a family, we cleaned up the table and then had fruits for dessert.

Through this assignment, I was able to see my family’s dinner on the dining table as an enlightening experience. I was able to realize that the dining table holds a significant place in each person of my family. Through having a certain space to do eat encourages you to converse with those in the same space as you. The conversations we have at the dining table provide us a chance to get to know each other more. Family is supposed to be the people who are the closest to you, yet there are many families where they do not know their children or their parents well. This small table allows us to see how much our siblings matured, discuss concerns and give advices. Moreover, the table allows for a familiar communal space. Since most households have a dining table, even at a stranger’s house we feel familiar and comfortable in this area. This relatively inexpensive and insignificant dining table helps us create eventful memories with family, provides bonding experiences, and educates us.




Journal #1: Jjangmyeon

Sarah Kim

Journal #1: Jjangmyeon

Jjangmyeon is a Korean dish that is also known as Black Bean Sauce Noodles. It is a Chinese Korean fusion dish that is popular in Korea and in the States. Jjangmyeon is a noodle dish with a thick sauce made of chunjang (a black/brown paste with a savory and sweet flavor), pork, and different vegetables like onions and cucumbers. Unlike most popular Korean dishes, it is not spicy. Unfortunately, I cannot handle spice very well. In fact, I rarely eat Kimchi because it is spicy. This is also a dish that is important to me and represents my family and cultural background. Jjangmyeon is a comfort food for me. Whenever I am feeling down, my parents take me to my favorite jjangmyeon restaurant. Surprisingly, eating this dish helps me feel better.

Moreover, I have good memories related to this food. It is Korean tradition to eat jjangmyeon after graduation. I still remember eating jjangmyeon as a family after my elementary, middle school, and high school graduations. They would congratulate my accomplishments and we would have many different and spontaneous conversations about life. This dinner is very special and meaningful to me. The times when I crave this dish, but cannot go to my favorite restaurant, I make the instant noodle version of this dish called, Chapagetti. When I am at Emory, Korean restaurants that serve this dish are a thirty-minute car ride away so during the semester, I see a lot of Chapagetti mukbangs. Mukbangs are very popular today. They are videos people upload on social media and Youtube of them eating specific foods. Some people to an ASMR version, in which I recommend listening to the video with headphones or earphones on. Some people may say that watching people eat makes them hungrier, but for me I feel better.

This dish has a rich history that started in China’s Shandong region. Jjangmyeon originated from zhajiangmian, which means “fried sauce noodles” in Chinese. China sent military men to Korea during the late nineteenth century and helped introduce different recipes. This dish was brought over to Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. However, it became popular after the Korean War.  It was known for being a cheap dish. People of all classes were able to enjoy a small bowl of jajangmyeon after a long day of work or as a family treat. Its low and affordable price along with its savory taste helped make jajangmyeon a popular dish in Korea. Moreover, Koreans who come to the United States and start a jajangmyeon business attract many different Koreans in the area. These restaurants are little hotspots for many Koreans and Korean Americans to find people they can relate with and.a place where many can get in touch with their culture.

Jjangmyeon is also holds an important place of the Korean culture. Korea has a lot of holidays celebrating couples and singles. In the United States, Valentine’s Day, on the fourteenth of February, is a day when both. males. and females get the chance to confess their love to a significant other by giving them chocolates and roses. On the other hand, Korea made specific dates to commemorate these love confessions. Valentine’s Day in Korea is also on the fourteenth of February, but on this day only females give chocolate to the males as confessions. The following month, the 14 of March, is the romantic holiday called White Day. This is when the males give chocolate to the females in response to what they were given on Valentine’s Day.This leads us to the last event Black Day, or the Single Awareness Day, is on April 14th. This is a day to celebrate being single by enjoying jjangmyeon. It is interesting how the South Korean government created this occasion.


Recipe for Jjangmyeon

1 pound fresh jajangmyeon or udon noodles (or substitute a couple packages of instant ramen noodles)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 ounces fatty pork belly, cut into large dice
3 ounces pork shoulder, cut into large dice
1-inch knob of ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ medium carrot, diced
1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into small dice
2 medium red onions, diced
½ zucchini, peeled and diced, plus ¼ cup julienned zucchini
½ cup black bean paste (chunjang)
2 tablespoons sugar
Kosher salt to taste
¼ pickled yellow daikon, cut into half-moons (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the noodles. Boil the noodles for 8 minutes, until soft (just beyond al dente), reserve 1½ cups of the noodle cooking water, drain and rinse the noodles with cold water to cool to room temperature. Drain well and reserve.

2. While the noodles are boiling, heat the oil on high heat in a wok or large skillet until lightly smoking. Add diced pork belly and shoulder and render for 2 minutes.

3. Add ginger and garlic and saute for 1 minute, being mindful not to let it burn. Add carrots, potatoes, onions and diced zucchini and saute for 6 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.

4. Mix in the black bean paste, sugar, 1 cup of reserved noodle water and salt to taste. Cook for 7 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the potatoes are fully cooked. If you need to add more noodle water, do so.

5. Divide noodles into 2 bowls and top with warm sauce. Garnish with julienned zucchini and pickled yellow daikon. As an alternative, the sauce can be served over cooked rice for a dish called jjajangbap.

Adapted from https://www.nativetraveler.com/blog-main/a-taste-of-koreatown