Kalguksu, and my mom’s love

When my mom made kalguksu for dinner,

She would make the dough,

With just the right ratio of flour and water.

She would carefully knead and ferment with a plastic on top,

Saying patience is the key to soft yet firm noodles.

She would cut the noodles in long lines with a sharp knife,

Then lay it in the bubbling and boiling hot broth of soup.

Sitting in one long table, we would all start with the potatoes,

Soaked in the broth, making it soft and fluffy.

Taking in the soup one spoon after another,

Our body temperature and heartbeats start to rise.

We take in mouthfuls of noodles,

Making our hands move faster to eat, our teeth move quicker to chew,

And our hearts more filled with the love and sincerity

That my mom put into this bowl of noodles.


1. What piece did you choose to imitate?

I chose to imitate “Noodles in Broth” by Hong JunJu.

2. Why did you choose this piece?

After reading and analyzing all of the other poems, I thought that I could relate the most to this poem and write about my family and noodles that we make at home. This piece talks about the process of making the noodles, which I grew up watching my mom practicing similarly. It focuses on the aspect of making and eating the noodles with members, rather than the other environmental things that are going on, like some of the other poems that we read, such as where and how we got the ingredients from. I also chose this piece because of the multistep and detailed language that the authors uses; as a child, the vivid memories I have of my mom making kalguksu are the big steps that she took,  and the feelings I had after eating them with my family, rather than the rudimentary and detailed aspects. I thought that I could imitate this poem the best out of all with these points.

3. What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style? 

This piece was written in 3rd century AD. Although this was far ago, I can see that they still had the dining traditions of eating together. As we learned in several readings for class, many Chinese eating traditions involved a hot freshly served meal that is eaten with many people and is a mode of joining individuals. This tradition is also met in this poem as the main pronoun for eating is ‘we’. Afterwards, the author writes, “After two bowls in a row, A smile would come to the lips, the body would relax”. The setting that the author is making is a vibrant and happy environment that is made by eating the noodles. I believe that this shows the conjoining mood of the people in the poem. Also, this part shows that food is a mode of not only bringing together individuals, but also a mode of creating calmness and relaxation. Although I am not aware of the daily lives of Chinese in 3rd century AD, I believe that it causes the same effect as it does now. In the hectic and busy lives that we live today, a bowl of hot broth and noodles bring serenity during lunch times or dinner. I believe that by looking at the last part of this poem, a bowl of noodles also brought the same effect to them also. Lastly, it can be seen that the culture is not only product based, but also process based. The author talks about the procedure of making the noodles, not just the final product. I believe that this shows their detail oriented mindset.

4. What did you learn about your own culture while writing?

While writing this piece, I thought about the past and the noodles that my mom made for our family. These days, all noodles are packaged, but it not rare for families to make noodles from scratch. Regardless, my mom put in her time and effort to make the noodles for kalguksu with the love that she has for our family. She also made sure that all of the ingredients that were added into the noodles were very fresh and organic. I think that my mom and all other families going further to feed good nutritious meals to the members of the families show their love and sincere care for the family’s health. The fact that families choose to hand make the noodles even though there are packaged versions also show their affections and the willingness to put in more work to see their families smile once more.

5.  Is there cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts?

Chinese cultural DNA back in 3rd century AD, according to my interpretation, is that the common folks back then celebrated not only the dish itself but also the holistic process. There are numerous literatures that essentially highlight the taste of food; the final outcome. In contrast to that, Hong Junju’s poem has significant emphasis on the process. For instance, “filter the tea infusion through silk. With a light feather he would brush the flour” indicates the attention and detail Hong has specifically allocated in reciting the joyful experience of making and eating the noodle. Just to think that a poet, not a chef, is able to precisely and beautifully craft an extensive poem about the noodle-making process clearly indicates the cultural DNA of Chinese people back then. Gourmets are generally known to critique and elaborate mainly on the taste of food or the overall dining experience, hardly on the process. Hong’s poem is an interesting literature that undermines the differing perspective common folk had on food; cultural DNA.

My writing also indicate extensive traits of my cultural DNA which is similar to that of Hong Junju. As described earlier, I was deeply fascinated by the overall cooking process my mom practiced in making kalguksu especially on the part where she would be using a razor sharp knife in cutting out noodles from the chunk of dough. Her kalguksu tastes absolutely amazing, without a doubt, but my own cultural DNA is structured in a way that I tend to focus more on the overall process since I was young.

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