Guo Tie (er) in Steam

Dylan Frank

Guo Tie (er) in Steam

When my mother made jiaozi (dumplings) touched with oil,

She would cover them first in a veil of steam.

With a light touch she would flip each one

Until each side had turned golden.

As they crackled and sizzled the house would know

She watched the jiaozi so they cooked to gold

Then she would say “chi fan chi fan

Kuai dian er lai – Food is getting cold!”

Golden like yuan bao (golden ingots) but crisp like leaves

What took hours to make gone in seconds

Big plates of jiaozi shared with my entire family

When I left that afternoon, I knew I’d be home soon.

 

*Author’s note: “Chi fan chi fai // Kuai dian er lai” means “eat food eat food, come quickly”.

*Author’s note 2: Yuan bao Golden Ingot: https://www.fengshuiweb.co.uk/history-of-the-yuanbao-wealth-ingot/

1. What piece did you choose to imitate?

I chose to imitate Hong Junju’s “Noodles in Broth” by turning my memories of the potstickers my mother makes into a poem: “Guo Tie (er) in Steam.”

Notes: In Chinese, guo tie means “Potstickers.” Potstickers are pan-fried dumplings crispy on the bottom. The crust is obtained by placing cold dumplings in a very hot pan with a layer of sizzling oil. When the oil begins to smoke, it is then time to add the dumplings to the pan. When the dumplings begin to stick to the pan, they end up developing a crunchy film because of the oil, and small amounts of water can be used strategically to create steam, hence allowing the cook to obtain an even more substantial golden crust.

While steam may not be traditionally associated with making guo tie, this is a trick that my mother uses to make them crispy all the way around. I am not quite sure how widespread this practice is, but the sizzling sound that the water makes as it shifts to vapor always let me know, growing up, that guo tie was in my near future. My mother always holds the pan lid in one hand and a small glass in the other when she adds the water in small amounts to create the golden film around the jiaozi. Thinking about the sizzle of the oil and the sound of the water turning into steam always reminds me of the comfort of home. I have also been unable to successfully replicate this tactic on my own without waterlogging the guo tie (er).

2. Why did you choose this piece?

I chose to imitate “Noodles in Broth” because I appreciated how it managed to take a fairly nuanced cooking and dining experience and artfully represent it to the reader in just 12 lines. In doing so, it managed to present in vivid detail the author’s feelings surrounding the dish while making the reader (in this case, myself) feel that he could be in the moment with the author as Chef Cui prepared his dish.

With “Guo Tie (er) in Steam,” I spoke to the audience about a personal memory and family tradition: Potstickers before farewells. While this meal that inspired this poem happened the day I left for freshman year of Emory, multiple jiaozi dinners similar to this one have been had to commemorate new journeys. I thought that I could best represent this memory by imitating the form and style of Hong Junju’s “Noodles in Broth,” which is why I chose to model my piece after his (as opposed to another author’s).

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

While I was trying to imitate Hong Junju’s poem, I realized that his precision with language is extremely noteworthy. Notably, I found it quite difficult to write a poem that fit within the same stylistic guidelines while also conveying the personal meaning I was trying to capture. Even when translated from Chinese to English the beauty of Hong Junju’s writing still remains. In trying to imitate Hong’s “Noodles in Broth,” I also gained a more nuanced understanding of the poem and also a deeper comprehension of the Chinese cultural traditions that were important to Hong. I realized, for example, how he managed to incorporate multiple traditional Chinese themes in his writing. For example, when describing the process of making bing, he used an analogy that equated the noodles with “autumn silk”. This metaphor both spoke to the seasonality inherent in Chinese cuisine as well as traditional Chinese objects like silk. Hong also spoke about the experience of dining from a sensory perspective in the language that he used through descriptions of dining with friends (“We would gulp them down all at once”) and also of how consuming the noodles personally affected him (After two bowls in a row, // A smile would come to the lips, the body would relax). I felt that these lines spoke to the author’s underlying feelings regarding the dining experience in a more subtle way. In writing “Guo Tie (er) in Steam” I also hoped to relay my feelings on the ritual of eating potstickers together as a family before one of us goes on a long journey in an understated way.

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

Writing this poem allowed me to further realize how Chinese food and cultural traditions often go hand-in-hand. For example, the familial aspect of Chinese cuisine: the most elaborate dishes we eat at home are usually consumed as a family. Moreover, in the brainstorming process for “Guo Tie (er) in Steam,” I thought back to some of the class lectures and readings that we had on Chinese food. Furthermore, through writing this poem, I took the time to both outline and analyze the connections between my Chinese culture and my dining experiences in a highly intentional way. This deliberate process of thinking, analyzing, and writing allowed me to produce a poem with both personal meaning and cultural relevance. Thus, through the process of writing this poem, I further realized how cuisine and family are connected in Chinese culture. Additionally, through the process of reflection required of me to write this poem, I also ended up gaining a stronger sense of pride in my Chinese-American identity.

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

Both my piece and Hong Junju’s explored traditional Chinese themes to relay a food preparation and dining experience. In “Noodles in Broth,” Hong incorporated Chinese cultural DNA through descriptors such as “filter the tea infusion through silk” and “In long strings / White like autumn silk.” Hong’s descriptions of “silk” (invented by China, symbolizing luxury, simplicity, and elegance), and “autumn” (which reflects seasonality) are both deeply symbolic within Chinese culture. Lastly, in describing the process of the bing being “steeped in tea,” Hong Junju further relayed cultural DNA to his audience since tea is part of many Chinese meals. For the dish that Hong described, tea was an essential component.

In “Guo Tie (er) in Steam” I embedded cultural DNA through the strategic use of certain language devices. For example, my mother is from Beijing and she often uses the speech particle “er” at the end of certain sentences. The “er” sound, many Chinese joke, is extremely typical of Mandarin speakers from certain parts of Northern China. I therefore decided that I could more fully capture the experience of eating potstickers using the speech particle “er” in my title to more fully capture the experience. Moreover, talking about yuan bao (golden ingots) and using my mother’s universal meal announcement (which is always said in both English and Chinese so that all in my household may understand)  further speak to how the experience of eating fried potstickers, for me, relates to my identity as a Chinese-American. Lastly, the attention to detail required to execute the jiaozi on my mother’s part, as well as the emphasis on family when consuming them (i.e. we try to eat jiaozi at the table together as a family of four) further relate back to traditional Chinese cultural symbolism and hence represent cultural DNA within my poem.

Images:

Homemade Jiaozi
My mother making jiaozi for me
Golden Ingot Source:https://www.fengshuiweb.co.uk/history-of-the-yuanbao-wealth-ingot/

 

Potstickers (Guo Tie)
Source:https://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/lemon-chicken-potstickers/31aa0029-d59c-490d-9cc2-e08f36f928f0

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.

Reshteh in Ash by Tanya Rajabi

Reshteh in Ash

When mother made ash-e-reshteh in a pot as deep as can be

She would soak the kashk days in advance

She would rinse and dry the fresh parsley, cilantro, and dill

After the aroma overwhelmed the air

She cooked a colorful rainbow of legumes separately

She would boil water until it was ready to consume the reshteh

Onions fried at the last moment to please both palates and aesthetics

Soon the smell of ash is was to dominate

Each spoonful was destined to contain each ingredient

In perfect harmony

And after swallowing the liquid soup

A pleasant surprise remained when encountering the texture of the reshteh

Not too rough, but not like silk

A sensation perfectly in between

That brought warmth to our beings

And pride to her heart

 

What piece did you choose to imitate?

I chose to imitate Noodles in Broth by Hong Junju.

Why did you choose this piece?

I chose to imitate Noodles in Broth because the poem immediately stood out to me through my first reading of it. On the surface, the poem appeared to be rather simply written. However, I greatly admired how the simplicity in the author’s recitation of the steps required to prepare the noodles seemed to simultaneously convey that Chinese food in fact is not simple to make. In contrast to the way the poem was constructed, it appeared as if the skill and articulation of the chef seemed to truly mask the complication of the food. Furthermore, the poem transitioned within the final stages to include the sensation brought upon the consumers of the “noodles in broth,” which was that of serenity and joy. What ultimately caused me to want to recreate this poem was the appreciate I felt towards Junju for demonstrating how an act so complicated could transfer such natural emotions to its surroundings. Simple pleasures, like those brought upon by food, are in fact the most gratifying to be felt.

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

When writing my own poem, the first step I took was to observe the details the author chose to focus on. Through several reads, I noticed that the author spent the majority of the poem using quite vivid imagery and complicated descriptions to convey the act of the chef preparing and cooking the “noodles in broth,” with phrases such as “With a light feather he would brush the flour.” However, he juxtaposed the intricacy of the first eight lines by transitioning his style in the last four lines to a very straightforward portrayal of the emotions that the bowl of soup brought upon the consumers, such as the mention that “The body would relax.” Although I added some of my own elements to my poem, such as the aroma of the “ash-e-reshteh,” I definitely tried to mimic Junju’s writing by focusing most on the contrast between the cooking of the dish and the emotions felt afterwards. Ultimately, I realized that cooking Chinese food is truly an art, and the fact that a chef or any community member would spend hours preparing something so intricate for others puts food in the center as the top force in bringing Chinese families and friends together.

What did you learn about your own culture while writing?

While writing my own version of Junju’s Noodles in Broth, I realized that when an Iranian mother, or any Iranian for that matter, is to cook a meal, they truly transform themselves into chefs. No matter what their actual occupation in life is, their only role for the period spent cooking is to create a dish that will not only nourish the body, but will also transfer joy and conviviality to the lives of the consumers. I wanted to ensure that my “Reshteh in Ash” had the capability of demonstrating this exact value of family and friendship appreciation so engrained within the culture of Iranians.

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

I believe what truly caused Noodles in Broth to stand out among other poems was in fact the cultural DNA that penetrated through every line. Any reader could understand that the direct cause of the relaxation in the body and the “Smile [that] would come to the lips” of the author was the sensation that the noodles brought. Whether the pleasure was exuded because of the taste and warmth of the noodles, because of the appreciation and love towards the chef, or simply a combination of both, it is clear that food is a driving force of conviviality in this culture.  I recognized these same emotions in my own experiences I have felt when encountering homemade food, specifically in Iranian dishes as complicated as “ash-e-reshteh,” so I believed it would only be fit to create my own version of Noodles in Broth. Such sensations can definitely be experienced in any food-orientated culture, specifically Chinese and Iranian cultures in this case.

There also seems to be some sort of ambiguity prevalent within Junju’s very last line, that states that “A smile would come to the lips, and the body would relax.” One may assume that it is mouth and the body of the consumer of the noodles that would smile and relax, as I initially did. However, through repeated readings, the performer of these pleasurable actions seemed to be less clear, as it is indeed possible that it is the chef who is smiling after observing the enjoyment that his meal caused. This ambiguity thus serves the purpose of demonstrating that there is pleasure on both the side of the chef and those the chef cooks for, furthering the idea that food is a driving force in creating harmony in social situation in such cultures. I realized that this ambiguity is present within Iranian culture as well, but for the sake of my poem, I chose to explicitly state that positive emotions were felt on both the side of the chef and the consumer.

 

 

 

Shin Ramen

On a sleepless night,

The metallic sound of a small, silver enamel pot wakes the serenity

In a sizzling broth with brisket, mushrooms, and chopped scallions,

The twisted strands of ramen noodle start to unravel

And through the kitchen a spicy fragrance travel

If I could only dissolve the agony and troubles of life in the broth,

I wouldn’t need spicy flavoring powder

Sip, slurp, and swallow,

It is spicy and burn like a flame

As I put down the empty bowl,

Gone with the noodles are my agony and troubles,

And the broth keeps me warm on cold night

What piece did you choose to imitate? I chose to imitate ’Noodles in Broth’ by Hong Junju.

Why did you choose this piece? I chose this piece because I really liked the visual imagery of the making of bing steeped in tea. This poem provokes image of my mom cooking Sujebi, a Korean hand-pulled dough soup. “He kneaded the dough to the right consistency” — this reminds me of when my mom would give me a bowl of flour dough in an aluminum bowl asking me to knead thoroughly. She would take the poorly-kneaded dough from me, and with just few deft movements, reached the right consistency. “A smile would come to the lips, the body would relax” — this touches upon the therapeutic effect one gains from drinking broth. In my poem, I tried to imitate the healing sensation I gain from drinking hot broth of ramen. On a sleepless night, I cook spicy instant ramen with extra toppings of brisket, mushrooms, and chopped scallions; the rich broth makes me forget about the agony and troubles of daily life and comforts me.

Sujebi

What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style? The poem provokes homely and warm feelings; as common as broth is in a lot of different cultures, the warm feeling one gains from enjoying a hot broth dish seems to be universal. By reading On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta, I was able to discover three things about the culture of the original author. First, Chinese cultivated wheat widely in the northern China around the sixth century, “and invented a specific word for noodles, mian.” Second, officials “wrote of how noodles in broth were eaten during summer festivals and were thought to ward off email spells.” Lastly, “noodles became a part of everyday and ceremonial life.” The author’s culture considers noodle as an essential part of daily life; similarly in my culture, there are numerous noodle dishes served with cold and hot broth; these dishes are considered an integral part of the Korean culinary culture.

What did you learn about the your own culture while writing? I chose to write a poem about Shin Ramen; whenever I have a bad day, I would make Shin Ramen and reward myself with the simple pleasure of enjoying a simple and delicious noodle dish with hot broth. Shin Ramen and the Korean history go hand in hand; during the 1960s, instant ramen replaced rice for the purpose of overcoming food shortage in Korea, which was torn by the Korean War. Despite the initial rejection, instant ramen soon emerged as a popular downmarket food and is considered a part of Korean everyday life to this day.

Is there cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts? As professor Ristaino mentioned in class, dry pasta for her is much more than a mere dish for her. It provokes so many memories associated with the dish. For me, Shin Ramen brings me memories of my friends and family — whether it be circling around a small table with my classmates on a rainy day after a soccer practice, or during a 2AM mission on a naval ship, my memories associated with Shin Ramen is deeply associated with the Korean cultural DNA. Whether on a good day or a bad day, the memories associated with the dish console me, and as I empty a bowl, my agony and troubles are emptied as well.

Shin Ramen

Yangchun Noodles(阳春面)

When chef mom made Yangchun noodle in clear soup,

She would fry scallions in pig oil,

She would add boiling water with salt and soy sauce,

With a little spoon she would taste the soup.

She cooked the thin noodle using hot water,

Then she closed the fire and wash the noodles with cold water,

In thin strings,

Clean as the winter snow.

In the bowl of soup with scallions and garlic,

We would be attracted by the smell,

After two bowls of in a row,

A little fragment of onion will appear on the teeth and the stomach would be satisfied.

 

I chose to imitate Hong Junju’s Noodle in the Broth. I chose to imitate this poem because I want to write about Yangchun noodle(阳春面), which is a very simple kind of noodle with not much meat or vegetables in it. This poem is not very long, which is very suitable to describe the procedure of Yangchun noodle. Also, this poem describes the eagerness, enjoyment and satisfaction after people had the noodle, which resembles my satisfaction and love for Yangchun noodle made by my mom. Therefore, I chose to imitate this poem.

 

I learn that in ancient times, the noodles they eat are cooked very simply. And the ingredients for noodles are limited because there is just noodles and onions. However, different from our nowadays, in ancient times, they also add tea infusion into the noodle soup, so that maybe help the noodles taste better and make them more delicious. And most commonly, they will make the noodles themselves from dough while nowadays, we usually bought noodles from supermarkets.

 

Moreover, I also learned some knowledge for my own culture. For example, nowadays, we still follow the standard method of making noodles, like we would make noodles and soup separately because making soup takes more time to cook than making noodles do. Also, we would add the same ingredients into the noodle soup too, like onions or scallions. Therefore, nowadays, we definitely follow a lot of old method from ancient time. In addition, I think nowadays, we also add more ingredients into the noodle soup, like garlic. The reason behind the addition might be that nowadays, our taste changes a lot and adding garlic into the soup not only will make the body warmer, but also will add more nutrients to the body.

 

By comparing my poem and the old poem, I think there is cultural DNA embedded. Both poems describe the way of making noodles. The methods described in both poems are very Chinese. Firstly, in the old poem, Hong Junju mentions long strings, which a lot of Chinese like because long noodles can represent longevity and most of the noodles in China are in string shapes. Secondly, the way of making noodles are very Chinese. For example, in my poem, I mention that noodles have to be cooked with hot water and then use cold water to wash them afterwards. This is because Chinese people believe that only by this way, the noodles will become more stretchy and taste better. I think other countries might not cook their noodles like this. Therefore, there is definitely cultural DNA embedded in the texts.

 

Sincerity Carried Through Noodles — Eunheh Koh

When my mother made knife-cut noodles,

She would add anchovies to the pot.

She would then make the noodles,

From flour and potato starch, not even needing to look at a recipe.

Her hands carried the magic to slowly create the noodles

One knead at a time.

Out came the powerful knife

And one by one, each noodle came to life

Every noodle was special in its own way

Each a different thickness and shape

And as white as the first snow.

The sweet aroma of home fills the kitchen

As my sister and I run to get our bowls.

After a sip of the warm broth,

The heart is full, the longing for home continues.

  • What piece did you choose to imitate?
    • I chose to imitate “Noodles in Broth” by Hong Junju.
  • Why did you choose this piece?
    • I chose this piece because the author describes so eloquently of the making of bing steeped in tea. As we learned in class, the bing in this poem refers to noodles (as bing was used to describe foods out of flour), whereas after the 10th century, bing only referred to the flat-pancake. I think this further demonstrates how food is always changing and contributes to the idea that food is fluid (it is not set in a distinctive category). This poem also indicates how much comfort the eating of a dish can truly be; eating is an universal experience that can be shared by everyone and something that is able to embody important memories and emotions with it, which we are reminded of every time we eat the food. Lastly, I think poems are very powerful, as they are often short but concise; each part of Junju’s words are an important part of the story they tell. I think this is something I personally struggled with while writing the paper; I did not want to be too wordy and tried to be as concise and descriptive as I could.
  • What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style?
    • In this piece, I learned about the importance of cooking in Chinese culture. Every step is intricate and complex in its own way, and plays a large role in the making of this dish. When writing poems, authors must be careful and emphasize what they view as the most important. Thus, I think that the process of cooking and eating together are what the author views as the most significant; his or her views were probably influenced by their culture and identity, which is how we can make the connection from the poem to Chinese culture. From this, I believe that the poem establishes the importance of community. The sense of community connected through noodles is particularly evident especially the last line, and demonstrates how much comfort we can feel through eating food. It is not necessary for the author to explicitly state it as the smile is sufficient to show this. In addition, it is clear how foods are passed on from generation to generation; the chef is cooking from memory by remembering how he would make it when he learned. Thus, it shows how important it is in Chinese culture to carry on your heritage and pass traditions (especially in terms of food) from generation to generation.
  • What did you learn about your own culture while writing?
    • I decided to write about 칼국수 (knife-cut noodles), a Korean dish where the noodles are knife-cut (which is why each noodle is unique and special in its own way). It is not made usually from noodles that are cut by a machine, which makes it more special in my opinion, considering many noodles after the industrial revolution have lost this handmade taste. I also believe that these noodles are able to symbolize how even though we are all from different identities (and thus, everyone is unique), we can all come together harmoniously and become an amazing entity. I particularly love eating these noodles because I can taste the amount of sincerity put into these noodles by my mother and grandmother, especially since I know how difficult it can be to make noodles. In my family, we eat this dish whenever we think of our home country, Korea. My dad is from Jeju Island (right off the coast of the Korean peninsula), and my grandmother always makes this dish with the freshest seafood ingredients, as these noodles are able to preserve both the savory broth and fresh seafood flavors. These days, I feel quite homesick as it has been a while since I have gone home, so I love eating this dish as it helps me feel connected to my family. It is hard to reproduce it the same way my grandma does, especially since we lack the fresh ingredients, but I really appreciate it whenever my mom makes it for me because it reminds me of so many good memories. This particular instance that I chose to write about in the poem was when my mom made these noodles for my sister and I; it was in the fall following the first summer I spent in Korea and the first time I had tasted these noodles from my grandmother. As soon as I ate the noodles, I was content, but also felt bittersweet, as I wished to go home (which is why I wrote “the longing for home continues”). Although food is a great way to feel connected to family and home, it sometimes makes me miss home more, because it reminds me of all of the memories of my hometown. However, while eating these noodles over the years, I have also been able to develop new memories here with my nuclear family, which I am also appreciative of.  All of these moments have been integral in shaping who I am, so I am grateful that I am able to retain these memories through food.
These are “knife-cut noodles” (칼국수). The noodles are of different thicknesses because they are made by hand.
  • Is there cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts?
    • I think the main thing I realized about the cultural DNA in both pieces was the importance of family and community in both of our cultures. There is a big emphasis placed on family and the importance of spending time with our loved ones. Food is also evidently a big part of both of our cultures that connects us to our community. I think one of the largest aspects that is also evident in both of our cultures is how as we observe our elders, we begin to learn more about how to cook these dishes and this is how we, as the younger generation, learn how to make these foods, just as how my mother learned how to make it from my grandmother (the “magic” gets passed on through the generations). Through food, we are able to appreciate our rich cultural heritage, and it becomes an important aspect of who we are. The love and care put into these both of the noodle dishes are also evident, as it takes a great deal of work to make these noodles from scratch. Thus, it appears that in both Chinese and Korean culture, food is a great method to express genuine love for the people we love. We are also able to feel and appreciate that love when we eat it, as “the heart is full” (my poem) and “the body would relax” (Junju), which become important feelings for the foods we eat. These feelings are  what we remember as we age and continue to eat these dishes, and we will also put in the sincerity and care when we make the noodles for the younger generations. The legacy will live on through the noodles over time.

References:

Junju, Hong. “Noodles in Broth.” Chinese Poems of Food. 3rd Century AD. Online Access.

*photo credit given when you press the picture

Cha Siu Baozi

When my mom soaked whole grain dough in fresh milk,

She would add a few duck eggs to texturize the dough.

She then kneaded the dough and divided it into small chunks.

She would pour Liaojiu, Laochou and add sugar into a bowl of diced fatty pork.

With chopsticks she would make the filling by mixing them all.

Then she would scoop some, put into a piece of flattened dough and squeeze to seal the filling.

In pyramidal shapes

Yellow and rough like honeycomb.

In a Cha Siu Baozi,

We would have a huge bite and let the succulent filling flow out.

After a few buns in a row,

The stomach would be full, the mind would be satisfactory and happy.

 

I chose Hong Junju’s “Noodles in Broth”to imitate. I chose this piece because I shared the same passion for appreciating the beauty of the noodle dish preparing process with the author, as well as the tribute of the food itself. The comprehensive description of the chef’s cooking process echoes with my recent experience of watching my mom making Cha Siu Baozi (Steamed bun stuffed with barbecued roast pork) and me enjoying cooking myself. The culinary process is truly artistic enjoyment and spiritual nurture for not only the chef but also for people observing. The smooth progression of the cooking procedures leads to a colorful and flavorful bowl of noodles, which is a feast for both your vision and gustation. Although the taste of the noodles was not a main focus for the author, he still depicted the satisfaction of eating the noodles and being full of noodles and shed lights on the beauty of the silky noodles.

I learned about my own culture, which was a direct descendent of the author’s, by spotting cultural DNAs demonstrated in the author’s piece and minethrough imitating his writing,which are the great emphasis on the sophisticated process of making the noodles andthe valuing of the noodle dish itself. I realized that these two were important aspects of Chinese food culture and life philosophy. Appreciating and praising food is a traditional Chinese moral value and practice, which has influenced every generation of Chinese. By describing the transformation of the dough into fine long strings of noodles in metaphorical terms, the author expressed that he saw the noodles and the silk in the same way, which were both beautiful and precious similar to my relationship with Baozi and honey. If food is an admirable masterpiece, then the cooking is a ritual of self-actualization, from which you could derive nourishing pleasure and a sense of great achievement. People watching the ritual could also benefit from the aesthetics of cooking.

Blog 3 – Noodles: The Gourmet Meal

We would argue about what seasoning to put

And no this wasn’t pizza

To the days when satisfaction would come from a packet

And noodles were our gourmet meal

To the days we didn’t have much to deal with

And  growing up wasn’t part of this deal

Seven years later,

As I stand in front of the microwave

Me and my glass of wine,

I open the ramen packet –

Only to be taken back in time.

1. What piece did you choose to imitate? I chose the poem, “Noodles in Broth,” by Hong Junju.

2. Why did you choose this piece? I chose this piece, because I was fascinated by its story telling power. The personification of food depicted in a powerful narrative. The poem that I wrote relates to my time at boarding school where Maggi noodles used to be our staple late night diet. We were vey carefree at the time and these noodles were a part of endless conversations and memories.

3. What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style?  His poem depicts a huge sense of nostalgia and a feeling of coming home. It creates memories related to home and makes the reader think about old times. By using the medium of food to convey these feelings, it increases the magnitude of emotions in the words. The author comes from a place that is famous for tea. Add to that, he is hinting at the aspect of ‘familiarity’ in Chinese culture.

4. What did you learn about your own culture while writing?   To me, Maggi isn’t a packaged food product, it is associated with memories from childhood to right up until now.  They have played a significant role in my life and have been an essential part of me growing up. They signify everything from friends, family to love and affection.

5. Is there cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts?  This has a lot to do with where the author of the piece is from and what his personal connections are. The DNA manifests in the texts in the form personal anecdotes in their written format along with the style of the poem itself. These hidden meanings [DNA] form the basis of the piece.

Noodles in Chicken Broth (Qiulun Li)

When my father cooked noodles steeped in chicken broth,

He would boil chicken in soup.

He would pour the broth into a bowl.

With a light feather he would brush the flour.

He kneaded the dough to the right consistency.

Then he would drop it into the water

In long strings

Slim like spring silk.

In half a bowl of broth,

He would gulp them down all at once.

After two bowls in a row,

A fullness would come to the heart.

What piece did you choose to imitate?

I choose to imitate the poem Noodles in Broth written by Hong Junju, and I call my own creative piece Noodles in Chicken Broth.

 Why did you choose this piece?

I choose to imitate this piece because this piece is my favorite one among all poems and stories assigned for reading. It is a very short poem and easily understandable. It described the process of making bing in tea and the way the poet and his friends eated it vividly. With this poem, I can easily imagine the artistry process of making bing and feelings of poets and his friends after eating. I recalled that my father always cooked noodles in chicken broth at home, and that is one of my favorite home-making food. Thus, I want to record the process how my father cooks noodles for me through imitating the poem from Hong Junju.

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

Through imitating the poem from Hong Junju I was surprised how concise and vivid this poem is. He presented the whole process how chief Cui made bing steeped in tea in a few sentence. However, the actual process of making bing is very slow and complicated. The use of metaphor in the poem make the shape of noodles vividly out of the paper. Through a very concise description of the process, reader can have an overall image of making noodles, and then the author expressed his feelings through his actions vividly described in the poem. Through the words, he presented eating noodles as a very pleasurable process. At all, I can realize how important is noodles in ancient China and people’s feelings towards it while I am imitating this piece.

What did you learn about your own culture while writing?

Since ancient China when noodles first appeared, it has become the staple food of families and had different cultural significance. In my hometown, eating noodles has become a ritual when the whole family gathers together. My family always have noodles at home since it has become a sign of union and also it is not hard to cook at home. Every time after my family has chicken soup, my father will cook noodles in the chicken broth left with some vegetables. In my mind, noodles in chicken soup cooked by my father could represent the taste of my family’s home cooking.

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

Both the poem by Hong Junju and my piece expressed the importance of noodles and presented the process of eating noodles as a pleasurable process. Through the vivid description of making noodles in both texts, for example “filter the tea infusion through silk”, “kneaded the dough to the right consistency” and “slim like a spring silk”, reader could feel that making noodles is a very careful process and people paid a lot of attention to this process. Thus, the texts implied that that making noodles is a very important process and needs a lot of attention. Besides, the texts showed people’s fond towards noodles through describing eating noodles as a pleasurable process. In the poem by Hong Junju, “a smile would come to lips” after people had noodles, and in my piece, “a fullness would come to the heart” after eating. Noodles is not only a food for nourishment, but people would get happiness through eating.

Celebration Noodle_Jeeyoung Kim

 

Celebration Noodle

Jeeyoung Kim

When my mom made celebration noodle,

She would fry Kimchi in oil.

She would boil broth with anchovy and seaweed.

With an appetizing sound she would chop pumpkins and onions.

She brought thin white dried noodle from the shelf.

Then she would spread it in the water

In thin white threads

Beautiful like Hansam.

In a bowl of noodle,

We would see a rainbow on a white snow

After finishing the noodle

An affection from your mom will be in your heart, the body will soon warmth.

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?
I chose a beautiful poem Noodles in Broth by Hong Junju because I was fascinated by the atmosphere of this poem. I especially loved the last line, “A smile would come to the lips, the body would relax.” This line embodies the affection and care that was carried in the food. As an international student who leaves apart from hometown and family, I this poem reminded me of happy memories I spent with my families sharing food. Also, it was interesting to read the specific instruction how to make noodles in broth, so by imitating this poem, I also wanted to both share my mom’s love in my favorite Korean noodle, which is called Jan-chi noodle also known as celebration noodle, and her recipe of making the noodle.

3. What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style?
While I was reading the poem, I did not notice that the author is introducing a noodle that is simple to make. However, the noodle conveys the significant meaning of love. This contrast between simplicity and complication emphasized in this poem was interesting. The meaning of the food and emotions delivered via food is even highlighted and stressed with this contrast. Therefore, I also wanted to write about the noodle with a simple recipe to emphasize the love of my mom.

4. What did you learn about your own culture while writing?
Similar to the culture of the poet or the speaker of this poem, my culture also emphasizes collectivism and sharing. Especially in our family, the gathering is a significant part of our culture. I have three siblings, and they are all currently studying abroad in the United States, so we can only gather as a whole family during winter break and summer break. Therefore, though there is a lot of Korean food in the United States, our longing for the taste of mom’s food always exist in our heart. During breaks, we always try to eat breakfast together, and my mom will always cook for us.

5. Is There cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts?
The general tone of this poem is nostalgic. While I was imitating the poem, I felt his love of food and the emotions carried through the bowl of noodle. The speaker in this poem thinks the food is more than a tool to survive but is a memory and culture. Also, the speaker had two bowls of noodles in a row, which can be interpreted as a great compliment to the chef Cui, who made the noodle for the speaker. In China, asking for more meal and wanting to serve more for the guest is a symbol for caring and love, so having two bowls reflects the affection of the chef and the speaker to each other.