Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cooking for my In-Laws.

Dried shiitake mushrooms (표고버섯) with green pepper, onion, and sesame seeds. The unplanned banchan.

Today, Min Gi and I invited his mom, brother, and sister-in-law over to our place for lunch. As I said earlier, I love cooking for Min Gi, but cooking for your future Korean mother-in-law is a daunting task. Especially since this was just our second time meeting.

Jeanny posted earlier this week about the differences between Koreans' and Americans' approach to food, and I agree with her general assessment that Koreans just have this worship of food that Americans are lacking, possibly due to our love of convenience and speed. So, I am at a disadvantage here, being non-Korean, growing up with (very busy) American parents who always made sure we were fed, but didn't really make that much from scratch (the main exception being my dad's weekend breakfasts, which are heavenly).

I decided I would make a version of tofu-soybean-paste soup (된장국) that I often make that I taught myself my first year living in Korea, rice (of course), a Korean noodle dish using sweet potato noodles called japchae (잡채) which I had never made before nor witnessed being made, and a Korean style green onion fried pancake called pajeon (파전) which I had also never made before, but watched Min Gi make it ages ago. I spent the morning cooking (while Min Gi slept off his hangover--eyes rolling), and still was pretty nervous cooking all Korean food for Koreans, while modifying it to be vegetarian.

Vegetables prepped to become japchae.

I based my own recipe for japchae largely off of this recipe, as it had lots of veggies, and I am pro-vegetable. However, attempting a dish you've never seen made before is tough, so I am much indebted to Jeanny, Amanda, William, and this blogger of "Korean Cuisine" (who also inspired me to use up the last of the broccoli in my fridge and get some shiitake mushrooms to make two dishes of unplanned Korean side dishes--banchan) for their advice and pictures/recipes about making japchae.

Japchae--It turned out pretty yummy, though Min Gi said I should use more gochujang next time because he likes it spicier.

Our guests arrived 30 minutes early (wow! luckily I was nearly finished), so I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the soup or the pajeon (which came out a little underdone, but still yummy and the sauce recipe from this site was pretty tasty) because everyone DEVOURED the food in a short time. They genuinely seemed to enjoy it, and I got many compliments from his brother (Min Soo) and sister-in-law (In-Shil). They had Min Gi help them be able to say "Excellent!" (to clarify In-Shil made hand gestures for "Good, Great, Wonderful, Excellent" with "Excellent" being at the top).

In-Shil and Min Soo: Aren't they cute in the couple-tees I brought them from America?

Min Gi's Mom (who I will call Ohmma in this blog as it is what we call her--the Korean word for "Mom") kept trying to help, but we finally got her to relax and enjoy the meal. She seemed impressed that I'd cooked Korean food at all. After we began eating she launched into a speech to In-Shil and I about how happy and lucky she is to have such nice girls for daughters-in-law. I was moved. As the meal progressed (and I assure you that I also found it quite delicious), I began to feel like I was having the Thanksgiving gathering that I had missed so much on Thursday.

And just like that... Min Gi's family is becoming my family, too.

And we're all a little silly...


  1. Awwwwwww!!! You fit right in hun :) Happy Thanksgiving!!! (Albeit really late!)

  2. Hooray! Welcome to your life as a Korean daughter. :)

  3. Thanks! Both of ya :) I'm very lucky that I did not get an "evil" Korean mother-in-law, as they are rumored to be quite horrid.

    Then again, it's hard to imagine anyone who raised Min Gi to be capable of the cruelty that my co-workers claim is common...

  4. This year my in-laws tried some of the Korean dishes that I made for them. I made Jok-Bal for Ohmma. They were surprised that there American son-in-law could cook that and they were very happy with the tatse.

    Now when they call they ask my wife "what is he cooking?".

  5. James--That's funny. Apparently Ohmma wants to buy me a bunch of Korean ingredients from the market now.



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