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[Dramas and Food] Do you want to go eat?


Cheese in the Trap

By @ohhaeyoung

When you start watching K-dramas, it’s hard to miss how prominently they feature food. I had never watched anyone eat noodles or soups on a TV show with so much gusto until K-dramas arrived into my life. I don’t associate food with every single K-drama I’ve seen, but there a few memorable food moments that I always correlate to certain K-dramas in my memory.

One such drama that featured every K-drama trope it could possibly fit but succeeded with the food aspect is Boys Before Flowers. I’ll never forget the kimchi-making scene with Jan-di’s family and how much Gu Jun-pyo enjoyed making kimchi with them. Gu Jun-pyo’s reaction to eating fishcakes from street vendors was so memorable that I too decided I needed to try fishcakes even though I’m not a seafood fan. However, the food that stands out the most is probably the simplest: ramyun. Specifically, that moment when Gu Jun-pyo is starving in the shabby apartment next door to Jan-di and eats dry ramyun straight from the bag.

First of all, I did not know dry ramyun could be eaten like that. Then months later I found out there was a dry ramyun Korean snack where you can intentionally eat dry ramyun with some flavoring. It’s a pretty good snack! Then they introduced the ramyun pot and people eating from the lid of the pot and I was suddenly craving Korean ramyun myself. I went to my local grocery store to try one other than the bland ramyun I usually ate at home. I ran into the spiciest ramyun I’ve ever had, and the first time I tried it and put the whole packet in, I could not handle the amount of spice. I have since figured out to use half or less of the spice packet as I’m too wimpy to handle that much spiciness.


Boys Before Flowers

My next big food moment in a K-drama happened with Cheese in the Trap. Sunbae Yoo Jung spends a lot of time trying to convince Hong Seol into eating a meal with him. He spends so much time asking her to eat a meal with him that even Saturday Night Live Korea parodied this aspect of the drama. When Hong Seol finally agrees to start eating with Yoo Jung, there is a particularly sweet moment when she teaches him how to eat triangle kimbap, which is a convenience store food that the rich boy has never tried. He ends up loving triangle kimbap and buys it for her often through the rest of the show and always makes it a point to unwrap it for her how she taught him to.

I was convinced that I too wanted to try triangle kimbap but didn’t know where to get my hands on it here in the U.S. So when my plane landed in South Korea last year when I was visiting for vacation, my very first meal ended up being triangle kimbap. My plane landed at 11 p.m. and the only thing open near my hotel was the closest convenience store. So I picked up triangle kimbap and excitedly brought it back to my hotel room as my midnight snack and I too, like sunbae Yoo Jung, loved it and found it to be so delicious and filling.


Cheese in the Trap

One K-drama that made me crave something that is more common to me was My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho, which made me crave beef during the two weeks it took me to watch the show (hey I work a full-time job, okay?). Yes, I am a slow drama-binger and it usually takes me a couple of weeks to finish a drama. The amount of times that our adorable Gu Mi-ho was requesting beef had me craving beef that whole two weeks as well. My grandmother happened to be visiting that particular weekend and like Gu Mi-ho, my grandma too prefers beef over all other meats, so when she asked me to take her out for a meal, I knew exactly where I needed to go and headed to the closest steakhouse for some good beef. I do enjoy eating beef, but the amount of beef binging that happened in My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho was over the top but always amusing.

But I’m really blessed to have coworkers I can eat lunch with who happen to be K-drama fans. We have gone to the occasional Korean barbecue lunch together or we simply eat our meals in the office break room and chat about what we’re watching at the moment, and I sometimes feel like sunbae Yoo Jung every day asking them, “Do you want to go eat?” So shout-out to my lovely coworkers who make my lunches at work so fun and entertaining. We are a diverse group of women from different parts of the world who are able to share in the experience of bonding and fangirling over oppas and swooning over romantic moments in K-dramas, and food is what brought us together.


My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho

 
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Yay, this was fun and spoke to me on all levels (ramyun, kimbap and beef). Gu Jun Pyo introduced me to ramyun too, and like you I could not handle a whole packet of spice LOL. Never could.
And how amazing is it that you get to discuss kdramas with your coworkers? I'm so jealous. Daebak!

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Yeah I'm still a wimp to spiciness haha, I almost cried eating the insanely hot tteokbokki from a food stall, thankfully I had kimbap on the side and a giant bottle of water LOL

And yes my lunch coworker crew is kinda the best, one of them has been watching kdramas for a decade, the other one started watching less than a year ago and we just chatter on about kdramas every time we meet :D

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@wishfultoki @ohhaeyoung @pakalanapikake
Ahhhh ramyun and talking food on DB...

I bought Jajangmyun Ramyun in packets to cook at home, and it is not bad and not spicy. At least, there are no packets of spice, just of dried stuff and oil and powdered sauce.

The first time I made it, the wording on the packet did not match the instructions and so I put the packet of dried veg (I should have looked to see what it was first) in the bowl (wrong place! LOL) and so they did not get soft πŸ˜– and I left too much water in, so the gravy was too watery.

I got it right the next time and the sauce thickened nicely. It was pretty close in taste to Jajangmyun at a Korean restaurant.

As for the spicy hotness ... I tried Dokbokki and it's spiciness is a killer!! 😳 And that's coming from a person who can eat pretty spicy stuff. πŸ˜‹

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ooh yes I have the instant jajangmyun packets at home too and the latest one I bought has the instructions wrong too so I had to google and bookmark the right way to prepare it, and I agree that I find it to be pretty good! It is definitely not spicy but has very interesting flavor. I like to fry an egg and put it on top of my instant jajangmyun too. I did make it a point to try jajangmyun in Korea and was surprised at how subdued the flavor was compared to what i was expecting it to taste like. It was an enjoyable meal :D

I need to find a korean restaurant here in the US that will serve me jajangmyun though as I never see it on the menus of the korean restaurants I normally go to...

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You should ask if they can make it for you even if it's not listed on the menu.

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Ooh great suggestion! I'll ask next time I visit a Korean restaurant :)

What is your favorite kind of jajangmyun? I don't think I've ever tried the kind with shrimp but it seems to be very popular.

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What a lovely essay, @ohhaeyoung!

It's so true that food and eating are essential in many dramas...
As long as people don't start dancing around with ramen packets (I'm looking at you, K2), I love this.

Triangle kimbap is a great invention. I don't understand why they aren't available world-wide, the way ramen is. *sigh*

It's great that you can share your love of dramas with your colleagues... for me, that place is DB and I'm very grateful...!

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I lied. I'm trying not to be jealous and failing miserably.
😊

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LOL my coworkers are so great, I'm so lucky to have found ppl who love kdramas too! We are trying to convince one of our new coworkers to watch kdramas but I fear we sound like crazy people with all our fangirling around her when we eat lunch.

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LOL i've heard that K2 scene was super cringy

Thank you for the compliment btw :)

Yeah I don't know if HMart sells triangle kimbap but I always get overwhelmed by all the fun stuff at HMart and I usually end up with a shopping basket full of ramen, Melona ice cream, and Milkis sodas :P

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Thanks for your lovely essay, @ohhaeyoung! It brings back memories of my own discovery of instant Korean noodles.

Although I haven't watched any of the dramas you mentioned, I was reminded of time-traveling 90s idol Yoo Hyun-jae's discovery of triangle kimbap in THE BEST HIT. He was utterly flummoxed when it came to unwrapping it.

In real life, many years ago I happened upon spicy instant udon that I fondly dubbed "Korean thermonuclear." The first time I ate it, I saw God. Or stars. I'm not quite sure which. That learned me to use less of the seasoning. Now that I'm a Kdrama fan, I realize it was my very first culinary encounter with the Truck of Doom, I just didn't know it until this very minute. ;-)

I had a similar experience in a Thai restaurant in Honolulu. Although the food was only "medium" spicy, my pain receptors went into total overload. It was the gastronomic equivalent of being hit by the 18-Wheeler of Doom.

I'm glad you have Kdrama buddies to fangirl with over delicious food at lunch at work. One of the things that I love about DramaBeans is that I can log in and squee with folks from all over the world who love Kdrama as much as I do. We may never be able to sit across from each other at the same table, but we can still have great fun at play in the interwebs as we scarf down our ramyun. ;-)

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Thank you! :)

And I haven't seen The Best Hit yet but does that mean triangle kimbap didn't exist in the 90s? LOL

OMG I love your culinary Truck of Doom reference :P I had this happen to me with tteokbokki, like it starts out tasting delicious and the spice is tolerable but after a few bites the spiciness intensifies to the point that I start sniffling/crying from the spice haha

My lunch crew coworkers are so great! Very interesting women who keep me entertained with their kdrama impressions and are willing to listen to my opinions on dramas as well <3

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@ohhaeyoung,

I had this happen to me with tteokbokki, like it starts out tasting delicious and the spice is tolerable but after a few bites the spiciness intensifies to the point that I start sniffling/crying from the spice haha

In my house, this delayed phenomenon is known as "hitting the afterburner." ;-)

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Do you not all think that maybe the food obsession in kdramas borders on the ridiculous occasionally? Case in point: Strong Woman

So our heroine and hero are about to meet death, MacGyver-style. Ticking bomb...she has no strength...she's trapped inside...she hysterically begs him to go and save himself. Our hero refuses, stoically accepting death rather than leaving her to die alone.

I have to say, it was well done. I mean, yes, of course, you knew there would be some deus ex machina thing to save them at the last minute, but still...the actors did a find job.

But wait! Salvation at the last minute! Oh, what joy, what bliss, what relief! You might assume that this near-death experience would lead to an adrenaline/hormone overload of epic proportions. You might assume that some moments of intense physical intimacy would follow.

Nope. "Do you want to eat?"

Are you freaking kidding me? NOW?

Something is rumbling, but it isn't her tummy! There is a gnawing hunger, oh, God, yes, but it will NOT be assuaged by noodles!

Did I say it was ridiculous? Scrap that. It is just unnatural!

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Haha I have not watched Strong Woman yet but I would say the food obsession in Korea can lately border on the unnatural especially with the whole mukbang phenomenon. Even some of my coworkers in my American tech company who are very American know about mukbangs and korean fried chicken LOL (not my kdrama coworker crew but other ppl).

However we also have all the foodies on Instagram and I happen to be one of those people. I live in a city full of restaurants, most of them are very good and Korea also has a really great eating out culture that I think fuels this food obsession phenomenon. To be honest, my food experiences in Korea were very interesting and lots of fun. The restaurants expect ppl to go out to eat in groups so the portions are huge and it seems that people don't usually ever go to a restaurant by themselves. There is a lot to think about and consider when it comes to Korean food culture for sure and I think dramas just use this concept to their advantage.

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Don't get me wrong; I get the food obsession and I am a bit of a foodie myself. However, there are SOME moments when a person may have other hungers in mind, that's all I'm saying. Watch Strong Woman and see if you don't agree. Dude, you can eat LATER!

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Haha I'll watch it and comment back again here whenever I end up seeing that moment you're referring to. My kdrama watch list is so long, but I'll bump Strong Woman up :D

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@ohhaeyoung

Thanks for your article. What fun! I wish I worked with you and could join you and your colleagues for lunch. I tried a fusion Korean restaurant place today but the food was far from authentic and too fusion into something else to be Korean. :( Still I enjoyed reading your article that makes up for my lack of Korean gastronomical delights and company to eat it with. :)

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Aww the more the merrier! We are currently in the process of trying to convince a new coworker to watch kdramas!

That sucks, I hope you can find a good authentic korean restaurant soon! I happen to enjoy some of the fusion foods such as kimchi fries! There are a lot of koreans in my city so there are actually quite a few good korean restaurant options in my city but they just happen to be on the other side of town from where I live so I do have access to great kbbq restaurants and authentic korean foods but I do have to be committed to making the drive when the mood strikes for korean food.

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Great article! :)
But it must be asked....did Hong Seol's instructions for unwrapping the triangle kimbap help you with your first time too? LOL!
Now I'm going to have to look up that SNL Korea skit! :)

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haha I remember trying to open it how I remembered it was supposed to be opened in CITT and it sort of opened ok...it was also midnight and I had just gotten off a 15 hour flight on which I did not sleep a wink so the way I opened it is now a bit hazy but I do remember enjoying it and finding it delicious!

the SNL Korea skit is a bit disturbing but it made me realize that well sunbae did ask her to eat with him a bit too much :P

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This was so lovely thank you @ohhaeyoung! I remember the first time I found triangle kimbap at my local Korean supermarket I was coincidentally watching Cheese in the Trap at the time. So when I got home, I found the episode where Hong Seol teaches Yoo Jung how to unwrap it, and I literally followed her like it was a tutorial. Needless to say, whenever I eat triangle kimbap I always unwrap it like a pro now :)

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Oh wow I love your triangle kimbap story, what is your favorite kind of kimbap?

Also that's awesome that you could find it at your local supermarket, do you happen to know if they sell kimbap at HMart? I'm sure they probably do but I always get overwhelmed when I step foot in there and never know where to look for kimbap haha.

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I actually get my kimbap from Zion Market (the triangle ones). I'm not sure if you have those near you? I know at Hmart they sell really delicious circle kimbap. You can get them at the pre-made food section (it's kind of like sushi, where it's wrapped up on a tray). If your Hmart has a cafeteria section, it's probably near there. In all honesty though I still enjoy triangle kimbap better just because it's so much more fun to eat lol.

Also you're totally right that Korean food markets are really unorganized sometimes and super huge, but I go to Hmart so much now to eat or grocery shop that I get used to it.

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oh cool, never heard of Zion Market but the HMarts are not near me so I have to make a bit of a drive to get there...next time I find myself there I'll try to look for kimbap again!

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@ohhaeyoung
BOF was also my first time watching someone eating dry ramen like that! I didn't really know if it was safe to eat it that way, but I did (minus the MSG package because I thought that was a bit too much) and I LOVED it! I never shut up about it to the point that one Taiwanese friend bought me what she thought was the best ramen to eat dry--it really was, I don't know what it had, but I've never tasted one as good as that one!
I felt the struggle when watching that particular scene in Cheese in the Trap!! The same thing had happened to me a couple of years before...not because I'm a rich girl, simply a Latin girl lol. I spent a good minute trying to open it and ended up messing up the entire thing. My friends felt bad and actually bought me another one after they pointed at the (very clear) numbered steps in the wrapper ^^;
It then became my go-to snack every day before class!

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Haha ooh interesting, the only time I've eaten dry ramen is that one korean snack with the bulgogi powder flavoring and I quite enjoyed it.

Oh I'm Latina too! I'm from El Salvador :) and ooh that's so nice that they bought you another one! Such good friends!! It is an awesome snack, wish I had it more available to me. Kimbap is one of my favorite Korean foods <3

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El Salvador?? Now I'm craving pupusas!! <3<3<3
Mine were simple onigiris with umeboshi, but I could still eat one daily SO good!

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OK...I saw pupusas! I just had some a couple of weeks ago. They were the size of big pancakes! But so good!

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They're SO delicious!! I've tried to make some several times, but it's not the same as eating one from a Salvadorian...the cabbage and spicy sauce are essential and I never get them right!

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oh nice! what kinds do you like? I like the cheese and beans kind :)

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ooh yes I can't eat mine without repollo (spicy cabbage- my mom makes it with oregano, vinegar, and jalapenos) :D

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oh haha I'm having homemade pupusas this weekend yay :D

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JEALOUS!

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@ohhaeyoung I love the cheese and beans and pile it high with the cabbage!

BTW, great write -up...I read it a few days ago but never got a chance to comment! It's been awhile since I had dried ramen as a snack. We used to love breaking it apart in the bag!

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@jenmole aww thank you so much! oh btw I'm a jen as well ;)

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I don't eat beef too often, but ever since I first watched My Girlfriend is A Gumiho, I tend to think of that drama whenever I do because of the "beef binging" as you so aptly called it! :)

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