I went to America for the first time when I was fourteen for boarding school. From years of watching Disney channel, I was fluent in English but unversed in American.
School was tough for me at first. On top of being a new transfer, I was unbelievably homesick in my dorm room, in rural Connecticut, eleven thousand kilometers away from home.
I missed home, family, but most of all, food from home. My cravings would creep up to me at night when I would stay up late cramming for my AP Chemistry exam. All I could think about was soup, not the kind that comes in a can, but kimchijjigae that’s bubbling like lava in a ddukbaeggi.
The closest Korean restaurant was an hour away. I could not justify almost $100 of cab ride to go eat alone. But my cravings grew even stronger.
To satiate my cravings, I had to start cooking. I would call my halmoni, my grandmother, to ask for recipes. With my phone on one hand and a notepad on other, I would write down her ambiguous orders. I’d ask, “how much should I put in?” and she’d say “jukdangee”, which means just enough.
Getting groceries was another obstacle. There was little to no asian condiments in the supermarket near my school. I had to try my best to recreate dishes with what was available. For instance, ggaetnip, a wild Perilla leaf herb, was substituted with flat Italian parsley; gochugaru, a sun dried Korean red chilli, was exchanged with Pepperoncino; myulchi-aekjut, a Korean fermented anchovy fish sauce, was substituted with anchovies packed in olive oil. I would experiment in the common area kitchen of my dorm, and sometimes stink up the entire house with the smell of fish sauce.
As I started to cook more, my confidence started to grow. I would invite my friends in my dorm to introduce them to new foods, and they coined me as the “prep cook”, as I was a beginner cook in prep school. More than cooking, I loved what cooking meant to me. My dishes were like me, adapted to my environment and adapted from my halmoni’s recipes.
The food I make here on doobydobap is not the most traditional, or the most authentic— but it is the most authentic representation of my experiences.
At Doobydobap, I hope you can vicariously enjoy the food I make and gain a better understanding of who I am through my recipes. Thanks for reading.
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