It was the summer of 1991. I had just graduated from college and I was taking Korean language classes at a university and was also teaching English to a group of professionals at a small company (with the unfortunate name, Colon) for extra cash. I had just finished a session of teaching and was on my way back to the university campus. I was standing at an insanely busy street corner in Seoul, Korea and all of a sudden I felt like could not move. It was as if my feet were encased in concrete. People streamed by me like I was a rock in a rushing stream. I panicked for what seemed like 15 minutes, but I’m sure was only a split second. In that split second, a million thoughts rushed through my head confused as to who I really was. I stared out at the swelling sea of people who all looked identical..and, I blended right in. For that split second, I was actually horrified. I looked like one of them, but did feel like one of them. As someone who was born and raised in American towns and cities where I always stood out, this idea of homogeneity in my mother country felt very foreign to me.
I relaxed. I was my own self. Not entirely Korean and not entirely American, but at that moment, a perfect balance of both.
I continued walking and merged with the swell of people.
Notes: This soup is a spin on a traditional Korean pork and potato soup. The addition of the kaenip (perilla) kimchi adds a blast of nutty, peppery flavor and works perfectly with the pork and potatoes. Kaenip kimchi can be found in the prepared food section of your local Korean market.
With soups like these, my appetite definitely identifies with the Korean cuisine. No doubt.
- 2 pound pork bones
- 1 1-inch piece of ginger root
- 1 Tablespoon kochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
- 2 Tablespoons dwaen jang (Korean soybean paste)
- 1 Tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
- 4 red potatoes peeled and quartered
- ¼ cup chopped kaenip kimchi
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- Soak pork bones in cold water for about 30 minutes. Change the water a few times until there is little blood and the water is clear.
- Place bones and ginger in a large pot. Cover with water, about 3 quarts, and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 2 hours, skimming any foam that forms on the surface.
- Mix together the kochujang, dwaen jang, and sesame seeds in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Remove ginger from the pot. Add a few spoonfuls of the hot broth into the paste mixture to make a thick slurry. Pour the mixture to the pot of broth and stir until there are no lumps. Add the potatoes and kaenip kimchi. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until potatoes are cooked.
- Serve each bowlful with a generous topping of scallions.