It's funny how family traditions become really important to you when you're away from your family. I really wanted to celebrate Korean New Years Day this year, but because my family and relatives live in Ontario and British Columbia, I decided to have my own festive celebration here in Cambridge Bay. Yes, I am the only Korean in the western half of Nunavut, but that didn't stop me - luckily, my friends in town are like another special kind of family to me, and more importantly, they like any opportunity to eat food.
Of course, when I planned this New Years Day dinner party, I wasn't actually expecting to cook. That responsibility usually falls on my spouse. I am a terrible cook - seriously, I have found ways to burn water - and it's no surprise that the family recipes of kalbi and bulgogi have been passed on to my partner rather than me. My job is to get the house ready and entertain the guests. Rob does the kitchen magic.
Alas. as it turned out, Rob was going to be cooking at the new restaurant in Cambridge Bay, so it looked like I was going to have to cook the traditional Korean New Years dish ddukgook.
Korean pasta "dduk"
Rob left me a set of instructions which seemed pretty precise at the time; the Korean pasta dduk also came in a plastic bag that also had a set of (different) instructions. Also, I found two Korean cookbooks on our shelf that had two more also very different recipes. None of these recipes carried the same ingredients. I was starting to get confused.
I called my mom for Stoveside Assistance. She gave me a fifth different recipe to follow, (She also sent me a link to a sixth recipe on a website that was entirely in Korean, but I guess I could look at the picture.) With much struggling and repeated phone calls back to my mom until I am pretty sure she started screening me, I eventually made the soup. It tasted right, but it was the wrong colour.
Feeling tired and a little frustrated, I took a break and had a scotch while putting on the classic Korean romantic comedy, My Sassy Girl.
If nothing else, my guests were going to have excellent Korean snacks.
Fortunately, I also had my grandmother's yummy jangjorim beef, which is one of the most delicious things in the world. I also had prepared two different kinds of kimchi, my own special batch that I made with arctic char jerky, made "famous" by this newspaper article
look at my pretty side diches
In the end, the dinner party turned out great. Rob came home in time to "correct" the soup, and my friends enjoyed the meal. They brought along great dishes too, including dumplings, steamed pork buns, a roasted Peking duck, fried rice, cupcakes, ginger tea and fortune cookies. Most importantly, we got to enjoy each other's company, which I think is an important part of the Korean New Years tradition. That and bowing to your elders for money, which we'll have to do next year.
best part of dinner parties: leftover dessert for the next day