Third Gener-asian Cuisine – Baby Q

korean barbecued spicy pork ribs
It wasn’t enough to have just one baby shower with all the giggling girlfriends, so we threw a shower for my sister and her husband that included family at the future grandparents’ house in Orange County. On Mom and Dad’s patio, overlooking the golf course, we had a barbecue, or, as I like to call it, a Baby Q.

This party was one that I had almost no hand in planning. The preparation and menu were all up to my Mom, though she did ask me to help with dessert – not because she wasn’t organized enough to get a cake or pie or ice cream together herself, and not because she didn’t want to muster all the Korean females, pass around a veritable panoply of paring knives and sit around the kitchen table peeling fresh fruit and strategically placing sliced apples, oranges, pears and persimmons on serving platters as if onto some secret Axis and Allies maneuvering map.

No, Mom just knew I’d probably keel over with if I didn’t spend at least 20 minutes in the kitchen cooking or baking as my contribution to the party. At the special request of my then 8 months pregnant sister with an insatiable hormonally-induced craving, I baked a cheesecake (“a normal one this time, okay, Sarah?”), and since the shower was back in October, it was pumpkin. By the way, no matter how much a pregnant ball of raging, cranky hormones tries to perpetrate normalcy and denies it, everything you have ever heard about hormonally-induced anything as related to pregnant women is 100% absolutely true.

korean baby q - shrimp
all american shrimp cocktail
korean baby q - guacamole
just avocado, lime, garlic, and salt

Mom went all out, and when I say “all out,” I mean that by the time I had arrived (early, presumably, “to help”), she had already completely covered the kitchen table with hors d’oeuvre and appetizers and snacks in a display that could have been Station 1 on a mini Vegas buffet. There wasn’t even enough room for a tablescape, which says a lot, since my Mom takes quite a bit of pride in her flower garden and usually takes every opportunity to display her fresh-cut glory. Our family is Korean, my brother in law’s family is Chinese, and all of the friends fill in the blanks, so I think my Mom was trying to make sure that there was something for everyone. Either that, or she just lost her mind at the grocery store. There were typical Korean ahn-joo type snacks (dried seaweed, fruits, nuts, and squid), Japanese crackers, edamame, ?? (mahn-doo – fried won tons), shrimp cocktail, vegetable crudité, an impressive cheese plate (in honor of our representative from the Midwest ;) ), potato chips, other chips, tortilla chips and salsa. Guacamole! Where’s the guacamole?! Mom pitched some avocadoes to me and I knew exactly what to do. Please. Guacamole.

korean baby q - potato salad
all-korean potato salad

If the kitchen table was the Epcot Center of appetizers, then the kitchen’s breakfast bar was Koreatown. Christina, one of my sisters’ friends, made her famous potato salad, which may sound like an all-American Fourth of July, but trust me, if you ever go to a Korean barbecue restaurant and scan the bahn-chan, you’ll understand how very Korean potato salad is. Potato salad is Korean, just the way Spam and American cheese metled on top of ramen are Korean, too. :)

korean baby q - jahp chae
jahp chae: korean pasta salad
korean baby q - ho-bahk jun, bin-dae-dduk, saeng-sun jun
juns on the side, bin-dae-dduk in the middle

Mom had prepared everything else: ?? (jahp-chae: transparent noodles made from sweet potato starch, sautéed with vegetables), bin-dae-dduk (pancakes made from mung bean flour, filled with vegetables), ho-bahk jun (zucchini fritters), ?? (saeng-sun jun: fish fritters), and even a clay crock pot of ???? (doo-boo jji-gae: spicy tofu hot pot), bubbling away on the stove top. There was also the typical bahn chan of shi-geum-chee namul (marinated spinach), ??? (kong namul: marinated bean sprouts), and several types of?? (kimchee). It was a feast fit for the little princess on her way.

korean baby q - doo-boo jji-gae
gettin’ jjigae with it
korean baby q - namul
finding namul: spinach and sprouts

The best thing on the breakfast bar was a foil-covered plate of mook, receiving many a surreptitious lift of the foil, a quick flash of chopsticks, then re-shuffling of what was left on the plate. Mook is gelatin prepared from flour or powder derived from acorns, buckwheat, peas, or mung beans, the color ranging form translucent white to gr
ayish brown, depending on the base. The plain jelly is cut, often decoratively, but not always, then served with a slightly spicy soy sauce and vinegar seasoning sauce. I couldn’t help sneaking a few pieces. Mook is not something we just keep lying around the refrigerator, and if it hadn’t been for Mom’s watchful eye and a laughing “Sarah-ya!” I would have finished at least half of it before the other guests arrived.

korean baby q - mook
are you mook-ing me?
korean baby q - galbee
a whole herd of cattle

Though I would have been perfectly content to sidle up to the breakfast bar, plop myself down on a barstool with a pair of chopsticks, and pick pick pick away at the buffet of Korean foods (hell, I wouldn’t have even needed to sit down), Mom had marinated galbee (short ribs) from the equivalent of a herd of cattle. When I arrived at the house, Dad was outside on the patio cleaning the grill, and as more and more guests arrived, the usual segregation of the sexes began. The women stayed inside to gossip about weddings and babies and shoes and how La Prairie works wonders, and the guys huddled in a primordial half-circle around the grill. There was nothing on it yet, though, so I have no idea what prompted the occasional grunt.

The galbee went on the grill, and just when I thought that was the beef, my Mom busted out with an enormous soup pot filled with dae-jee galbee (pork ribs) that she had par-boiled. Or blanched. Or something like that. She glazed each one with a sauce similar to the galbee marinade, but slightly spicier and thicker with goh-choo-jahng, and more syrupy with sugar. Those received a brief charring on the grill, and when the entire potful was done, we were all ready to eat. Again. The appetizer section had already been grazed over heavily. Would anyone actually be hungry for the main event?

korean baby q - spicy pork ribs
dae-jee means “delicious”
korean baby q - guacamole
don’t you want to be a pepper too?

Of course. With so many guests, we lined up church-picnic style, wielding a plate with a scoop of steamed white rice in one hand and chopsticks in the other. Each person passed through, piling a little bit of everything, a little more of any favorites, into a pile that totally reflected his or her taste and sense of style. I wish I had taken pictures of each plate. My parents and the rest of the first generation filtered into the formal dining room and sat down at the dining room table. I raised my eyes heavenward and thanked someone for giving me the night off from the Rule of 72 and Everything Comes from China. Everyone else, the second generation, and the soon-to-arrive first member of our Delicious third generation, wandered out onto the patio with their overflowing plates. Just as we had done when we all arrived, we separated like Quakers, guys to one table to talk about sports and girls to the table under the heat lamps to talk about make-up. Stereotyping? Absolutely.

I don’t have to go into the individual tastes of each item my Mom had prepared. Everything was pretty much awesome, and I wouldn’t have expected any less from her. Though the girls remained lady-like and “saved room for dessert,” the guys weren’t shy about going back for seconds, some even for thirds. And fourths (I see you, Jeffrey P!). And even still, there was enough food leftover to feed everyone there again for lunch the next day. Trust me. I had Korean leftover Baby Q in my fridge for several days (except the mook), and I most certainly am not complaining.

It had been a long time since I’d seen Mom get so excited about having a party at her house, and even longer since I’d seen her put out that much variety of that much food. Was she like me, excited at any opportunity to entertain? Was it simply that it had been long time since she’d had the chance? Was she crazy?

A yes to all, but most importantly, I think she was celebrating her soon-to-be grandmother-dom.

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  • swati

    in india, both the would-be-grandmoms throw parties, one at the fifth (mom-in-law) while own mom should do it at ninth; the double-decker is supposed to stsy at her own mother’s place before and after the big day.
    there are rites too (all connected wit fertility and other similar ideas), and as the crowd is too big, nowadays, a caterer is more in evidence.
    in bengal this ceremony is called ‘shaad’, ie, wish.
    usual gift — saree.

  • YouGuysKnow

    Okay now, harking back to a hilarious post you did about 2 or 3 months ago…

    How do I begin the process of getting adopted by YOUR mom?

    Is there an application I could download?

    I come with:
    – manageable hormones (95% of the time)
    – ability to love guac and jji-gae equally
    – knowledge of sports AND makeup
    – Korean language skills (ok, I can only count to 10 and shout taekwondo commands, but this might come in handy at some point)
    – a tripod. so i can follow you ’round like a rodie

  • Anonymous

    ahhhh. memories of my own upbringing. i was the rebel daughter who thought i should be with all the men talking about more “important” things. but now, i’d much prefer to stay in the kitchen, get all the food straight out of the oven or off the pan, and gossip. hee hee.

  • Catherine

    aww woman, that’s such a wonderful story! definitely a keeper for when the little princess is old enough to read and appreciate the humor in the segregation of the sexes at family gatherings. ;)

  • sarah

    swati: oh yes, there was a party at the other grandmom’s house, too! i just haven’t gotten that far in the saga yet ;)

    easily pleased: wow. you know more korean than i do! lol!

    anonymous: yeah, me too! totally wanted to be ANTI-GIRL, or rather, leave that up to my mom and sisters. i don’t think i’m quite the girl yet, but well, i love to be in the kitchen. (just don’t EXPECT me to be in there, right?)

    cat: thanks! haha! and i can’t tell if the little monkey is going to be a tomboy or a super girlie girl. i mean, my sister is REALLY trying to put the pink on, like BIG time, but my mom did that to me too, and look at me now! LOL! i’m an anti-girlie-girl that… likes pink.

  • Nora

    Hi Sarah, I enjoyed that entry – I like your sense of humour. Thanks for making me laugh this morning – a good start to the day :)

  • Maure

    sarah: holy smokes! i just read this post and got to the part about korean potato salad – nearly fell out of my chair – fortunately it’s a bean bag chair.

    that sounds so good – you must post a recipe – i’d love to bring it to the next bar mitzvah or bris i attend.

  • hermz

    Man, that was torture to read! I’m saddened your mom doesn’t cook more often.

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