Monday, March 15, 2010

Kimchi This Kimchi That

Bibimbap Bullshit

I want to root for Korea. I really do. I love an underdog story as much as the next guy. But the problem with Korea is the prevalence of arrogance mixed with ignorance. Living here is like being trapped on a road trip with that retarded kid
Corky from "Life Goes On" and having him tell you about all the bitches he fucks, the luxury cars he drives, and his intellectual superiority.You know it isn't true and in his heart of hearts he knows too , but he clings to that narrative. At first it's quaint that he has such a high self-esteem but later your feelings devolve into pity and finally mockery after the 20Th story of his insignificant accomplishments. Kimchi cheerleaders; esp. Korean-American/Canadians, are like the parents in the front seat affirming the bullshit as long as they don't have to actually sit and talk with him.

In an effort to spread the popularity of Korean cuisine and culture around the world the Korean government has begun a campaign to promote bibimbap.Bibimbap is steamed white rice sauteed vegetables, chili paste and a raw or fried egg .To supplement their efforts they took out a full page color ad in the New York Times.

Bibimbap is a dish mixed of cooked
rice with various vegetables, beef, garnishes, and
fried pepper paste. It is said that this dish came
from the customers of memorial service and rural villages.
This dish is very convenient to provide, just mixing of cooked
rice with various vegetables,
namul, and red pepper paste together.
(copy from the ad)

This is a perfect example of the ignorance meets arrogance I was talking about. Most people would hire an ad agency in that country before committing thousands of dollars to this
fuckery. The only positive is that they never actually mention that the dish is Korean in origin.

The Japanese editor of a Japanese daily who has lived in Korea for 30 years said that he doubted the globalization potential of

Kuroda- Bibimbap looks good when it is put on the table at first. But once the vegetables, the egg and rice and everything get mixed by the spoon, it transforms into something that is unidentifiable," he said at that time. "I fear an American who ordered this dish might be shocked to see this."

Kuroda's harsh statement about the dish he started to receive the typical death threats and now feels unsafe in Korea. When will Koreans learn that they have a right to spread their culture from sea to shining sea but in doing so it will be examined and possibly rejected as inferior, and that the appropriate response is not threats of murder. I had a lady over and she said she didn't like the garlic mashed potatoes I made, I didn't threaten to beat her to death with my shoe.

But why are we discussing bibimbap anyway? It's not the national food of Korea. It's not served at every school in the country. It doesn't have its own museum. It hasn't been to space. No my friends the national food of Korea is kimchi. Kimchi is fermented Chinese cabbage mixed with red pepper paste and a bunch of other shit. It taste like soggy cabbage drenched in hot sauce and it looks like something out of the dumpster of an Italian restaurant. Like most things in Korea it originated in China, was vastly improved using American materials, and perfected in Japan.

So they have bibimbap and kimchi why did they choose to promote bibimbap?. I think bibimbap is more aesthetically pleasing than kimchi. Kimchi is ;and you can use this as a metaphor for Korea, smelly , rather unsightly, and an acquired taste with a sharp learning curve for very little pay off.


  1. I made the mistake of checking out the kimchi museum yesterday. It was quaint (read: sad).

  2. hahaha - I think the prominent display of the raw egg in a country that has seen breakouts of salmonella and ecoli is going to freak out some people. Some people do eat steak tartar, but they are rare. You would think that they would start with something easier like - Korean BBQ which already has a following, expand to dakgalbi, kimbab, then maybe a jigae or two.

  3. It's not gonna happen with bibimbap. Korean BBQ has a strong following in most major U.S. cities. Korean style yogurt has a following. You have to pick and choose your battles. Kimchi or anything kimchi based is never gonna happen. I don't know why Koreans can't see that as a basic fact.

  4. I don't know what Korean Yogurt is and isn't Korean bar b que more about the novelty of cooking your own food rather than an authentic Korean experience. My cousin went to a rest. that
    let you cook food on a superheated rock the other
    week and most of have been to a fondue place.

  5. Korean yogurt is Pinkberry, Red Mango, etc. Most major U.S. cities have that now. Korean BBQ is about the marinate, which is different style from U.S. bbq. It's pretty much in every major city now, and has many non-Korean followers, though many cannot get over smelling like an ashtray for days afterward.

  6. Lately, I am of the mind that Korean food is designed, or at least evolved, to be unappealing. Defeat and occupation numerous times have shaped this country's 'culture' - to include their food. While the invading soldiers are having your daughter, they are certain to be taking your rice and anything else of interest - but you can have that rotting cabbage. I mean, who else likes it? The point is, it is safe to put all your pride in something that no one is going to take from you. The rest of their food looks like something one would forage for in the woods - not cultivate. I tell Koreans who are disappointed in my lack of interest in their food that they are free to dislike Western food and I wouldn't have my feeling hurt by that at all.

  7. I had a lady over and she said she didn't like the garlic mashed potatoes I made, I didn't threaten to beat her to death with my shoe.
    Excellent post!