Maangchi posted on YouTube for the first time in 2007. It's a shaky, grainy video of her making the Korean dish ojingeo bokkeum, or spicy stir-fried squid. Even though the video quality is lacking, Maangchi expertly slices the squid open and chops vegetables. Now, more than a decade later, Maangchi's videos are sleek, sharp, and professional; she faces the camera with her perfectly coiffed hair, often wearing a fascinator or other fancy hair clip. You might already be one of her 4 million subscribers, but if you're not: she's got hundreds of videos on her channel for you to browse.
You could say that Maangchi has brought Korean food to the English-speaking masses. But because she left South Korea decades ago, her food is in an "immigrant time warp" — frozen in the era when she left, rather than evolving at the same pace as the country's current tastes.
On this week's Sporkful, Maangchi talks with Dan about her unlikely path from a Korean fishing village to YouTube star. She also tells Dan how she got the name Maangchi, and about her take on ram-don, a popular dish that was renamed for the recent Oscar-winning movie, Parasite.
Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:
- "Party Hop" by Jack Ventimiglia
- "Minimaliminal" by Black Label Productions
- "Sidewalk Chalk" by Hayley Briasco
- "Bourbon Fanfare" by Devon Gray
- "Happy Jackson" by Ken Brahmstedt
- "Mellophone" by JT Bates
Photo courtesy of Maangchi.
Dan Pashman: Do you still do the editing for your own videos?
Dan Pashman: Wow. Did you have to learn how to use that software?
Maangchi: All the time. I'm learning everyday, something new.
Dan Pashman: This is Maangchi, YouTube star and cookbook author. Her videos on how to cook traditional Korean dishes have been viewed hundreds of millions of times. She shoots them in her apartment, and edits them herself. Pretty much the only thing she doesn't do is run the camera.
Maangchi: And then I give a hard time to my camera person, "Hey, you make me look so old." My poor cameraman. So all of these things, I'm directing. Are you doing now? This is...
Dan Pashman: Yeah.
Maangchi: Wah? I didn't know. I thought that you are just only talking before starting.
Dan Pashman: Well it's the same—the interview is also only talking.
Maangchi: Oh okay. You make me so so comfortable. That's why I feel...
Dan Pashman: Yeah, it's very relaxed. We're just gonna have a nice...
Maangchi: You're so tricky. Because you didn't let me know, “Okay, Maangchi, start!”
Dan Pashman: This is The Sporkful. It’s not for foodies, it’s for eaters. I’m Dan Pashman. Each week on our show we obsess about food to learn more about people.
Dan Pashman: Each of Maangchi’s videos starts the same, with Maangchi facing the camera, perfectly coiffed hair, often wearing a fascinator or other fancy hair clip. She's always waving almost maniacally, and saying...
CLIP (MAANGCHI): Hi everybody!
Dan Pashman: She has a real warmth about her, and so much passion for Korean food.
CLIP (MAANGCHI): You can make bo ssam at home, like this! Exciting!
Dan Pashman: And she takes time to really cover every step of the process, like when she spent several minutes showing us how to clean and prepare a whole octopus, even turning the head inside out:
CLIP (MAANGCHI): And all this connects and then inside out—yay.
Dan Pashman: Sometimes while she’s cooking she’ll share a story.
CLIP (MAANGCHI): Funny story I have. When I was in Korea, we traveled and all my family, we traveled. I bought a huge octopus for my family. So I asked the lady, "Can you clean the intestine for me?" She said, "Oh, okay. I can clean it for you but can I keep the head?" What kind of dealing is that? It was very shocking for me. Head has also a lot a lot of meat and is good. So I said, "No, I can do by myself." And then I brought this…
Dan Pashman: The videos aren’t glossy, they’re homey. No matter what Maangchi is doing, you always feel like you’re there in her kitchen with her while she cooks. Maangchi is 63. She launched her YouTube channel 13 years ago, in 2007. Today, she has 4 million subscribers. More than a million people have watched her make white rice.
Dan Pashman: Later on we’ll get more into her videos, and Korean cooking, but first, I wanted to learn more about her life before YouTube stardom. Because Maangchi wasn’t always Maangchi. She was born Kim Kwang-Sook and grew up on the southern coast of South Korea, in the port city of Yeosu.
Maangchi: Every morning I woke up with that horn and the boom sound, and also—thomp, thomp, thomp, thomp, thomp—a fishing boat. Early morning, those guys work so hard, you know, 4:00 AM they just—thomp, thomp, thomp, thomp, thomp—coming into this harbor to sell their fish they caught. And I was living—it was actually right near the dock because my father's job. His business was getting involved with some seafood. You know, selling and auctioning. I always—I love with this kind of, you know—it's a mood, atmosphere because people are just already start to working and carrying. Carriers carrying heavy, you know, the fish and mountains of some fishes in my house. And fishermen come and my father is auctioning. You know? So really, really busy. Busy, busy. And I love this. Whenever I think about Yeosu, my heart is beating. My heart is really beating and right next door my mom's friend, who was running small kind of bar for some fisherman or anybody. Workers, you know? She made some doenjang-guk, Korean soybean paste soup with cabbage. And she makes a huge pot, you know? It's filled with this and also she sell makgeolli. You know? The rice liquor?
Dan Pashman: Makgeolli is a traditional Korean alcoholic drink. As Maangchi explains on her website, “It’s made by combining rice, yeast, and water with a starter culture. It’s milky-white, fizzy and refreshing. It’s also called ‘nongju’ which means ‘farmer liquor.’ Because it’s made with a lot of rice, it’s filling. It was traditionally served to farmers as part of a midmorning snack or with lunch."
Maangchi: The workers, you know, those guys are just—they warm their body with that hot soup. And Korean people love love doenjang-guk and soybean paste soup, and also makgeolli. That's their breakfast. Every morning, I smelled—I walked with this smell, makes me crazy.
Maangchi: So these days, I keep making my, you know, fermented bean paste soup at home, at least once a week I make this. Whenever I make, I taste this, I think about that memory. My good memory when I was young.
Dan Pashmann: That doenjang or fermented soybean paste is salty, a little sour, and very umami. It's similar to miso, which is also made with fermented soybeans. Doenjang is a big part of Korean cuisine. It gets added to a lot of dishes. In fact, it's so integral that in 2010, there was a South Korean film called The Recipe. It was about a death row inmate, whose last wish is for a bowl of doenjang-jjigae, that fermented soybean paste stew. Those flavors of home became especially important to Maangchi when she moved to America.
Dan Pashman: So 1992 you came to the US with your ex-husband.
Dan Pashman: He got a job teaching at the University of Missouri.
Dan Pashman: And so you're 35. You come to the US with him. Am I right? That you brought a block of fermented soybean paste with you?
Maangchi: Oh my God! You read this from my first cookbook?
Dan Pashman: Yeah.
Maangchi: Yeah, at that time, I didn't know America sells—Korean stores sells Korean doenjang. I didn't know. I'd never been to America, so I have to prepare. How can I survive without doenjang? I couldn't imagine. So I made this a major block at home and just, I brought all the way from my immigration, a big vat.
Dan Pashman: So Maangchi was prepared for the worst, but as it turned out, even in 1992 in Missouri, there were Korean markets around. She was able to get ingredients to make Korean food. She was especially happy to learn that oxtail, which is a delicacy in Korea, is pretty inexpensive here.
Dan Pashman: After some time in Missouri, Maangchi moved around a bit. She and her husband got divorced, and she ended up in Toronto. That’s where she saw a job listing -- Looking for someone who spoke English and Korean, and who’d studied education. Well, Maangchi had gotten a masters in education. So she took the job, counseling Korean-Canadian women who had experienced domestic violence. And even in that role, food was key.
Maangchi: Once a month we had some self help book group. And they all went through domestic violence and I want to make them feel kind of a, "Today, I am a princess," you know? So I just—they come and then I made homemade kimchi for them. I want to make sure that they are my VIP. You know? So I just go to Korean markets to walk. So I bought good quality hot pepper paste, sometimes frozen oysters. I want to add—all of Koreans love their oyster kimchi.
Dan Pashman: So you're cooking for these women because you wanted them to feel special.
Maangchi: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Dan Pashman: What was it about that work that appealed to you?
Maangchi: All the—oh, because, you know, I want to help people. And for example, somebody, you know, was having to go through after divorce or separation and then especially they were abused. You know, physically, mentally, emotionally?
Dan Pashman: And I know that you said a lot of those women had just been through a divorce.
Dan Pashman: So you had also been through a divorce. Did that help you be able to help them?
Maangchi: Yeah. Yeah. I didn't get this kind of a help when I went through my own problems. But you make food and sharing this same food together. And this is—we are really connected and when they taste this and they really know that I love them. Also, you know, they love me. So I learn from them too.
Dan Pashman: What did you learn from them?
Maangchi: I learned from them that they are kind of sturdy and even though that kind of situation—always they want to make a joke. Funny. And you know usually like this kind of women who goes through this kind of hardship and easily you are supposed to be very negative but my team was not like that.
Maangchi: I want them to say that you know—the advice, always encourage each other. Don't try to judge each other. Just give them only compliment. So I do it once, move forward. Let's go!
Dan Pashman: Maangchi took that same “let’s go!” attitude into a very different part of her life. Her biggest hobby at the time, video games. In 2003, Maangchi got really into online multiplayer role-playing games. Her favorite was called City of Heroes. She spent hours each night joining forces with players around the world, and going on missions. Her characters in the game were never like healers. They were always powerful attackers. That’s why she named one of them Maangchi, which is Korean for “hammer.”
Maangchi: So one of my healer friends asked me, "Hey, you are going to make a second character. Why don't you be healer this time?" So I said, "What are you talking about?" I would rather go to medical school in real life.
Dan Pashman: You want to be the hammer.
Maangchi: Yeah, yeah. Big sword.
Dan Pashman: Maangchi says attacking is just more fun. She says she also loved the community of online gaming, connecting with people all over the place, plotting strategies with her teammates.
Dan Pashman: I've read that you were, you said that you were like addicted to online gaming. Is that true?
Dan Pashman: Do you feel like you were addicted?
Maangchi: I can say this because every day, at least three hours I play game. Even Saturday, Sunday, sometimes really—because I want to level up. Okay, my level is now only seven. Okay, second character, I like to make it fifty quickly, and then all I can do is just keep playing, keep playing. And then sometimes I feel—I felt dizzy. Dizzy and then I had to lay down on my bed. Oh my God.
Dan Pashman: So it’s 2007, Maangchi is 50 years old. She’s still living in Toronto, not working with the abused women anymore. She’s a single mother of adult children, and she’s addicted to online gaming.
Dan Pashman: And it’s at this point that her son comes to her and says, “Hey mom, you should start a YouTube channel. You’re such a good cook. Feature your cooking!”
Dan Pashman: Coming up, Maangchi the gamer is reborn as Maangchi the YouTube star. Stick around.
+++ BREAK +++
Dan Pashman: Welcome back to The Sporkful, I’m Dan Pashman. We are getting ready to tape some call-in shows and I want to hear from you: Do you have a food related issue that’s bugging you? Maybe you have a food related disagreement or dispute with a friend or loved one? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be calling in to a future episode of the show. That’s email@example.com.
Dan Pashman: Now, back to Maangchi. So it’s 2007, and her son suggests she start a YouTube channel where she shares her recipes for Korean food. And she does. Her first recipe: spicy stir fried squid.
CLIP (MAANGCHI): So this kind of squid you can find at any grocery store, I think, the best squid.
Dan Pashman: Maangchi said she picked this squid dish because it's one of her favorites and cause she thought it would let her show off knife skills.
Maangchi: Whenever I wield my knife over the gut and my squid, all the Canadian friends, their eyes are really rolling, “Ohh woahh, wow.”
So I wanted to surprise people. Okay, this is the way then. You know, I learned from Yeosu when I was growing up. Like kimchi is a kind of headache, a little bit. I need to think more how to teach this more effective way. So stir fried squid is piece of cake.
Dan Pashman: Since launching that first video 13 years ago, Maangchi’s following has grown and grown. According to the Influencer Marketing Hub, with her 4 million subscribers, she can make about $3,000 a video. So this has gone from a hobby to a job.
Dan Pashman: But her videos still have a homespun feel. The most elaborate graphics are an occasional caption that pops up, in Times New Roman font, like when she’s squeezing out cabbage and a caption pops out that says, “Give a little foot massage!”
Dan Pashman: As a food video personality, Maangchi is a throwback. For decades, food TV shows were what's called "stand and stir". The host is at the counter, teaching you how to cook something. But these days the big hits are either competition shows, or if they’re gonna show you a recipe it’s like a one minute BuzzFeed Instagram video. So it’s more about entertainment than about teaching.
Dan Pashman: You get a great feel for Maangchi’s style when you watch the video she made about one of my favorite Korean dishes, bo ssam. Bo ssam is pork belly boiled in spices and served with a bunch of garnishes—kimchi, spicy radish salad, fermented shrimp—and then it's wrapped in cabbage leaves.
Dan Pashman: In Maangchi’s bo ssam video, she goes into detail de-boning , trimming, and washing the pork belly...
CLIP (MAANGCHI): This three layered pork belly. So there is some bones inside.
Dan Pashman: Maangchi boils the pork belly, adding spices to the pot, explaining why she uses each of them. Then, while it’s boiling, she shows you how to make the spicy radish salad with oysters, before going back to take the pork belly out.
CLIP (MAANGCHI): This is so handsome, isn't it? Wow!
Dan Pashman: When it’s finally cool enough to eat, she wraps the pork belly, kimchi, and radish salad in a cabbage leaf and shoves the whole thing into her mouth in front of the camera.
CLIP (MAANGCHI): Mmmm. Mmmm! Pickled cabbage is sweet and sour and crunchy. Who invented bossam? She must be really genius because it has all kinds of texture, flavor, taste, everything! Seafood and meat and vegetables. It's one pouch, you have all kinds of diets, balanced diet. Invite your friends and family and make this and have fun. And let me know how yours turns out.
Dan Pashman: I want to talk for a minute about bo ssam.
Dan Pashman: Bo ssam is one of my favorite Korean dishes.
Dan Pashman: But I struggle with sometimes with the best way to eat it. Because I feel like when I get it at a restaurant, the pork is often sliced kind of thick. It's kind of big. And it's hard to get everything all in one bite. What's the secret?
Maangchi: Just make it small. I thought you are smart. You can just cut it off.
Dan Pashman: You have to cut the pork belly vertical, cause you want a little but of the meat and the fat in each bite. You can pull it apart with your hands but then you get fat in one side and meat on the other and that's no good.
Maangchi: You can use chopsticks. You know Korean metal chopsticks?
Dan Pashman: Right.
Maangchi: And you can cut or you can even use your finger—so cut it off. And the red spicy red salad I would eat separately. So you can eat it.
Dan Pashman: This is making me hungry.
Maangchi: I have a really good recipe for bo ssam.
Dan Pashman: I know! And what's the secret?
Maangchi: Did you see my recipe? Oh my.
Dan Pashman: The hazelnut.
Maangchi: Oh my God. You gotta make this.
Dan Pashman: So you and you're basically like, you're here like braising the pork belly and the secret ingredient is that you add hazelnut coffee.
Maangchi: Yeah. Hazelnut coffee. I learned this from one of my fellow Korean when I lived in Columbia, Missouri. And pork smell kind of a gamey smell is gone and little bit subtle the hazelnut coffee smell is inside.
Dan Pashman: Oh my God. I really want bo ssam, right now. Maangchi said it perfectly. Like it has everything. It may be the perfect food. It has every aspect of deliciousness that I can think of. And you see when you watch that video, or listen to Maangchi talk about the recipe, the way she explains every step. As I said, she has a master’s in education. She puts a lot of thought into how she’s gonna teach each dish.
Maangchi: Whenever you teach, even like a serious philosophy, your students are sleeping. That's nothing. You know? You gotta make them awake. You need some tactic, right?
Dan Pashman: Right.
Maangchi: So even most important thing is the best recipe but how can you make it more a little bit entertaining. So I always think about—that's why all I can do is while I'm cooking I'm wearing mostly blue jeans and t-shirts, what can I do? Only I put something on my head. Flower, sometimes. And hair change, you know, that's kind of my way of entertainment.
Dan Pashman: And is that why you like to mix up your look? Is for entertainment? Just to make the videos more exciting?
Maangchi: Yeah. Make, make them excited and make them think that, "Oh, you know what Maangchi is wearing today?" You know? That's true. Some children love them. Some children—even one of my readers says that, "My six month old baby loves you and whenever I turn on your video, her eyes is just sparkly."
Dan Pashman: Maangchi’s most popular video of all time is her recipe for traditional kimchi, with 13 million views. That one was actually featured in one of our past Sporkful episodes, called “Your Mom’s Food.” We looked at how children adopted from other countries and raised in America use food to connect with their cultures of origin.
Dan Pashman: Schuyler Swenson was adopted from Korea as a baby. As an adult, she got together with other Korean adoptees to learn how to cook Korean food. I played a clip of Schuyler for Maangchi in the studio.
CLIP (SCHUYLER SWENSON): We made kimchi together. Watching this YouTube series by this woman, Maangchi, I think is her name...
CLIP (MAANGCHI): Hi Everybody. Today we are going to learn how to make Korean traditional kimchi. There are so many hundreds of different kinds of buta kimchi. This is going to be a very traditional...
CLIP (SCHUYLER SWENSON): She is this like super cute glammed up Korean lady. She's fabulous and she kind of walked us through how to make kimchi at home. And so it was this kind of very millennial American moment, watching a YouTube video about our ancient culture of origin of like how to make kimchi. So, yeah...
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): How did you guys feel about that experience?
CLIP (SCHUYLER SWENSON): Oh, it was beautiful. I mean, it was so fun to be making ritual together that is a unique Korean American adoptee activity and teach ourselves. Like bring ourselves up in America as Korean Americans, because our white parents maybe aren't able to do that for us. We fought for that. We like taught ourselves how to have an understanding of that part of our identity that was lost.
Dan Pashman: What do you think of that?
Maangchi: Years ago, one lady, I met her and she said that, "Oh, if my birth mom is living with me, probably just like Maangchi."
Dan Pashman: She was sort of imagining that like you were her birth mother.
Maangchi: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And when I heard this, just this really touched my heart, really made me emotional. So I always hear this kind of story all the time. So adopted— Korean adoptees or a lot of people are so successful. So successful and very nice. I'm so proud of them. And these people want to learn Korean. They don't want to disconnect the Korean culture, Korean heritage and they like to learn. So food makes people connect to each other.
Dan Pashman: So I put it out to our listeners and ask them to write in with questions for you. Are you ready?
Dan Pashman: This first one, this was a great question because this was actually one that I wanted to ask you, and then a listener separately came up with the same question.
Dan Pashman: This was on Instagram from Amarateeny, or maybe it's 'A Mary Teenie', not sure. She wrote it, "What do you consider to be the top three essential banchan dishes. Banchan, the little side dishes that come in Korean food? I was gonna say, if you were trapped on a deserted Island—if you are trapped on an island and you could only have three banchan with you, what would be the three you would pick?
Maangchi: Kimchi. Kimchi. Second, braised soybeans because it has a protein. And number three is doenjang jjigae, soybean paste stew. As long as I have rice and these three items, I can live until 100 years old without missing anything. I can survive. No problem. Yeah.
Dan Pashman: Jed Lawler writes, “My kimchi comes out very sour but without much funk and not much umami. What could be wrong?”
Maangchi: Hmmm. How often you open this kimchi container? When you put it in the refrigerator, it takes two weeks to ferment. You always, everyday, open it. At least a, "Hello?" and open. That's what Koreans do because we eat everyday.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Maangchi: So if you make kimchi, when it starts fermenting you should turn it over a little bit and then just press down. So kimchi brine is just submerged, kimchee is submerged in brine. Then your kimchi will be so tasty.
Dan Pashman: Um, this one came on Facebook from Elizabeth Dong. She says, "Right now, it seems really trendy to have processed cheese on Korean food." She said she went to a Korean barbecue place and they put a cup of shredded cheese on the side of the grill to melt. And she asks, "Am I supposed to dip my meat in it? Many Asian people have lactose intolerance, so when did this cheese love start to become a thing and what's the best way to eat cheese with traditional Korean food?" First of all, I'm going to divide this into two questions because I'm curious now. Is this—have you seen this trend?
Maangchi: Oh, yeah. Yeah, that case at least. You know? But even when I was living in Korea, the cheese is a very kind of winner, little new. Very new things. Only the cheese is more available is a Kraft, sliced thinly wrapped one.
Dan Pashman: Kraft Singles. Right, the American cheese.
Maangchi: Yeah. That's cheese. That's all everybody thinks that that's a cheese.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Maangchi: So some after, some Imsil cheese—kind of a mozzarella cheese and made produced in Korea. So they mix it together everywhere. They tried to put it on the beef. Sometimes, you know, rice cake and quite delicious. Even spicy rice cake on top, you know?
Dan Pashman: Now maybe you're thinking, “Kraft singles on Korean food?” But after U.S. soldiers were stationed on the peninsula during the Korean War, some Koreans developed an affinity for American cheese. Then, in 2012, a free-trade agreement between the U.S. and South Korea made American dairy much cheaper and more popular. Today South Korea is the second biggest importer of American cheese, after Mexico. They eat it in all the ways you’d expect—string cheese and pizza—but it’s also been adapted into more traditional Korean dishes like one of my favorites, budae-jjigae, or Army Base Stew.
Dan Pashman: And the other question here was, "What's the best way to eat cheese with traditional Korean food?"
Maangchi: Mm Hmm. Although I made the buldak. Cheese buldak, the spicy fire chicken. I added cheese on top, mozzarella cheese. It looked like lasagna.
Dan Pashman: It's interesting you talk about how, um, you know, food in Korea continues to change and evolve like everywhere else. Korean people travel to other places, they come back, other people come in. Food, you know—that happens with food everywhere. And I know you've also talked about the idea of like this concept of an immigrant time warp. Where your perception of the home country stays frozen in what it was when you left.
Maangchi: Yeah. Yeah. That's a very good point about so many things. My immigrant friends, they are living in America 30, 40 years. No, Koreans doing this anymore. No Koreans singing this song.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Maangchi: Because they enjoy their karaoke song, like 30 years or 40 years ago in Korea. But these days there's like a faster song.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Maangchi: So nobody's singing.
Dan Pashman: That's for old people.
Maangchi: These guys are still getting together, singing all the songs. That's why my food is a kind of quite authentic. I can say a good way. So my readers say there sometimes—they leave a comment there, "Oh my, Maangchi's making this way. My grandmother used to make it that way."
They know their mom doesn't make it that way.
Dan Pashman: Right. Right.
Maangchi: So because. I am the kind of—I used to make it that way when I lived in Korea.
Dan Pashman: When Maangchi goes back to Korea to visit, she makes a point of checking out the new trends there. Especially with street food, which she says is always evolving. Sometimes her readers ask for a dish she’s not familiar with. So she researches it and creates a recipe.
Dan Pashman: That happened recently with the hit South Korean film Parasite, which just won Best Picture at the Oscars. One of the big themes of the film is class and inequality. And I won't give anything away but there’s a pivotal scene where the wealthy mother calls her housekeeper and tells her to make a dish called Ram-don so it’s ready for her kid when they get back. Now, all these people who saw the movie have been googling, coming to Maangchi saying, "How do we make Ram-don?"
Dan Pashman: Now, we’re gonna go down a bit of a rabbit hole here, cause I started reading up on this a bit. The best piece I found is on Food52, we will link to it on our site, but...here it goes.
Dan Pashman: The term “ram-don” was invented for the film. The dish is actually called jjapaguri. Jjapaguri is a very popular dish in Korea. It's made from combining two types of packaged instant noodles — a Chinese inspired ramen and then a Japanese style udon made with a spicy Korean seafood broth.
Dan Pashman: The subtitle translator for Parasite thought jjapaguri would be too unfamiliar a term for English speakers, so he made up the term ram-don. It’s a portmanteau, from ramen and udon.
Dan Pashman: Whatever name you want to give it, it’s an inexpensive comfort food that Korean kids love. But here's the twist, in this scene in Parasite, the rich woman wants really nice steak put on top. This would be like me putting fresh caught lobster on my kid’s Kraft mac and cheese.
Dan Pashman: Parasite writer and director, Bong Joon-Ho, explained the thinking behind using this particular dish in the movie. He told the LA Times, “This is something kids like, regardless of the rich or the poor. But the rich wife couldn’t stand her kid eating this cheap noodle, so she adds sirloin topping.”
Dan Pashman: Anyway, that’s the story of ram-don, which is really jjapaguri with super fancy beef on top. And as Maangchi told me...
Maangchi: A few of my readers asked me, "Can you make a video?" And then I was thinking, maybe why not? I never taste it before. I don't know anything about jjapaguri. And then I made a video.
Dan Pashman: That video just went up a couple weeks ago…
CLIP (MAANGCHI): Have you watched the Korean movie—sensational these days—the movie Parasite? I watched twice...
Dan Pashman: So Maangchi may have some immigrant time warp, but between her readers, and her regular trips back to Korea, she stays in the loop. And when she goes back, she does more than just check out the latest food trends.
Dan Pashman: There’s a custom in South Korea where people visit their ancestors’ graves and bring food and drinks. Recently, Maangchi went back to her hometown in Yeosu, that port city on the southern coast. When she was there, she visited the grave of her father, the seafood auctioneer.
Maangchi: I pretended that my father is sitting in front of me. Just by myself, you know, pray, "Father, you know, I am here." And I know that he cannot eat, but ever since I was a young, like a my grandmother she always used to tell me, oh today's some, you know, my grandfather's death anniversary day. All the family got together for this a lot, "So your grandfather is going to visit, middle of the night." So I have some kind of idea, like I just pretended that, okay, he's listening to me. Yeah.
Dan Pashman: And did you tell him about your YouTube channel?
Maangchi: Yeah. Yeah. I said, my father, when he was alive, and he was always proud of me. He one time, I used to do some interpretation for my city and there was a Biennale, a kind of an art festival. My father was so proud of me and, "Why, you are my daughter. Speaks English so well." Even just only small part, you know? My part for my community made him so proud. So now I'm Maangchi. If he was alive, he's probably busy bragging about me.
Dan Pashman: Well Maangchi’s dad would definitely have a lot to brag about now. Her 2015 cookbook called is one of Amazon’s top Korean cookbooks of all time. Her new one out now is called Maangchi’s Big Book of Korean Cooking. In it, she dives deeper into Korean cuisine and adds a bunch of new recipes, including sections on healthy meals from a Korean Buddhist temple and also make-ahead meals for Korean lunch boxes.
Dan Pashman: You want to win a copy of it? Get on our mailing list by February 28th and you are automatically entered into this and all our giveaways. Sign up now at sporkful.com/newsletter.
Dan Pashman: Remember I need callers for upcoming episodes. You must have a food related issue, a debate, a disagreement, something that is keeping you up at night. No issue too big or small. Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.