Friday, August 16, 2013

The Sticks: Bringing Korean Food to the Country

The Sticks!
Wow! I can't believe it's been almost a year since I've posted here! Life happens fast. Ha! It's been an incredible year for many reasons, but I am just going to pick up where we left off. I had asked my family over a year ago if Ryan could come to Virginia with us, which meant MANY things. The high-level summary of that statement meant that Ryan would be meeting and spending a week with my extended family, going to Grandma's house and sharing in all my childhood memories, and leaving NYC to spend a WEEK in the country! So much can be said about the conversations that ensued and the unspoken thoughts and memories that were created, but I'm just going to share the highlights I'm still processing much of the other stuff anyway. It truly was a TON of FUN! To give a bit more context, Ryan (Mr. Urbanite in the flesh) has never spent so much vacation time in an area such as this. After what became a 10-hour drive into the night (supposed to be 8) from NYC complete with a gorgeous lightning show, we knew we had made it when Ryan slammed on the breaks to stop for the cutest FAMILY of deer (yes, mom and 2 children) taking their sweet time to cross the ridiculous, nausea-inducing, winding roads.
Over the course of the week, we shot soda cans with bb guns, got caught in a thunderstorm on the boat, had competitive game nights, watched hay grow (well actually the fields where my uncle is growing/harvesting it), and I got to witness Ryan petting his 1st bull! Upon leaving, even the cows gathered around as the family said their goodbyes! (Seriously...that was weird.)

 One highlight was our attempt to make family dinner. Neither one of us, at all. Peppered with jokes all week about how no one was going to eat our food, Ryan and I were determined to make it happen. We (w/ the gracious help of my sister and niece) ended up with a Korean-themed dinner for the entire family! No one could believe it...including us! We had been tasked with making dinner one of the nights many months before going. So Ryan and I crafted this grand plan of how we were going to make Korean food for the family and even practice several times before going. Ryan wanted their introduction to Korean cuisine to be just right, i.e., we didn't want them to politely opt for hotdogs instead. Mind you, life happens, and none of that actually took place. Our hypothetical menu evolved so many times. Initially, we had planned to make Galbi Jjim (see gorgeous pics and the actual recipe I had chosen to use from Beyond Kimchee.) We went to Cho Dang Gol in NYC, where I tried it out for the 1st time just so I would have something to calibrate ours from. It was even better than what Ryan described, and I was on a mission to bring it to Virginia. I even started thinking about and asking around where I could find the elusive (to me) 'Asian pear' - one of the suggested ingredients.

Well, many weekends passed us by and we never practiced. Soon enough, it was time to leave and all we had packed for our dinner was a recipe book that I had been meaning to use (see previous post) and my 'magic' rice cooker. (I love that thing!) Leaving late and trying to avoid DC traffic, we opted to not pass through Northern Va and therefore missed all of the many Korean markets that had been somewhere in our plan. Ok, we figured, Roanoke is only about an hour away from where we were staying so we would get all our stuff the day of and just go for it. Ha!

On our 'meal day', the goal was to leave somewhat early in the morning so we could get back in time to marinate the meat. So Ryan, my sister, and I hopped in the car to go shopping. Unfortunately, we drove an hour away and couldn't find any Korean markets in Roanoke! We eventually ended up finding two different Asian markets, but the pickings for what we needed were slim. Having extremely limited options, Ryan found a Korean restaurant and went in to ask the owner about Korean store options in the area. It was then confirmed, we were pretty much out of luck. At this point we were forced to make a decision. Do we still try to make an authentic meal from scratch with little to no ingredients OR do we settle and just buy everything from the restaurant and bring it back to the dinner table? We ended up compromising. We made japchae (잡채) FROM SCRATCH (what?! ...and you thought we settled) using Marja's recipe, and we bought the meat (galbi - 갈비 and dak galbi - 닭갈비) and scallion pancakes (pajeon - 파전) from Wonju Korean Restaurant (they were also gracious enough to throw in the banchan - 반찬 - a mix of sides that accompany a meal).
"Look at you, bringing some culture up in here..." - Words from my uncle after dinner     
The meal ended up turning out PERFECT...we even broke out the soju and plum and rice wine! Folks even ate the leftovers! All in all, it was an incredible week. The family photo, complete with a beautiful mix of generations, colors, and smiles, captures it all. (Unfortunately, I will not be posting it here out of respect for those in my family who do not want their photos "plastered all over the internet"...the only faces you will see are mine, Ryan's, and the animals!)

Our view of the lake from the deck
The same lake in the distance beyond the tractor...Of note, my grandfather was the 1st to be buried in the family cemetery overlooking this lake.
Fun between thunderstorms!

Up close and personal. Ryan's 1st bull!
  Country Fun: Learning how to shoot a BB gun in my grandmother's backyard. We are aiming for water-filled soda cans. 

What we made: Japchae from Marja's book.

My nephews exploring nature. Way too cute not to post! 

My nephew specifically requested to sit next to Ryan during this particular meal. Ryan taught him how to order and eat clams and how to properly use a knife. I don't think I have even done any of those in my life ever! #Gentlemen'sClub

Tehe. Love this face!

Ryan and I are both now back to the routine of city living, take-out, and regular internet access... but I can't wait to go back!


  1. I can't wait to see you guys again, and this time in my lakehouse, when you take a break from shooting cans. Great post Nicole! Love you guys! David