Cementing my status as a Korean ‘ahjumma’

14 May

I started cooking Korean dishes since 2008, desiring to recreate the food that I had fallen in love with. For some reason, there’s something about Korean cuisine that speaks to me, and comforts me. Obviously, I love kimchi, and after going through way too much kimchi in too short a time, plus wanting to make my own, I started making my own kimchi – which began my days known as a Korean ‘ahjumma‘ (아줌마).

An ‘ahjumma’ literally means, a ‘married woman’, but it basically means to all who know it, a Korean mother, an ‘auntie’! I have met several native Koreans and Australian Koreans in the past year or so, and while we have all become close friends now, they still find it amusing that a non-Korean speaks Korean and cooks Korean food. Sheesh.

I was talking about Korean food with some of my Korean friends and I had a major craving for spicy rice cakes with ramen – rabokki (라볶이), and Korean sushi – kimbab (김밥). I remember a cold winter’s night last year after a long day of uni, a friend and I were starving and craving for Korean food. She explained that when she was studying in high school in Korea, she would have ddeokbokki and kimbab pretty much everyday, because it was just simple, easy, cheap, and oh-so-yummy. I loved it too, and we polished off more than we should have at 11pm that night. Talking about it again brought back the memory of the satisfaction I felt after eating that night, and I just wanted to recreate that feeling and share it with my friends. Hence, my Korean night!

Rabokki - Ramen and Ddeokbokki (Spicy rice cakes)

Maybe it was just because I was so used to spicy food by this time, but after adding lots of spicy Korean chili pepper paste (gochujang) and chili pepper flakes (gochuggaru) the Korean girls and I affirmed it was not spicy enough. So I took out my private stash of extra spicy ground chili pepper flakes a friend gave me when he came back from Korea (his mom grew their own chilis, dries them, and grinds them herself). So spicy, it was a bright orange instead of dark red, and when he gave them to me, he said, “No more than a teaspoon!”. Oh yeh.. We didn’t have to taste it again to see if that one cautious teaspoon I added was alright – It simply had to be.

And for my non-Korean friends present that day, I offered a variety of kimbab to go with the rabokki. Yup, more carbs to go with the carb overload! It just goes so well dipped in the sweet, spicy sauce! And for variety, I made the 3 different types – Plain sausage, tuna salad, and cheese and sausage. The other standard ingredients included egg omelette, fishcake, daikon pickle (dangmuji), carrots, cucumber, and crabmeat sticks. I was running late because my clock was going bonkers and allowing me to take way too much time going anal slicing the carrots. Cheers to the Evil Twin who came by early and helped out some when I got frantic, and thanks to the girls who helped finished rolling the last few rolls kimbab, while I took to finishing the rabokki.

Assorted kimbab - Great dipped in rabokki sauce!

We tucked in with gusto, but with a massive portion each of rabokki, kimbab, and a huge pot of assorted fishcake soup (odeng tang 오댕탕 – which I didn’t manage to photograph properly in the end), it was just too much even for 7 of us. Plus the boys soon couldn’t take the heat and switched to the soup, which was there to alleviate the spiciness anyway,  and the girls happily took their time, having already accustomed themselves to the spiciness of the rabokki. It wasn’t long though, till we were all sprawled on the floor clutching our full, bursting bellies, refusing to move.

The belly-busting was topped off with awesome banana cake from the Neighbour. In all, more good times with good friends, and classic Korean-student comfort food. The Koreans loved it for the nostalgia and sense of home, the non-Koreans just.. loved it. And yes, as I sent the girls off with some kimchi and leftovers for everyone else, they called me “ahjumma” with more conviction than ever before.

Yup. The non-Korean 22 year-old, an “ahjumma”. Go figure.

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5 Responses to “Cementing my status as a Korean ‘ahjumma’”

  1. Heidi June 4, 2010 at 9:05 pm #

    wow, looks really good. did you use the instant ramen or the packet fresh ramen?? If you dont mind, can you share the recipe for rabokki and kim bab with me?? thanks!

    • Sook June 9, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

      Hey Heidi, I used instant ramen, the Korean Shin ramen actually. It’s nice and thick, goes excellent with this.

      • Heidi June 11, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

        I see. Thanks!

  2. ur neighbour August 25, 2010 at 11:45 pm #

    hello where is my share of that?

    and i agree, AHJUMMA!

  3. dubstep September 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    at 22? ahjunma… nah… not a chance… ^^
    cooking looks very good… 😉

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