My Identity Crisis

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  • Post category:Who Am I?

I’ve got an identity crisis. But it’s not so much that I don’t know who I am, but others don’t. Because apparently, everybody here in USC thinks I’m anything but Korean.

Now, I wouldn’t really be so bothered if the above said people were non-Asians. Not to offend anybody, but non-Asians have the tendency to lump every “almond-shaped eyes, yellow-skinned and exotic-looking Orientals” into one undistinguished group. Korean? Chinese? Vietnamese? Japanese? Why, don’t they all derive from China anyway? (I know you guys are sophisticated enough not to think that, but trust me, I’ve had ignorant fools say that to me one too many times)

No, it’s the Asians themselves who actually double over in shock—yes, shock— when I reveal that yes, indeed, I am 100% pure-blood Korean.

“No EFFING way!” One girl even screamed out, clasping her chest and causing a whole bunch of kids to turn around. I thought she was going to hyperventilate. Um, wow. I did not know my being Korean is that incredibly outrageous.

After the gasps and cries of astonishment, they continue: “So. But you’re like, half Chinese, right?”

I struggle to keep my cool. “Well, my dad is Korean. My mom is Korean. My grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents were all Korean. I was born in Korea. You could say I am a purely-bred Korean.”

They still look suspicious. They don’t relent: “But you don’t look Korean. And you’re kind of skinny.”

Oh. Em. Gi!!!! What the freaking hell?

I can’t go on anymore. I might burst a blood vessel.

Anyway, perhaps it’s the abdominal questioning of my mother country that has spurred me to go crazy with the Korean influence on my food. But I’ve been having mad cravings for the quintessential Korean ingredient, gochujang, for the past few days.

I hope by now you already know what gochujang is… It’s this red fellow here. The Korean red pepper paste that is ubiquitous in pretty much any Korean dish. It’s really versatile, and all you need is a pinch of creativity. Let me prove my point…

I actually have pretty much been using this same marinade/sauce to spice up my dishes:

Gochujang-PB sauce

1 tablespoon gochujang
1-2 tablespoon soy sauce (to taste)
1-2 tablespoon peanut butter
enough chicken broth to thin it out to your desired consistency

Mix. Pretty straight-forward and easy.

Here are the dishes I created with this incredible sauce:

Dish #1: Spiced-Up Frittata

garlic, minced
onions, diced
shitake mushrooms, diced
chicken, diced
gochujang-PB sauce
2 eggs, beaten together with a bit of milk
goat cheese
green onion, chopped

Stir-fry the first three ingredients until slightly soft, then add in the chicken and the gochujang-PB sauce and stir-fry until cooked through.

Pour in the egg mixture, cook for a bit over low heat until the bottom is slightly set. Sprinlle on the goat cheese and green onion.

Cook in a 350 degree oven until the top is set. DIG IN!
Pretty simple, basic frittata. But over the top with the gochujang-PB sauce!

I pretty much just cut into it and dug in like pizza. I forgot the carbohydrate part, though, and got kinda gassy later…Thank god I was done with classes for the day! (Ok, TMI…but case in point: Do NOT forget the starch! Very very important if you wanna have a social life!)

Dish #2: Grilled Vegetable Salad

roasted kabocha, sliced
summer squash, sliced
green bell pepper, chopped into rough pieces
red onion, roughly chopped
shitake mushroom, left whole
gochujang-PB sauce
Parmesan cheese, grated
green onions, chopped
Avocado cream

I had to resort to my trusty George Foreman for this. It took a long time to grill every vegetable though…Mr. GF was small!

So basically, just grill every vegetable, even the pickle (trust me, it’s freaking good). Then toss them into a bowl, drizzle as much of the gochujang-PB sauce over, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and green onions. Add a dollop of avocado cream. And you’re done!
The cool, creamy avocado cream…
Lovely grilled summer squash (I like it al dente)…
Juicy, plump and meaty shitake mushroom…
Crunchy, sweet bell pepper that took forever to grill…
Kabocha that just about brightens any dish…
Pickle that may seem random but adds a burst of sweet-sour flavor in your mouth…
One perfect lovely bite!

Have I convinced you to try my gochujang-PB sauce yet? No? Okay, here’s another one…

Dish #3: Summer Stir-Fry with Runny Egg

You didn’t think I’d end this without a runny egg, did you? That might just be my trademark! 😉

This was basically the same recipe as the fabulous concoction I told you about here…The one that got me totally addicted.
Instead of the balsamic vinegar I used the gochujang-PB sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime juice to cook the vegetables. I didn’t have andouille sausage, so I just used plain regular hotdogs…don’t judge, I’m a poor college student and the big pack was 50% off! >.< I forgot to buy vinegar so I couldn’t make poached eggs, but a runny fried egg worked just as well! As long as the yolk flows, anything goes! (Eep. That was corny…) Hmm…You know what? Those kids who couldn’t believe I’m Korean might just have a point…Notice that though I used the authentic Korean ingredient, none of my dishes were really truly Korean…. What are they then? I don’t know…but they tasted mighty good! A total mumble jumble of different cuisines and styles, but I suppose that’s what I really am. I don’t have a single ethnicity. I may be born in Korea and be a Korean citizen, but I’ve been exposed to so many different cultures as a missionary kid. I blend in perfectly with the Chinese people, but also feel incredibly comfortable with Koreans. I don’t feel the least bit out of place with Caucasians or African-Americans or Latin-Americans, either. So you know what? I embrace my multi-cultural self. So there. I don’t look Korean? Fine. As long as I can blend in with any group of people and be myself and be comfortable, who cares? Question of the day: Ever had the same issue in which people tell you that you don’t look like who you are? (Be it race, age, or god forbid, sex)