Published at 14th of November 2020 11:30:09 AM
Min-sok must have been walking on the dry and cracked ground until now, given that he was moved to tears by Min-joon’s recognition . Min-sok bit his lips and clenched his fists . Obviously, Min-sok had pride, stubbornness, regrets, memories, and burden while making Pyongyang cold noodles, but he released his fists again as if he felt so overwhelmed by the pressure of the unprofitable business .
Min-sok said in a calmer voice, “Enjoy your meal . I’m not sure if I have another chance to see you in the future, but when we meet next time, let’s talk on informal terms . Is that okay?”
“Sure . ”
Min-joon smiled at him . But his smile was rather gloomy because of the situation Min-sok was facing . Kaya also felt bad, whose expression didn’t look good when she left the restaurant .
“This shouldn’t happen . ”
“What are you talking about?”
“What I mean is this restaurant that serves such fine dishes should not be allowed to go bankrupt because of dwindling customers . It just doesn’t make any sense . ”
“As I told you, customers either like Pyongyang cold noodles or hate the dish . Unless they are addicted to the noodles, most customers can’t even distinguish the taste of Pyongyang cold noodles from ordinary cold noodles . Of course, I think you can find the difference because you have a keen sense of taste, but generally speaking, Pyongyang cold noodles taste bland to most customers . ”
“As a matter of fact, I felt the same way . But it’s regrettable he’s going to close the restaurant . Even when gourmets come to this place, he can get out of a slump in business . ”
“You bet . I still can’t understand his decision . Restaurants serving Pyongyang cold noodles are usually doing business well thanks to the customers who taste it out of curiosity, and the gourmets as well as noodle fans . Of course, no chef even dares to open a Pyongyang cold noodles restaurant unless its owner knows how to make the noodles properly…”
When Min-joon was blurring like that, his smartphone vibrated . His mother Hye-sun Lee called him . He put his phone to his ear .
“Hello . ”
“How come you didn’t contact me when you arrived already? ”
“Oh, I forgot, Mom . ”
“You are coming to see me in the evening, right? Let me get some nice food for you . ”
As soon as he heard that, he suddenly got tense and asked in a trembling voice, “Are you going to order food?”
“How can I order food when I see your father-in-law and mother-in-law? I’m going to cook myself . ”
“Gosh, why are you suddenly trying to cook when you aren’t interested in cooking at all? Please don’t make the dish by yourself . Let’s go out for dinner . ”
“You know what, son? On an occasion like this, you are supposed to cook dishes for your family guests in person instead of getting food delivered . ”
“Alright, then . Just don’t do anything until I arrive home . Let me help you cook, okay?”
“No, you don’t have to . How can I allow you to cook with me when you are tired after a long flight . Just take a good break before coming to see me . ”
“I am afraid I’m going to be more bored if I take a break . So, just wait . I’ll see you pretty quickly . ”
“Alright, then . ”
The phone was hung up .
Kaya looked at him curiously and asked, “Is it your mother?”
“How did you know?”
“Do you know that your voice is changing when you call your mother?”
“Really? Well, I’m not sure . ”
“So, what did you talk about?”
“Ah…” He paused for a moment . He touched his forehead as if he didn’t want to imagine his mother cooking then opened his mouth with a sigh .
“You had better have some oral protection . ”
“What the heck are you talking about?”
He said with a nervous voice . “Mom says she’s going to prepare food for us . ”
Min-joon met his family again only after a few months, but their reunion was far from moving . As soon as he entered the house, he frowned . Grabbing his nose with his fingers, he said, “What the hell is that smell?”
“I’ve got some ingredients for steamed short ribs, so I’m boiling them now . ”
“Did you refill the water in the pot? It smells burnt . ”
“Let me check . ”
He looked into the pot with quite a nervous expression then groaned . The soy sauce on the onions and carrots on the pan was burnt and almost turned into charcoal . Watching it blankly, Hye-sun said in embarrassment, “What the heck? When I googled it on the internet, the instruction says if I put onions, moisture comes out from the onions, so I don’t have to add water in it . ”
“What kind of recipe did you check? Of course, you might have some moisture at first, but even if you add water, it quickly gets absorbed into the steamed short ribs, so you have to keep adding water to stop it from being burnt . Moisture from the vegetables isn’t enough . Steamed ribs are burnt quickly unless you add water . ”
“Don’t you think this kind of burning is good? I hear they burn the ribs on purpose these days . ”
“No, it will taste very bad . Fortunately, the meat on top didn’t burn, but because of the burnt smoke, it will taste burnt . ”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were good at cooking until a couple of years ago?”
It was hard for him to answer, so he slightly looked around and said, “Dad is still working in the company . Where is Ara?”
“She is quite busy as a college freshman these days . I’m not sure if she is busy playing with her friends or studying . ”
“Maybe she is having a great time with her friends . Is she coming home in the evening?”
“Since I told her you would come home this evening, I guess she will come if she doesn’t want a cut in her allowances . By the way, when are Kaya’s parents coming here?”
“They are going to come here in the evening . They are probably sleeping because of jet lag or having a conversation . Kaya will be joining us shortly . She says she is buying some spices . ”
“I’m sorry you guys are helping me when you are tired . But it’s so nice to have a chef daughter-in-law with me like this . ”
“Yeah, a daughter-in-law who cooks well is way better than one who cannot cook . ”
“It looks like you are saying it to give me a reminder . ”
He just smiled but avoided her gaze . Right at that moment, Kaya came in .
Grinning at Hye-sun, she spoke in clumsy Korean, “Annyonghaseyou (How are you)?”
Min-joon thought his mother could speak ‘Welcome’ thanks to her English tuition these days .
He took a look at the ingredients Hye-sun prepared then calmly opened his mouth .
“This is the ingredients of japchae(glass noodles and vegetables), that one is bulgogi (barbecued beef) . Oh, you also have croakers . ”
“How about it? Didn’t I prepare them well? I bought them because I heard foreigners like japchae and bulgogi, in particular . ”
“Mom, this croaker is out of season . It doesn’t taste good in early spring . Just enjoy this fish in fall and winter . ”
“Son, you are so picky,” Hye-sun grunted .
Taking away the apron she was putting on, he said, “Let me cook, Mom . Just take a break in the living room . ”
“Is there anything I can do for you? I’m sorry if you are cooking on my behalf . ”
“It’s more helpful if you just sit and relax in the living room . I’m serious, Mom . ”
“Man, how come you’re speaking to me like that? It seems like you’ve changed a bit since you went to America . ”
Having said that, she headed to the living room as if she could not help it .
Kaya saw Min-joon face to face and asked, “What should I cook?”
“The ingredients look good . Japchae, bulgogi, and croaker . But it’s not fun to make the dish with them alone . Let me check out the refrigerator . ”
“There’s nothing more fun than checking out someone else’s refrigerator . ”
She laughed . Not long after he looked into the refrigerator, he picked up the broccoli .
“I think you can make puree with this, so they can eat it with roasted croaker . ”
“How are you going to roast croakers? On the grill?”
“No, I’m thinking of Arroser . Oh, no, I think it’s better to just sear the skin and then steam it . This croaker has a lot of flesh . ”
“Okay . What about the glass noodles?”
“Japchae is best made just as it is . If you want to change something, it’s okay to add something else to cooked japchae . ”
“How about this?”
Kaya took the rice paper out of the cupboard . He nodded . He could see what she was thinking . Maybe she wanted to wrap the japchae in rice paper or fry it after wrapping it . Either way, it was okay .
“Do it . ”
The two didn’t talk long . Although they didn’t work together in the same kitchen in America, they cooked dishes in the same kitchen at the same house every day . So, they clearly knew each other’s cooking style and cooking methods .
They sometimes grabbed a knife and sometimes a frying fan . Hye-sun, seated in the living room, watched them cooking . She thought they were a good match and felt all the more so when she watched them cooking together .
‘Oh, that’s the way my son makes such cheerful expressions while cooking . ’
Everybody loves their children, but Hye-sun felt watching her son standing in the kitchen with Kaya was better than any other moments she had in her life . She thought it amazing that even though she grew him for more than 20 years, she could still find something about him that she didn’t know .
Just watching him now in the kitchen made her feel relaxed . Apart from the fact that he was her son, there was something like magic in their cooking that made people attracted to them .
Was it because of that? Hye-sun couldn’t take her eyes off them even for a moment until her daughter Ara came back home .
“Brother, Kaya! It’s been a while!”
“You have a little burnt skin . ” He spoke to his sister in English, so Kaya could understand .
A bit surprised, Ara made an uncomfortable expression . Then, she also replied in English less fluently than him .
“Can I speak English, too?”
“I’d appreciate that . It’s been a while, Ara . ”
“I saw you guys in Starbook . You visited that restaurant specializing in Pyongyang cold noodles? You enjoyed the noodles, right?”
“Man, you are not focusing on studying, Ara?”
“Hey, don’t ask me like that . It seems your article about the restaurant is drawing lots of attention right now . Besides, the pros and cons of Pyongyang cold noodles are also getting quite heated at the moment in the food-related community right now . Well, even my friends are posting lots of comments about the noodles on their SNS accounts . ”
“My article is drawing lots of attention?”
“You haven’t checked it yet?”
Ara showed them the screen of her smartphone, which displayed various SNS comments as well as related articles posted on the search engine portal . He was surprised to know that his comments about cooking-related stuff had such an impact in South Korea . When he looked surprised a bit, Ara opened his mouth, “That restaurant was supposed to close, but I think the owner can cancel his closing plan and revive the Pyongyang cold noodles business . ”
“Do you think my comments can help him revive the restaurant?” He asked dubiously .
It was natural that he had such doubts because he didn’t expect that the noodle restaurant could survive because of his simple comments, given its owner had been losing money for so many years . And he really regretted the situation of the cuisine circles in Korea where somebody’s comments, not the dish itself, could influence the success of the modern restaurant business . But Ara didn’t notice Min-joon’s concern .
She said in an excited voice, “Brother, you’re more famous than you think here . Why don’t you correctly recognize your own reputation here?”
“Well, I’m not that famous even in America…”