Published at 16th of December 2020 05:33:29 PM
Kaya was lost for words, exclaiming in admiration of the dishes . She was staring at the ribs sharply, speechless, which expressed clearly how she felt about the dishes . Min-joon felt the same way . He wondered if there could be a more delicious braised ribs in the world than this one . He was worried that if the flesh got loosened so easily, he might not be able to taste its chewy texture, but it was so well preserved that he felt like he was eating meat noodles .
Min-joon then tried sinsonro, or the brass chafing dish, with chopsticks . He was not conscious of the order of eating, though . Since so many dishes were on the table, he was not sure if he could eat them all by following any eating order . Rather, he thought it would be more fun to try less of the dishes that boasted of the best cooking score .
He muttered in a low voice, “This is my first time trying sinsonro . ”
“It looks very strange . There is something similar to this one in China . Something like a stew . ”
“Oh, you mean Huaqua? Some people say sinsonro was made in a localized Chinese restaurant during the Yi Dynasty of old Korea . Well, if you find similarities between Chinese and Korean dishes, you can find them in any dish . So, it’s nothing new . ”
“It’s surprising that there is charcoal underneath it…”
In fact, it was this sinsonro that stood out among the many dishes on the table . For example, the charcoal in the center of the pot to keep the bowl warm was quite impressive, let alone all the ingredients with soup under the pot—red pepper, mushrooms, meatball, ginkgo, mushrooms, garlic, celestial leaves, chop meat, etc .
‘If you eat all of this at a mouthful, I’m afraid I’m going to be full even before I try other dishes . ’
So, the first thing he put the chopsticks to was the ox’s tongue . He couldn’t even figure out what kind of harmony the ox’s tongue and beef broth would make .
To put it precisely, he was curious about what part of sinsonro contributed to claiming a cooking score of 10 . The moment he took a bite out of it, he gripped the chopsticks in his hand . He looked at Kaya and tapped her on the shoulder, chewing it in his mouth . While he was facing her annoyed glance, he said rather clumsily, pointing his finger at sinsonro, “Try this quickly . ”
“Got it . Let me try it, so stop patting my shoulder . ”
She held out the chopsticks with a sigh . Shortly afterward, she could understand why he wanted her to try it . She looked at him with her eyes open wide .
He smiled cheerfully and said, “It tastes delicious, right?”
“Yeah . I think I want to learn how to cook Korean food . ”
“That’s none of my business, but I really want to learn how to cook this sinsonro . ”
Sinsonro boasted of a completely different taste than he initially imagined . Initially, he thought the main of the dish was its broth, not its ingredients, but that was wrong . The broth was just a sauce and a bubble sauce at that . The light savory taste of the broth stimulated his tongue, so he felt like the fresh and clean taste of the ingredients could prick his tongue sharply like a thorn .
“Ah, I wish I could taste every single ingredient of this dish . ”
He muttered in a really pitiful voice, so much so that any stranger might think he had a very painful and sad event .
Right at that moment, Man-gil Hong opened the door and smiled at him softly .
“Do you like the food?”
“Yes . It’s so delicious that I’m being driven nuts, sir . ”
Min-joon honestly revealed his innermost feelings .
Man-gil could immediately notice what he meant by that because he was a chef anyway .
He shared what Min-joon and Kaya just talked about as well as their respect for each ingredient and each dish .
Man-gil said in a calm voice, “I know what you mean . That’s why I closed Sumokjong . ”
“Oh, I see . I didn’t know that . ”
His answer quenched Min-joon’s curiosity that he had for a long time . He nodded as if he now understood . Certainly, when Man-gil prepared this kind of table every day, he might sometimes run out of gas . A mountain of food piled up then thrown away as leftovers . Even if the customers might feel satisfied with his dishes, it was inevitable for him to accumulate fatigue every day, and at the end of the day, he would not feel any charm in the dishes he had been making for such a long time .
“If you see how much leftovers the customers’ have every day, I think you might be out of energy . ”
“You’re the first to talk about it so blatantly in front of me . ” Man-gil laughed bitterly .
Min-joon smiled awkwardly and hurriedly added, “Well, I said that because each of the dishes was too good to be thrown away . ”
“I feel ashamed of myself if you say that . ”
“But if you didn’t like this kind of big table, you might have reduced the number of side dishes, right? May I ask why you had to shut down the restaurant?”
“I think it’s going to be a long answer . I can’t disturb your family members enjoying the dishes . I’ve stopped by briefly to ask you a little favor . ”
“Oh, please go ahead . ”
Min-joon looked at him curiously . In fact, he thought Man-gil might say something to him . Obviously, there must be some reason when he bothered to invite Min-joon and Kaya and their family members to this closed restaurant . But Min-joon could not figure out what kind of favor he wanted to ask .
“It’s a famous fact that you have a perfect palate . Besides, you are a student of Rachel Rose, that famous Western food chef . You’re probably the chef with the most global perspective in Korea right now when it comes to cooking . I think you might know how foreigners feel about Korean dishes, or how Korean chefs can improve it . ”
Min-joon looked perplexed at his remarks because he had a rough idea of what Man-gil would say next . But Min-joon couldn’t imagine that Man-gil would mention it to him directly, given his cooking score was 9 . Of course, there was a wide variety of levels within the same band of Level 9 . Who knew Man-gil had the same level as Rachel? Anyway, Man-gil was a chef with such a high level of cooking skills, which was incomparable to Min-joon . He was a master chef . Man-gil then asked Min-joon his favor, “I want to ask you a favor . Just tell me how I can improve my dishes . Tell me how I can bring out the most memorable dishes that can leave a clear impression on the people here as well as abroad . ”
A master chef with a cooking level 9, a legend in the Korean culinary world, was now asking Min-joon a favor politely without caring about his pride and stubbornness at all .
‘He is asking for my help!’
With a blank expression, Min-joon recalled what Man-gil just said . It was none other than Man-gil who asked for his help . He could be called Korea’s Rachel Rose . But he was now asking for Min-joon’s help .
Of course, Min-joon could understand his feelings . Since he understood Man-gil’s position, he felt more empathy toward him . Man-gil, who had devoted such a long time to cooking, was seeking advice from a young newcomer who had not lived even half of his life yet . Man-gil must have felt so nervous and frustrated as to ask for his help by swallowing his pride .
Min-joon didn’t know how to respond, though . To be honest, Min-joon wanted to say it was hard to help him . He was not sure if he was qualified enough to give advice to such an esteemed chef in Korea, and he didn’t have much time to stay in Korea .
But he opened his mouth after hesitating for a bit .
“How can I help you?”
The reason that he said that was because he understood Man-gil’s feelings well . Neither their age nor experiences mattered at this moment . Even a trifling thing could be the last straw for a chef that was facing a wall . It would be too cruel if someone saw a man who grabbed a straw while being swept away by water and shook off his hand, saying, “I’m not strong enough to save you . ”
“Please enjoy the meal for now,” Man-gil said with a smile .
Then he continued, feeling sorry, “I know . You must have already noticed what’s wrong with the dishes here even before you ate them . But I hope you can enjoy the meal as if it’s my last dish . ”
“Okay . I can accept your favor like that . It’s not hard . ”
“Thank you . ”
Man-gil talked with others for a moment before leaving the room .
A little later, Kaya looked at Min-joon and asked, “What did he say?”
“He asked for my help . ”
“What kind of help?”
“Well, about his cooking . ”
“I can’t believe a famed chef who has devoted his whole life to this kind of Korean dish is asking for your help . Oh, no, that makes sense . Come to think of it, Chef Rachel decided to work with you because she wanted your help . So, this is nothing strange . ”
“Honestly, I don’t think I’ve helped Rachel . ”
As if he was not sure, Min-joon stretched out the chopsticks again . He had yet to taste four more dishes with a cooking score of 10 . Steamed croakers and tofu stuffed with lightly boiled chicken breast with medicinal herbs and ginseng, dumplings, and a crab stew lightly boiled in a soup flavored with crab legs and red pepper paste and soybean paste after putting crab, beef, tofu, and bean sprouts inside the crab shell .
The most impressive dish among them was the crab stew . Man-gil’s crab stew boasted of a perfect savory taste that nobody in the field could bring out . Min-joon sipped a mouthful of the crab soup a moment ago, but he immediately felt a strong appetite to taste it again with his mouth watering in an instant .
‘He put the grilled crabs back into the stew…’
Of course, Min-joon had made it before . There was something similar in Kyongsang Province in the southern part of Korea . However, it was not a common recipe, and as a result, it was difficult to make a crab stew delicious .
But Man-gil’s crab stew was different . He applied the dough on the crab shell just enough to make the stew taste good and savory . In addition, it seemed that he made the broth by simply seasoning it with red pepper paste, bean paste, and crab legs because the stew had a deeper and richer taste than such ingredients alone could make .