When one peninsula’s cuisine mixes with another’sMany Koreans say we have a lot of things in common with the Italians. We love soccer and garlic; so do they. We are short-tempered; so are many Italians, at least in the “Godfather” movies. You can argue with these points, but hey, there is historical research suggesting that Koreans might have a deeper connection with the Italians.
Gwak Cha-seop, a professor of Italian history at Pusan National University, published a book earlier this year tracing the history of an Italian village that is home to more than 500 people with the family name of Corea.
In the book, he argues that the descendants of a man named Antonio Corea ― believed to be the first Korean in Europe ― settled in southern Italy near Catanzaro as early as 1620, in a small Italian village called Albi.
So there you go. We aren’t complete strangers after all.
I bring this up to talk about how, as a poor graduate student with student loan debt in my early 20s, I often made myself kimchi spaghetti.
It might not sound very appetizing, but my roommate Kumiko liked it so much that it was one of the first things she mentioned when she wrote me a postcard once from Japan.
The dish was one of those accidental recipes I’ve created for myself while browsing through an almost empty fridge, and it turned out to be surprisingly good. I found out later, though, that almost every one of my Korean friends who’ve studied abroad had tried, or at least thought of trying, a similar recipe using cheap pasta from a drugstore. It was our way of surviving whenever we got too lazy in the cold winter to go out to Chinatown to get rice, or to the supermarket for tomato sauce.
Anyway, when I came back to Korea and visited an upscale fusion place in Cheongdam-dong, I saw that kimchi spaghetti, which I thought I had invented in my shabby kitchen, was at the top of their menu.
I didn’t order it, of course, and I stopped my friend from ordering it too. The price, which I will not go into, was one reason, though I admit that’s what fusion probably means in Korea ― a license to overcharge.
I wonder what Italians would think of the idea of kimchi spaghetti. Is it a challenge to their culinary tradition? Or is it a happy reunion of cultures that have some things in common?
How to Cook
Ingredients (for 1 serving): 100 grams of dried pasta, 100 grams of diced kimchi, 2 teaspoons of crushed garlic, 1/2 onion (diced), 2 teaspoons of chili oil, 2 teaspoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder, salt, pepper.
1. Add pasta to a pot of boiling water. When it’s done, cool it in a strainer.
2. In a separate pot, stir the chili oil, onion and garlic over low heat for 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Add the kimchi, and stir again for about 5 to 7 minutes.
4. Add the pasta and the olive oil; stir for another 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper and chili pepper as needed.
by Park Soo-mee