The comfort of bulgogi in a raging ice stormOne of the best meals I’ve had in my life is the food I couldn’t see.
I was a graduate student in Montreal in the winter of 1998, when the entire city lost power due to a terrible ice storm that raged across Quebec and some parts of Ontario.
The aftermath lasted for almost a week. Virtually all utilities were out in the city, including heating, water, electricity, and in some districts even gas.
It was like living in a war zone, especially having just come back from my parents’ home, where I was spoiled with hearty meals and a comfortable lifestyle. The aisles for bread and juice were empty in the supermarkets.
Every night we got together at a different friend’s house, wrapped up in several layers of blankets, hoping the power would come back on.
I really missed home.
One time, while looking out at the dark streets of Montreal through the glass of a public phone booth, talking to my mother, I almost burst into tears.
The worst thing was going to the toilet. Even in the Montreal winter, where the temperature drops to -20 degrees centigrade, the experience was overwhelming. By the end of the week, most of us were heavily constipated.
In the middle of the disaster, though, my Korean friends tried to ease my vulnerable soul.
After living on hard buns and peanut butter for several days, we got together to have bulgogi, or what we’d been told was bulgogi by one of our friends who marinated the meat. It was just after we had used up our last candle. In complete darkness in my friend’s apartment, four girls who hadn’t showered for a week clustered around a jet burner in a cold living room, warming our feet near the fire, devouring pieces of grilled meat in a frying pan. It was like an ultimate witches’ rite.
While the meat was a bit tough for beef, the taste was so sweet that we ended up finishing every last drop of the meat broth in the pan. Even if it had been snakeskin, we probably would have finished everything on our plates without any doubts.
After the comforting meal, we all fell asleep. Then we were awakened in the middle of the night by the sudden flash of a light bulb.
I ran back to my apartment with tears in my eyes.
The streets were still a mess. Power lines had long, sharp icicles dangling from them. Trees had fallen on the sidewalks. But there was light, and that was what mattered.
I came back to my room, and spent the rest of that night listening to music and reading a book in my bed. It was the greatest thing. There must have been better times, but I had never been so absorbed in a moment during my stay in Montreal as I was that night, snuggling on a cushy pillow.
How to Cook
Ingredients: 400 grams of beef, 1 package enoki mushrooms, 1 package oyster mushrooms, 60g dried potato noodles, 50g spinach, 1/2 onion, 4 shiitake mushrooms, 1/2 green onion. For sauce: 3 teaspoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon cooking wine, 1 teaspoon pear juice, 1 teaspoon ground onion, pepper, sesame oil, 1 teaspon diced garlic, 2 teaspoons green onion, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon sesame seeds.
1. Cut the spinach into bite-size pieces.
2. Tear the oyster mushrooms into thin strands. Cut the shiitake mushrooms.
3. Soak the dried potato noodles in water.
4. Place sauce ingredients in a pot. Add meat and the mushrooms and marinate overnight.
5. Grill in a pan.
by Park Soo-mee
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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