In cold Montreal, slurping blood-red kimchi stewLiving alone in a foreign country was bliss for the most part. But when you are 22 years old in a place as cold as eastern Canada, you might sometimes find yourself drenched in tears of joy at the sight of a steaming bowl of kimchi stew.
Manna, a small Korean restaurant by my apartment in Montreal, was a place that soothed my heart when I felt that way. They didn’t serve the most authentic Korean food, but it was good enough to please the stomach of a homesick student. Besides, what could go wrong with a bowl of kimchi stew?
The service was friendly. By the end of the first year, I was quite familiar with the chef, a “Mr. Kim.”
He was a genuinely kind man. During his break, he came out of the kitchen with a glass of whiskey and asked me about school, cheering me up with side dishes before the owner arrived.
Mr. Kim was a nice man, even though I once overheard the owner gossiping to his friends about Mr. Kim’s gambling habit.
As the semester wore on, I became busy with my thesis.
Months after I left the city, a friend of mine who worked at Manna as a part-time waitress phoned to say that Mr. Kim was on the news the other night.
She said Mr. Kim was found dead ― he hung himself in his house after stabbing his wife and two children. Gambling debt was the reason for killing, the news said.
About a week before the killing, my friend Min was said he had bumped into Mr. Kim in a restaurant. Min had helped the owner of Manna redesign the interior, so he knew Mr. Kim very well. But Min said that Mr. Kim had passed right by him when he called out his name and waved from 50 meters away.
Min described his face as “blank, unworldly.”
Later the police found that his wife and children had been killed a week before he hung himself.
Friends tell me that Manna is still there. But the owner has changed.
On my last visit to Montreal, I didn’t bother checking out the restaurant.
The place wouldn’t be the same without the people from the past.
Besides, I’ve changed too. I am not desperate for hot stew anymore, especially when my memory of the place isn’t the same anymore either.
How to Cook
Ingredients: 1/4 of a kimchi cabbage, 100g of pork, 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 onion, 1/2 green onion, 2 teaspoons of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of crushed garlic, little bit of salt, pepper.
1. Slice the kimchi into bite-size pieces.
2. Cut the pork into thick slices.
3. In a pot, add kimchi and pork with chili powder. Stir gently on medium heat.
4. Add water and onion.
5. Add garlic and green onion and the rest of the sauce.
by Park Soo-mee