On Korean Food: Filling My Stories with What I Love, a guest post by Sarah Suk
When writing Made in Korea, a young adult romcom about two teens selling Korean beauty products at school and going head to head to out-sell each other (and maybe falling in love along the way), I knew I wanted to include many elements of Korean culture throughout the story. K-beauty, of course, as well as family dynamics, K-pop, and — I’m smiling to myself just writing this — Korean food.
Korean food is my greatest comfort. If I had to choose one last meal before I died, it would be my mom’s kimchi sujebi, a spicy hand torn noodle soup that immediately makes me feel like I’m at home. There is nothing more peaceful to me than the smell of roasted goguma (sweet potato) and a pot of brewing boricha (barley tea). In university, I spent a semester studying abroad in Seoul and some of my happiest memories include visiting street food vendors and walking through different neighbourhoods, hoddeok and bungeobbang in hand, feeling completely and utterly content. That’s sweet pancake filled with brown sugar and cinnamon, and fish-shaped bread stuffed with red bean paste, respectively. AKA some of my favourite snacks of all time.
Made in Korea features just a few dishes I love. To name a few: pajeon (scallion pancake), doenjang jjigae (soybean paste stew), and a brief mention of soondubu (spicy soft tofu stew). While the food serves more as details to the story rather than the main centerpiece of it, there is one item on the menu that does get more page time, more attention, and more sparklethan the rest. And that is the infamous Korean shaved ice dessert, bingsu.
The most common version of bingsu is patbingsu, red bean shaved ice, but these days there are many, many different kinds. Fruity bingsu layered with fresh strawberry slices or served in a carved-out honeydew, matcha bingsu topped with big scoops of green tea ice cream and sprinkled with bite sized mochi pieces, injeolmi bingsu that takes the classic Korean rice cake covered in powdered soybean and gives it a shaved ice twist… I mean, the genius just goes on.
I love bingsu so much that I once dreamed of becoming a bingsu blogger and traveling the world, eating and reviewing different kinds of shaved ice. That dream still lives somewhere in the back of my mind, just biding its time until the right moment. But for now, I keep the love alive by planting bingsu in my stories and gifting it to my characters. A little bit of writing advice: fill your stories with what you love.
Here’s the thing about food. It’s never really just about the food, is it? It’s also about what it carries. Culture, history, family traditions, childhood memories… Certain foods become intertwined with specific moments in life, like how I can never drink chai without thinking of the friend who introduced it to me at a tea party in her living room. Or how, whenever I eat churros, I’m reminded of that time at the amusement park when I saw a classmate who never smiled beaming for the first time with two churros in his hands, sharing them with his friends.
To share a meal with someone is to get a glimpse into their world. In a similar way, I’ve always loved reading about food in books because of what it showed me about the world within its pages. Sometimes I imagine my favourite characters pulling out a chair for me at their dinner table, smells wafting, mouths watering, and saying, “Take a seat. Here’s what we’re having.”
Meet the author
Sarah Suk (pronounced like soup with a K) lives in Vancouver, Canada where she writes stories and admires mountains. When she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out by the water, taking film photos, or eating a bowl of bingsu. Made in Korea is her first novel. You can visit her online at sarahsuk.com and on Twitter and Instagram @sarahaelisuk.
About Made in Korea
Out May 18, 2021!
Frankly in Love meets Shark Tank in this feel-good romantic comedy about two entrepreneurial Korean American teens who butt heads—and maybe fall in love—while running competing Korean beauty businesses at their high school.
There’s nothing Valerie Kwon loves more than making a good sale. Together with her cousin Charlie, they run V&C K-BEAUTY, their school’s most successful student-run enterprise. With each sale, Valerie gets closer to taking her beloved and adventurous halmeoni to her dream city, Paris.
Enter the new kid in class, Wes Jung, who is determined to pursue music after graduation despite his parents’ major disapproval. When his classmates clamor to buy the K-pop branded beauty products his mom gave him to “make new friends,” he sees an opportunity—one that may be the key to help him pay for the music school tuition he knows his parents won’t cover…
What he doesn’t realize, though, is that he is now V&C K-BEAUTY’s biggest competitor.
Stakes are high as Valerie and Wes try to outsell each other, make the most money, and take the throne for the best business in school—all while trying to resist the undeniable spark that’s crackling between them. From hiring spies to all-or-nothing bets, the competition is much more than either of them bargained for.
But one thing is clear: only one Korean business can come out on top.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 05/18/2021
Age Range: 12 – 18 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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