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Koreans/Korean-Americans -- What did you eat growing up?

This is a tangent to the Chinese thread. I've noticed that most of my friends (who are pretty much non-Korean) think that I grew up eating BBQ and jap chae almost everyday. When I was younger, my family actually ate a lot of "American" fare such as mac and cheese, roast beef, bologna, etc. As I got older, they started eating more Korean cuisine. However, BBQ and other dishes liked pa jun and bin dae duk and jap chae were more company dishes or once in a while dishes. On a daily basis, we ate a lot of casseroles, soups, ban chan, broiled fish and noodle soups. Curious as to what you guys ate growing up.

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  1. I grew up eating your basic Korean. Rice and kimchee at every meal and the ban chan would be a mix of things but we had some sort of soup at almost every dinner. Very rarely did we have BBQ and jap chae! That's was too fancy. =)

    Didn't do much "western" food though.

    1. I'm only half korean, but we ate a lot of korean food anyways. We didn't eat bbq or chapchae all the time....I didn't really like chapchae that much to began with. My mom only fixed it when it was a holiday like korean thanksgiving (chuseok).

      like miss needle, we mostly had soups and lots and lots of daengjang chigae. We ate daengjang chigae like it was going out of style and we also ate kimchi, lots of assorted namul, and usually fried fish like mackerel. One of my favorite meals as a kid was eating rice with cold boricha added to the rice and eaten with those teeny tiny sugared anchovies. I also didn't start eating kimchi until middle school cause of the spiciness. When I was younger my mom would swish it around under the running sink or in a cup of water before she put it on my rice for my sister and I.

      Now that I'm older and far away from my parents, I still like to eat the same things when I visit them. I will eat anything korean and I love LOVE LOVE things like chonggukjang, gopchang gui, golbanggi, etc.

      6 Replies
      1. re: bitsubeats

        It seems as if we've lived parallel lives as we also ate daengjang jigae all the time as well. I never order that when I'm in a restaurant because of that. I also remember the boricha with rice. And I also didn't eat kimchi until later because I was turned off by the spiciness. Now spiciness is my Achilles heel -- love it so much but realize it's not the best thing for me. I can also eat almost anything Korean -- but still not crazy ab out gopchang. I never could get into the small intestines.

        Bitsubeats, did you grow up with your non-Korean parent in the same household? And if you did, did he/she also eat Korean food? Pretty much all of my aunts married non-Koreans and had to prepare two different meals -- one "American" meal for their husband and children and one Korean meal for herself.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          I have seen this a lot in mixed marriage families.
          In my household (I'm the non-Korean) we usually integrated the meals. If I wanted an "american" dish, that would be prepared in addition to the Korean fare, and served at the same table. Of course I love a lot of Korean foods. Even with things like pizza, spaghetti, t-day Hams, etc, there would be rice and ban chan served as a minimum, and often some sort of seaweed or mandu & ddeok soup.

          1. re: hannaone

            With all of your prolific Korean posts, I never would have guessed you were non-Korean. You are a Korean in spirit.

            1. re: hannaone

              I agree 100%....I was surprised when I found out you were non-korean. You are definitely korean in sprit (: as Miss Needle says

            2. re: Miss Needle

              My parents are still married, so yes my sister and I grew up eating with my father and believe it or not my father never ate a separate meal.

              he LOVES korean food and yes he will eat anything....The only thing he doesn't like to eat is candied yams. Other than that he loves beeonddaegi, gopchang, hwae, etc. Sometimes my mom makes separate meals for him when we are eating extra good stuff like samgyupsal or hwae, but he gets upset ): He still wants to eat with us, but he likes to pig out and he doesn't eat s l o w l y like the women in the family.

              my mom says he just shovels food into his face (:

              funny about the dangjang, miss needle. Sometimes I can't stand the stuff...but I really miss it since I moved out.

              Not to sound cheesy, but I'm super lucky I have a great mother who makes really really good korean food (to me the best) and I'm lucky that my dad loves it too, so we were always able to enjoy it as a family. I'm so glad I'm going to visit my parents next Saturday for a month. I can't wait to stuff my face!

              1. re: Miss Needle

                With you about the daenjang jigae. Also has a lot of kimchi jigae, can't order that in restaurants either.
                I still enjoy a lot of food that my mother makes, and I am slowly starting to master the art of Korean seasoning. But two dishes I really miss now were specialties of my Grandmother. Unfortunately, she is a little demented now, and does not cook anymore. But I still have very fond memories of her kehran jigae (a Korean steamed egg fritatta made with salted shrimp) and her homemade kalkuksu (white flour noodles in a simple broth). Ironically I would complain when I was younger, because we had them so often. Now, I would be overjoyed to enjoy these dishes with Halmoni (Grandmother) again.

            3. Heh. My parents never let us eat American food, because they thought it was a whole lotta junk food. They were ahead of their times, trying to feed us only whole foods to us. Even when we did eat "American food", my parents granola-ized it. I ate whole wheat bread in my lunchtime sandwich at a time when Wonder Bread was still all the rage and rarely did the taste of McD's ever pass my lips. sigh.

              At home, we mostly ate Korean food. Looking back, I think we did eat a fair amount of galbi./bulgogi/etc actually, but also a lot of chicken and fish. My mom swished kimchee in water before feeding it to us. We ate a lot of rice, veggies, and soup too. My parents tried to feed us brown rice but that was an experiment that backfired. Now brown rice is all the rage in Korea because it's healthier. These days, practically all the rice I eat is brown rice, mixed with various grains and beans.

              2 Replies
              1. re: choctastic

                As I got older, my parents also got into the health kick. Out went the bologna and fried egg sandwiches on Wonder Bread. In came the brown rice, chung gook jang, aloe vera juice, kale juice, kombuchua tea, etc. It didn't help that my uncle worked in the Korean health food business. While I resented my parents for taking away my McDonalds back then, I'm very grateful to them now.

              2. it's taken me awhile to respond to this, even though i started the chinese thread, largely because there's been a huge difference between what i grew up eating in childhood, adolescence, early adulthood.

                my dad is an american former service member, so i'm an "army brat" that sighs whenever people ask me where my "hometown" is. my mother was born and raised in seoul. when i was very young we moved to germany, where a trip to the "local" korean market was a once a month trip that took several hours back and forth, so there were limits to what my mother would make. plus, my dad prefers the things that most americans prefer when it comes to korean food, so our meals were largely american, with white rice and kimchi, which i wouldn't eat when i was little. there would be bulgogi quite often, and was an easy dish to leave for my sister and i to prepare ourselves if both parents were working. japchae, mandu, things like that were sort of special occasion things. we ate kim, or toasted laver, with rice for snacks. the most common panchan was just the spinach and the soybean sprouts. i HATED having to sit as a child, plucking the root of every single sprout and the membrane off of every single bean. so we largely ate american meals with korean touches, while my mom would poke at her food and then just eat rice and kimchi when we were all done and cleaned up.

                then my family moved to korea, and after the inevitable culture shock and adolescent angst calmed down, my mom noticed my growing interest in korean food and fully pushed me into it. and then one day my dad stared at me slurping down a bowl of kimchi chigae, with my mom, watching korean tv dramas, and he looked thoroughly puzzled. plus, my mom didn't know how to make a huge variety of foods when she left korea, so it was fun for her, too. we'd see something on a cooking show and that night we'd be making wild perilla mushroom chigae, or whatever. there was now a huge array of panchan in the fridge for me to eat whenever i wanted, as well.

                so while i grew up eating largely western food as a small child, my adolescence led me to a gradual full appreciation of korean cuisine as a whole. it was a matter of availability, and then helping me get over my childhood dislikes for certain foods.

                how that played out at the family dinner table? well we still ate plenty of western food in korea, thankfully having access to otherwise hard to find western ingredients through the army base's commissary. but there would be a much wider variety of panchan available, maybe two or three kimchis instead of one. and if dad went away on business or it was just me and my mom for lunch, we'd either go out for great korean food or skip the dining room and eat simple meals at a low table sitting on the floor in from of the TV.

                2 Replies
                1. re: augustiner

                  Oh, I feel so sorry for you for plucking the ends and membranes off of the sprouts. That is a lot of work. I never bother when I cook my sprouts. I've been to the army base commissary in Seoul when I was in Korea for three months at the age of eight. I thought the burger I had there was the best in the world as I was really craving American food by that point. As much as I love Korean food, I can't eat it all the time. Thank goodness for variety of cuisines.

                  About your wild mushroom perilla chigae, did you season it with kochujang or daenjang? Sounds interesting.

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    the mushroom chigae had a very mild broth made from crushed perilla seeds and seaweed, with neither kochujang or doenjang. it was nice, but very delicate, and was a one time thing only. don't remember how to make it at all.

                    i was also yelled at in college when i was caught cutting off the root ends of spinach bunches. "aigu, you cook like american!" see, i was to individually pluck each leaf free from the bunch, inlcuding the pinkish end of the stem attached to the root. otherwise i was being wasteful.