13 (Mon) September 2010
Stir-Fried Pork & Cauliflower
by Nanny 5
-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Korea-
Having had a really rough day, I wasn’t in any condition to cook something for myself and didn’t care enough about food to order in, so I resorted to the unusual third option of asking our nanny to whip something up, and this is what I got.
Sometime during the past ten years or so, the service industry in Korea has suddenly become dependent on middle-aged women who are ethnically Korean but lived in China most of their lives – members of the so-called Joseon-Jok (조선족), “jok” meaning “tribe” or “clan” and “Joseon” being the name for Korea back when their ancestors had emigrated to China. They don’t really speak Chinese, while their version of the Korean languge has developed into a dialect with a distinctive accent of its own. Whereas 9 out of 10 neighborhood restaurants are staffed exclusively by these women, fancier establishments employ “real” Koreans in positions that deal directly with customers but depend on the Joseon-Jok in the kitchens.
Our nanny, like so many nannies these days, is one such woman.
In addition to the language issue, the food culture of this group is also somewhat peculiar, neither here nor there. It’s essentially Korean in that they’ll eat rice, soup, kimchi, and a few sides, but the preparation of the food is Chinese in technique. For example, instead of parboiling vegetables in water and seasoning them with sesame oil and salt in the Korean style, they’ll sauté everything in oil and add soy sauce. And because many of them hail from small inland farming villages, they’re not accustomed to certain ingredients, like seafood, but love pork.