12.073 Yuchae Namul


19 (Fri) March 2021

Yuchae Namul


at Sunam Siraegi

-Seongsu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with Mom and Dad

Yuchae (유채) is rapeseed.  Also pyeongji (평지).  Brassica napus.  The plant is one source, in addition to a few cultivars in the Brassica genus, of canola oil, which is alternatively referred to as rapeseed oil.

The selections at the banchan bar are usually the same (see also 11.240 Cutting Board Boiled Pork Table d’Hôte), except for that second bowl.

Until today, I had never thought about what “canola” is, even though canola oil has been my default cooking oil for decades.  Recently, while studying a Swedish cookbook (see generally 12.020 Pasta and Salmon Pudding), I was curious to note that the recipes called for rapeseed oil, which I had never heard of and soon learned that it’s the same thing as canola oil – and that’s as far as I got, never bothered to look up rapeseed or canola.

Now that I think about it, other cooking oils – olive oil, sesame oil, peanut oil, coconut oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, grape seed oil, palm oil, etc – come from things that are commonly known.

Today, the second bowl contained yuchae namul.


I learned today that yuchae/pyeongji is cultivated in Korea.  Typically made into namul, just like other greens: parboiled and seasoned with garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil.  Canola oil is widely available in Korea, referred to as “canola oil” or “canola yu (oil).”

According to my mother, the plant is fairly well-known but not commonly available either in markets or restaurants.  She vaguely recalled encountering it sometime in her life but couldn’t remember where or when.

I continue to explore restaurants in the neighborhood, still haven’t found a place that offers a tastier, healthier, more well-balanced spread as here.

It was very very good.  Tasting almost exactly like spinach, perhaps a tad less bitter, with thicker stems.  Initially, I’d thought it was spinach until my mother look at it with a curious expression, like “Could this possibly be?…”  She asked the server, who asked the manager, who asked the cook to confirm that it was indeed.

I’d bet that 98% of customers assume this to be spinach.

(See also FOODS.)

(See also PLACES.)

6 thoughts on “12.073 Yuchae Namul

  1. Yeah, ‘canola’ was coined to represent ‘Canada’ + ‘oil’ (it was developed in Canada). Mostly because ‘rapeseed’ doesn’t sound very marketable, for obvious reasons.
    Colza oil actually comes from the same plant, but canola is specifically from a cultivar low in erucic acid, due to it being linked with detrimental effects on the heart.

    1. Nancy, always reliable to give us an esoteric scoop!

      looking more closely at the wikipedia page, it claims that “ola” is an acronym of “Oil, Less Acid.” but a quick review of the cited sources don’t support the claim, only “ola” to mean “oil.” i’ve found that etymological theories about cutesy acronyms tend to be bogus (e.g., TIP, POSH), so for now I’ll stick with the simpler theory, as reported by Nancy.

      i looked at the labelling on the bottle of canola oil in my kitchen (now, for the rest of my life, I will always pause whenever writing/saying “canola … oil”), and the oil is sourced from Canada. I’ll check in the supermarket to see if any canola … oils are produced locally.

  2. Interesting:
    “Canola was originally a trademark name of the Rapeseed Association of Canada, and the name was a condensation of “Can” from Canada and “OLA ” meaning “Oil, low acid”,[6][7] but is now a generic term for edible varieties of rapeseed oil in North America and Australasia. ”

    So it could probably be added to:

    In regards to the photo of the banchan bar: they impose a fine of 5000 KRW if you leave any of the food you take? That would actually make sense to reduce food waste..

  3. 1. I did a quick review of all canola products in our supermarket, all bottled by Korean brands and labeled in Korean, but the sources of the oil are all Canada. I’m wondering if that’s a legal thing, or if Canada is the only country that has the capacity to produce it?

    2. That’s so funny about the genericized brand names. In intellectual property class in law school, we studied the cases of aspirin, thermos, and xerox. I had no idea about cellophane, heroin, kerosene, laundromat, videotape.

    3. I’ve seen those penalty warnings at buffets. Trying to remember if they do that in the States. I’m wondering if they ever impose the penalty, and if anyone would pay it.

    1. 1. It’s probably just that they produce it in huge amounts and then export it cheaply abroad (to Asia?). Sweden is a big producer of rapeseed, but it’s probably not exported. Maybe canola is the Canadian equivalent of American corn (produced in huge numbers thanks to farming subsidies, then used for everything and exported everywhere?).

      3. I would guess that they have no “legal” way of forcing you to pay. On the other hand you would probably get banned from coming back if you don’t pay…

      1. 1. don’t know much about trade law or international IP, but maybe Canada has registered the name with global body, like WTO or WIPO, so only exports from Canada can be labelled “Canola oil,” even if bottled elsewhere. not sure what happened to “Champagne,” which I believe is protected within EU but not globally, because California wineries sometimes call their sparkling wines “champagne (lowercase “c”).”

        3. Suddenly had this ludicrous image of someone coming back to the restaurant in a Groucho Marx disguise.

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