12.138 Battle: Comfort!


23 (Sun) May 2021

Ramyeon Royale


by me

at home

-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-

with W and IZ

GMTD Battles! (8) (see also BATTLES!)

Following the audacity/creativity/intensity of the Chicken Cinquain battle, I felt that we deserved a breather, so I chose comfort food as the next theme.  Going back to basics, I was curious to see what we’d come up with without any pressure to do something fancy or clever.  In the proposal, I suggested that “it should be a dish that would actually give comfort to you or that you would make for a loved one, not some random recipe that you find on-line.”


Ramyeon Royale

by me

I would argue that instant ramyeon, especially the spicy kind, is the ultimate Korean comfort food.  It’s the one dish always welcome when sick or stressed or starved or not, breakfast or lunch or dinner or anytime in between/before/after, as is or blinged out, at home or at restaurant, while in Korea or traveling in another country.  No matter how hard I strive to impress my family with fancy dishes, they are most pleased when I make instant ramyeon.  If I try to sneak one as a late night snack, they smell it from their rooms and come running, begging shamelessly for a bite – this doesn’t happen with any other food.

The total cost of ingredients amounted to around 11,050 won per portion .= 1,300 won (ramyeon) + 250 won (egg) + 9,500 won (beef).

I started with Wangi Ramyeon, our new favorite brand (see 12.071 Wangi Ramyeon with Deeok & Mandu).  Standard bling included poached egg and garlic chives for garnish (sprouts were prepared but ditched at the last minute).  The highlight was shaved beef brisket (chadol), hanwoo to make it extra special, worthy of a product featuring Korea’s most venerated king on the packaging (blasphemously, some would say, to which I might agree).

Once the noodles were soft enough to separate, I gently cracked in the eggs, careful not to break the yolks, spooning broth over them to help them set.

It was good.  The broth was rich and spicy, further deepened by the beef.  However, the flavor of hanwoo was somewhat lost in the mix, though the meat itself was very tasty.  The eggs were perfectly cooked.  Alas, the noodles were overcooked, as I’d made the mistake of putting in the beef too late, requiring a few precious extra seconds to cook through.  A decent effort, though not enough to justify the cost.

In these photos, I just realized that I hold the chopsticks in my right hand for the noodles at the outset of the meal, with the spoon in my left hand for the broth…

Perhaps the most comforting part of a ramyeon meal is not the noodles but eating rice with the leftover broth; the egg is essential for this.

…then switch the spoon to my right for the rice and use chopsticks with my left for the kimchi.

My biggest regret was the plating, which was intended to be regal (see for example 10.271 Chadol Jjambbong) but turned out rather boorish, though perhaps a comfort food should look kinda rustic.


Stuvade Makaroner med Falukorv

by GK

[NOTE: all comments in this section are in GK’s own words, with minor editorial revisions]

The next battle was supposed to be a “comfort dish.”  I immediately got to think of “stuvade makaroner med falukorv” (milk-stewed macaronies served with falukorv).  It’s a dish I think most Swedes remember from their childhood, fondly or not.  For some reason, the simplicity of it gives me comfort, maybe together with the memories of eating it as a child. 

It basically consists of macaronies (5 decilitres in for about 3 portions) stewed/cooked together with 1 litre of milk until most of the milk has been absorbed and the macaronies are soft (see recipe).  Seasoned with nutmeg, pepper and salt.

I would note that a lot of self-proclaimed “gourmands” would frown at the thought of eating “falukorv” (a traditional type of sausage) because of its perceived low quality (especially the “no-name” brands sold at supermarkets). You can also buy more expensive versions of it with a higher percentage of actual meat (the package in the first picture it says “58 % meat content”).

The only “hard” part of cooking it is making sure to stir consistently.  The first time I tried to cook it myself, I got a thick layer of burned milk at the bottom of the saucepan, which took forever to get rid of.

I’m curious: Is stewing macaronis, potatoes etc in milk done in other cultures?

They are then served together falukorv, as well as ketchup. This time I also added some green peas.

It’s of course obligatory to enjoy it with a glass of milk!


Pimple Soup

Sautéed Fiddleheads

Stir-Fried Eggs & Tomatoes

Bing with Veggies

by NH

[NOTE: all comments in this section are in NH’s own words, with minor editorial revisions]

The first meal, I prepared a Chinese soup known as 疙瘩湯, sometimes unfortunately mistranslated as the unappetizing ‘pimple soup’ (ge da, in Chinese, can refer to lumps, either in dough or in the face).  It has similarities with Korea sujebi, but is made in a method more akin to spätzle, with a wet dough being dropped by small increments into a boiling soup.  The soup was made with chicken broth, seaweed, tomato, and a beaten egg drizzled in.  My mother often prepared this for us, with variations in the soup.

Additionally, seeing as it’s now spring here in Canada, it was the perfect time for fiddleheads.  I grew up in New Brunswick, where these are a famous local delicacy and widely available in farmer’s markets or from local foragers.  Essentially, these are the furled fronds of ostrich ferns, always wild-harvested, and only in season for a brief window of time before the ferns mature and become inedible.  Some years, it’s difficult to forage for them due to flooding from the rivers, or a late spring.  I have many fond memories of picking them.  My mother would usually just stir fry them, or even dice them finely for dumpling fillings; a local favourite method of preparation is to steam them and serve with butter or vinegar.  For these, I just sautéed them with some butter, garlic, and lemon juice.  They taste like spring – with flavours akin to asparagus, grassy, snappy, and green.

Another dish I’d like to share is the ever-enduring classic Chinese eggs and tomatoes.  Stir fried eggs and tomatoes doesn’t sound particularly Chinese, but I guarantee you any person from China knows of and has consumed this dish; it’s pretty much near universal, like fried rice.  It’s also one of those things that is so darned simple and pedestrian that you’d never see it on a menu.  It’s just scrambled eggs, cooked with chopped tomatoes, garlic, with a dash of salt and sugar.  I like to add some ketchup and diced green onion, and coriander when I have it.  I’ve had this countless times, and it’s so comforting and delicious with white rice.

And of course, ‘bing 饼’ with veggies.  This can refer to an enormous number of dough-based foods in Chinese, but my mother would often whip this version up for a weekend lunch.  It’s prepared from an egg, flour, and water batter, with finely julienned vegetables (zucchini is a favourite, as well as spinach).  It’s cooked like a crepe.  It’s similar to pajeon, though thinner and much lighter on the solids in the batter.  Sometimes my mother would melt Kraft singles between them, like an ersatz quesadilla/omelette.  We would dip them in a mix of soy sauce and Chinkiang vinegar.  I didn’t do a very good job here on account of being lazy and failing to a) properly julienned the zucchini; b) accidentally making too much batter, resulting in a poor ratio; c) forgetting to buy Kraft singles. I make these fairly often, but my mother’s version is always better.

Thanks for letting me take part!


Baeksuk + Kal Guksu

by LJY

[NOTE: all comments in this section are in LJY’s own words, with minor editorial revisions]

Here’s the prep for the chicken baeksuk and kal guksu.

In a giant pot, the chicken was boiled for about an hour or so.

Here’s the cooked chicken with buchu (garlic chives) wilted in the cooking broth.

In the meantime, I made a sauce (gochugaru + soy sauce + sesame seeds + sesame oil + chopped green onions + a little crushed garlic) to go with the chicken.

The chicken flavors were clean, flesh was tender.  Buchu also added a really nice, not too strong healthy flavor.

The noodles were then cooked in the broth.  Yum.  Comfort.


Gimbab 12 Ways

by MtG

[NOTE: all comments in this section are in MtG’s own words, originally written in Korean on his own blog (see Project: Comfort Food) and translated by the Google Chrome; I considered editing the parts that don’t make sense – “Rather than cooking well, the hands were big and had a strong taste” – but left them as is, for obvious reasons.]

Rather, as last time, ingredients (like a chicken…) and ask them to make a book.  I’ve been trying to remember what old taste is for me for quite some time, but it didn’t come to mind.  At the end of a long struggle… The conclusion was that it was not a good old taste, but rather a memory that I enjoyed as a child intertwined with food, so I looked for such a food and found it surprisingly easily.

The food of my childhood memories may not have been gimbab.  When a young picnic or athletic event approaches, I think of gimbab, which my mom had prepared at dawn rather than the joy of such an event.  On that morning, I was busy looking for sliced gimbab pods and crumpling them in my mouth before I woke up with sleepy eyes.   As for my mom’s food skill, I don’t think I’m from Ingado (taste breakdown) … Rather than cooking well, the hands were big and had a strong taste, and the typical country village was very skilled.  Perhaps that’s why I have no special affection for gimbab.  In fact, gimbab is a hard food to taste.

I think I had to make similar memories for my child if I become a father because of my impression of such a deep and powerful food.  Therefore, whenever I get a chance, I always give gimbab every morning for my son. 

You can do it all properly, but most of them just combine the ingredients in the refrigerator.  This is the gimbab I made this morning (above). There are so many other things, but they are similar (below).

The project is honestly a little disappointing because of the new store I’m preparing.  Still, it was a great opportunity to define what the food of memories I think was.



As always, I am so proud of everyone for stepping up to the challenge.  Even though envisioned as a simple engagement, we all put our hearts into the dishes that we made.  Interesting that the 3 male contestants relied on junk food elements, while the 2 women made their dishes from scratch with healthy ingredients.  In any case, I hope that the food gave comfort to your loved ones, and yourselves.

ORPHAN AWARD: In deciding on a dish to cook for this challenge, I considered only factors pertaining to my wife and kids in the here and now, what would be most comforting to them – not once did my mother come to mind.  Upon seeing the entries by NH and MtG, I was reminded that childhood nostalgia may also be a factor, what mom had cooked to comfort me growing up.  My mother has always been an excellent cook – objectively, her kimchi remains the best in the world (see 2.205 Mom’s Kimchi) (this meal did in fact include Mom’s kimchi, as seen in the featured photo – but I don’t really have any memories of specific dishes from my youth, maybe because she was always trying out different dishes.  Then again, ramyeon was one of the first things that she taught me how to make when I was a latchkey kid (see 8.138 Neoguri Ramyeon), so maybe that’s why I consider ramyeon to be the ultimate comfort food.

Carved from whole oak, now cracked and falling apart, this is the table that was used to feed me when I was a something of an orphan toddler in Korea – my parents were in the States while my father was attending graduate school, so I was left/kept behind in Korea under the care of my grandparents until I was 3.

RAGS-to-RICHES AWARD: Yet another dish by GK originating under circumstances of need, now embraced in times of plenty, like blodpudding (see 12.051 Battle: Blood!) and pytt i panna (see 12.093 Pytt i Panna).   I’m wondering whether this is representative of Swedish culture in general, or just GK in particular.   Foods with humble origins are certainly appreciated in Korea, especially now that the country is blessed with growing affluence – indeed, my initial entry for this challenge had been a peasant stew (see 12.124 Siraegi Gukbab) but realized it was too similar to my entry for the blood battle and went with ramyeon instead, which is also very humble.  The falukorv is strikingly similar, at least in appearance, even the red plastic wrapping, to old-school Korean “sausage,” made largely of flour and developed in the 1960/70s when meat was scarce, now enjoyed for nostalgic reasons (see for example 6.345 Sausage Jeon).  If I had peeked at GK’s submission earlier – for these battles, I don’t look at others’ photos or notes until I’ve made my own dish and begun writing the post, so as not to be unduly influenced – I would’ve made this dish myself to avert a recent unrelated milk overflow crisis (see 12.134 Milk-Braised Milk).  I will make now the dish as my latest entry in the Korean-Swedish Culinary Exchange (see KSCX) (GK, perhaps you could try to replicate my royal ramyeon in exchange?).

TABLE d’HÔTE AWARD: Having previously won the prestigious Table d’Hôte Award, NH followed up with another impressive comprehensive spread comprising a soup, an appetizer, a main, and a staple, even if they weren’t necessarily intended that way.  I appreciate the literal whimsy of “pimple soup” as a name.  Fiddleheads – oh, come on!   When I was in college at Berkeley, my Chinese friends would often order scrambled eggs and tomatoes at our go-to 24-hour Cantonese takeout joint Sun Hong Kong, though the non-Chinese among us never really dug it.  Bing, well, this is just like jeon; the idea of adding cheese – of course, it has to be processed cheese – gets me thinking … stayed tuned.

ESSENCE AWARD: From a Korean perspective, LJY’s entry reflects the most traditional and valued descriptors of comfort food: warm, wholesome, tasty, thrifty, nourishing, filling.  Having missed out on the Chicken Cinquain battle, she achieved the whole-of-bird usage this time, though only 40% of the technical challenge through 2 dishes, plus 10% for synergy.  I often make this exact kind of thing myself (see 3.081 Chicken & Potato Sujebi; 12.103 Dak Kal Guksu).  Her second time receiving the Essence Award, LJY excels at interpreting the intent of the challenge and realizing a dish that best embodies it (she’s a lawyer).

OSCAR MAYER AWARD: Whereas the Korean language does not have a term for “comfort food,” MtG relied on the definition in an on-line dictionary, which emphasized nostalgia, hence the memories of his mother making gimbab for him, as he now makes gimbab for his own kid.   To be clear, “the hands were big” means that his mother’s portions were generous, while “had a strong taste” means that her seasonings were aggressive, not the flavor of the actual hands.   The roll at the top, with egg + carrot + hotdog, were made for this challenge, the other 11 varieties just examples of rolls from the past – all variations of processed meat and processed cheese and carrots and eggs.  Me: “Hey, your business is doing well, splurge a bit and feed your kid some real meat.”  Him: “I bought him lamb the other day.”

The next challenge is wide open for suggestions.  I have a theme in mind, which I’ll propose if no one else does by the end of the month.   Thanks!!

(See also FOODS)

(See also PLACES)

5 thoughts on “12.138 Battle: Comfort!

  1. I have to say I’m most impressed and inspired by NH:s contribution. Both the variety of dishes and the foraging part.

    This followed by MtG:s kimbab (the variety, as well as how well he had chopped up those vegetables. Or maybe he just used some kitchen tools?). I have actually had making kimbab on my list for a long time. I have the impression I need some kind of “tool” (like a bamboo mat) to roll them properly, but maybe that’s not the case?
    On the other hand, most of my experience of kimbab comes from barely edible convenience store kimbab, eaten when I didn’t have time to eat something more proper…. So that might be one reason I have not tried to make it myself yet…
    (I have fond memories of 김밥천국 but only mostly had 제육볶음 there…)

    I would love to try to replicate the royal ramyeon! Hopefully, the package you sent should arrive with some 왕 라면 any day soon… I’m looking forward to seeing how the shaved beef brisket would pair with the noodles… Expect for pre-packaged, smoked ham; I have only seen shaved beef sold at the deli counters at bigger supermarkets. Come to think of it, the only tiime I can recall someone telling me they bought shaved beef here in Sweden is some Chinese friends who wanted to make hot pot…
    I’m also reminded of that episode of Seinfeld when Kramer buys a meat slicer (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Slicer)

    1. I have always been curious about your interest in American pop culture. On various occasions when we met in Korea, you were wearing t-shirts depicting Gizmo (the Mogwai from Gremlins), Ron Burgundy (Anchorman), and Ricky Martin (King of Latin Pop). You’ve also admitted that you pursued a career in nuclear engineering because of Homer Simpson. And now this reference to Kramer.

      In return, I am happy to report that I am a huge fan of LEGO, and I own an ABBA album on vinyl.

      1. I actually still have the Gremlins t-shirt, and wore it the other day. It’s one of my favorites. When it comes to the Ron Burgundy t-shirt, I remember an 아저씨 in one of the restaurants we went to together asking me if it was a t-shirt of myself (I guess all whites look the same?).

        When it comes to Ricky Martin, I have to vehemently deny ever wearing or owning a T-shirt of him (not that there’s anything wrong with that..)
        Homer might be one reason I choose my path, me liking big machines being another…

        And LEGO… It’s a Danish company, and I know you know that as well 😉 I can recommend stopping by Legoland if you are gonna come to Scandinavia with your family anyways 🙂

  2. At dinner last night, we were discussing the trip, and my father said, “Skip Sweden. Nothing to see there.” To which my son said, “There’s a guy there. Dad met him on the internet.”

    We had kinda crossed out Denmark, but now that you mention it, it might be worth it for Legoland. We’ve been to the one in Malaysia, which was a bit disappointing. But I definitely should visit the one at the source. I’ll bring my minifigures from my childhood, taking them back to their birthplace, 40 years later.

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