Cycle 12 – Item 172
26 (Sat) June 2021
Chapaguri with Hanwoo
-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-
with the Family
I finally got around to watching the movie Parasite, winner of the Palme d’Or and Best Picture Oscar in 2019, among other awards.
With all due respect to the filmmakers, as well as the film experts and fans who see greatness in the movie, I didn’t quite buy the narrative premise of the story. The members of the parasite family are introduced as normal down-on-their-luck schmos, but not conniving scam artists. But suddenly, they possess grifting skills and technical expertise in various occupational fields, allowing them to smoothly hustle their way into specialized jobs with the host family and sustain the con without arousing any suspicion. While I can appreciate the upstairs vs downstairs dynamic, I felt that the story took too many shortcuts in manipulating the characters positioning.
I also think that the title is somewhat misnomeric. Other than filching some booze on the final evening, there’s nothing to suggest that the so-called parasites are deriving any undue benefits at the hosts’ expense. On the contrary, the parasites are performing services for the hosts and getting duly paid, even if under fraudulent circumstances.
Anyway, at one point, the mother of the host family requests the mother of the parasite family to make Chapaguri.
Chapaguri is a Korean dish. It’s a mix of the instant jjajang myeon noodle brand Chapaghetti + the instant ramyeon noodle brand Neoguri. The name of the dish is a portmanteau of the two brands: “Chapa” + “Guri.” Uncertain who/why/where/when the dish was invented, but it wasn’t a mainstream thing until it gained overnight local/global notoriety as a minor plot point in Parasite. The company Nongshim, which produces both products, has reportedly developed an all-in-one Chapuguri kit (I haven’t seen it). In a sense, the dish is like jjamjja myeon (see for example 12.128 Hella Zzamzza), only with the two mashed together.
The English subtitles refer to the dish as “ram-don,” a portmanteau of “ramen” + “udon,” supposedly coined by the translator because he thought that non-Korean audiences wouldn’t understand “Chapaguri,” even though the products are mentioned by name in the subtitles (see Netflix screen shot above). I’m surprised that the producers, assuming that they had any say in the subtitles, would accept the substitution of Japanese foods for uniquely Korean items.
A subtle but crucially important detail, hanwoo sirloin is added to the dish. The point is that crazy spoiled rich people can afford to augment late-night junk food with extremely expensive meat. Assuming that they would keep good quality beef on hand, at least 10,000 won per 100 grams (likely more), and the scene shows at least 200 grams being added (likely more), that would be at least 20,000 won just for the cost of meat (see how much I paid below). The noodles cost about 750 won per package.
The scene seems to show the housekeeper making a single portion of noodles, which doesn’t make sense because (a) the dish, by definition, requires the combination of 2 noodle packages (unless she used 1 half + 1 half), and (b) she was initially instructed to make enough for the entire family of 4.
The scene accurately conveys the idea that most Korean people, even the wealthy elites, still eat instant noodles, at least on occasion as a guilty pleasure or comfort food.
Highly improbable that the dish would be served with fruit but not kimchi.
The store didn’t have sirloin (chaeggeut), so I substituted with blade (buchaesal). Only second tier 1+ grade, the cut cost 25,000 won for 150 grams (16,666 won per 100 grams) – by extrapolation, a top tier 1++ grade cut would probably cost about 20,000 won per 100 grams.
Exactly as suspected, it’s basically just Chapaghetti with a touch of heat and seaweed flavor from the Neoguri. No big deal.
Kimchi was served, no fruit.
The meat was amusing in its absurd lavishness but entirely unnecessary – that is, it didn’t impact the dish either way.
I am painfully reminded that I invented my own dish of junk food extravagance as a representation of Korean comfort food in the GMTD Battle series. The Ramyeon Royale also comprised instant ramyeon noodles paired with hanwoo (see 12.138 Battle: Comfort!). At the time, I had no idea about the Chapaguri in Parasite. Apparently, I have the culinary instincts of a crazy spoiled rich person.
To make the meal complete, I had FiLite beer. Congrats to the marketers: the product placement succeeded in getting me to buy a can of the product. By mistake, I picked up the Fresh (blue) version, not the Clean Barley (green) version as shown in the movie – I would wager that they taste exactly the same.
(See also BOOZE)
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)