Like Family, Mother’s Hands: 김치볶음밥 and 김치찌게 and 국수

The Korean government might not consider me family since I’m not Korean, but Mother sure does. When Good Man and I finally got home late last night, I told her what happened. I was addressing her with my standard phrase: 시어머니.

Mother said, “Amanda!”


“When you are talking to something else, I am ‘우리 시어머니.’ But when we talk, call me 어머, 어머니, OK?”

I nodded. “Yes, I understand 어머니.”

She nodded toward Father. “And same for 아버지, OK?”

I started off with 시어머님. Then she asked/told me to drop the 님 (honorific ending) in favor of 니 (standard). Now she’s asked me to drop the 시 (meaning “husband’s”) and possibly the 니, bringing us down to a familial, intimate “Mom.”

Cooking Classes With Mother
In Korean, there’s a saying about the hands’ taste making food delicious (손맛). There’s even an English-language Korean brand of snack food called “Mother’s Fingers.”

Well, Mother wants me to get her 손맛, so she’s going to teach me how to make some of her meals. Today we started with kimchi bokkeum bap. I’m translating from the Korean pretty much as she said it, to the best of my understanding and ability. (She checked my spelling on my written notes and is sitting next to me, helping me right now!)



“Amanda! Grapeseed oil. Use grapeseed oil, or olive oil. You know olive oil?”

“Yes. But why don’t you use sesame oil?”

“It burns took quickly and makes the food get burnt. OK, grapeseed oil, kimchi, ham—or tuna, tuna always in olive oil—”

“In America, tuna usually comes in water.”

Mother nodded. “Ooo, that is healthy. A little bit of oyster sauce—little bit, little bit, really little bit—rice, onion.” She mixed it all together (hence the “볶음” part) and continued, “When it’s done, turn the flame off and add a little bit of sesame oil and sesame seeds.”

She plated our food and served it to us for lunch. “맛있어?” Is it delicious?


“괜찮아?” Is it OK?


“‘Mmmm 뭐야?” What is ‘mmmm?’

I laughed, “냠냠이에요!”

Next up was kimchi jjigae, which she made for dinner. Mother and Father were out for the night so Mother prepared us dinner before she left. (Dude. I could sooooo get used to daily homemade breakfast, lunch, and dinner.)

“Amanda! Kimchi, a little water, onion, tuna and oyster sauce. Cook like this,” she showed me a medium flame, “for about 30 minutes.”

I don’t have a photo of it, but Mother’s kimchi jjigae had much less water than the kimchi jjigae I’m used to. I asked Mother why. She said it’s best without much water.

I joked, “But in restaurants there is a lot of water. Maybe they want more money. A little kimchi a lot of water.”

Father laughed, “Ahhh! Amanda is so good!”

잔치 국수
Finally, she showed me gooksoo, which is what she and Father had for lunch.

잔치 국수

“Amanda! You boil noodles, like this, yes, with a little 다시마 [dried seaweed] and anchovies [멸치].” While the noodles were cooking, she put the sauce together. “A little cooking soy sauce.”

“국간장? 뭐예요?” What’s that?

“Ahh, the soy sauce we brought to America is soup soy sauce. Different flavor.”

I yelled at Good Man, “I told you that stuff wasn’t supposed to go on rice!”

Mother shook her head, “No, rice you need 조선간장.”

“Like Chosun Dynasty?”

“Yeah, yeah. Sauce. Soup soy sauce, green onions, a little sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and sesame seeds. Mix, OK?”

Mother spooned the noodles and some broth into a bowl and added a tiny bit of sesame oil. Then she added some red pepper powder in the middle and the sauce around it.


“응, 냠냠이에요!”