I just got back from a Korean grocery store where I confused the heck out of its owners. Today being my actual Airplane Day, I was feeling a sense of occasion and decided to invite one of my close friends over for some nice home cooked Korean food. I picked my personal favorite dish--japchae (stir fried noodles with beef and veggies). Now bear in mind that I'm crazy. I've never made japchae before. The only Korean food I've made to date was some mandu dumplings in Korean culture camp when I was a kid and then one semi-experimental grilled beef kebab and kimchi dinner with (a lot of) help from my aunt Jan. So, not a lot of experience there. I don't even cook that much in general (hate to admit it, but it's true). The recipe calls for blanching spinach? What? Hopefully I don't burn the apartment complex down tonight. That would be swell.
Anywho. I stopped at this grocery store which I've been to a handful of times, but always felt kind of shy in. Today I was the only customer in there and one of the owners immediately greeted me in Korean. Although I understood what she said and knew how to reply, I just said "Hi" back not wanting to draw attention to my undoubtedly awkward accent. I browsed the store with my little list and found most of what I needed for the recipe. The one thing I couldn't find? Sesame paste. I went up to the man behind the counter and asked if they carried said item. He had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. We perused through the aisle with sesame seeds, sesame oil and various pastes, but no sesame paste. He went and asked his wife who also was unfamiliar with sesame paste. I told him I was making japchae for the first time and simply following my recipe book. He shrugged and said that he didn't know about cooking with the paste. I figured if he and his wife didn't use it, then my japchae should be fine without it. Now I am questioning the authenticity of my cookbook! I went to Wegmans for a few more items and they also did not carry sesame paste. I googled 'sesame paste' when I came home and it apparently is used in some East Asian cooking. Go figure. Sounds like I'm not missing out on much, though.. I need to go to that grocery more often. The man was nice and wished me luck with the meal. I found myself wanting to explain to him--being an adoptee and all, hence having to use a cookbook and not a Korean omoni's or halmoni's wisdom. But that could have been potentially awkward. It occurred to me that I don't really know what any Koreans or Korean Americans think about KADs..if anything at all.
Well, guess it's time for me to start on my cooking endeavor. Oh boy. I'm going to use Maangchi's recipe since she doesn't use any cooking terms that leave me completely nonplussed! Hopefully my japchae turns out edible, but we have a frozen pizza and alcohol if my efforts go south.