Tuesday, January 1, 2019

[Food] Sundaeguk (순댓국, Korean sausage soup)


[Food]  Sundaeguk (순댓국, Korean sausage soup)

This story continues from Uh-mook and Sundae. It is helpful to read them before you read this story for a better understanding :)

Sundae (Korean sausage) + guk (soup) = Sundaeguk (Korean sausage soup). A popular meat soup dish in Korea. Its meaty and salty flavor fills your tummy with warmth. People put chopped spring onion as toppings and add spicy chili paste for extra taste. 

She was kind and warm like ever before. We talked about life since I left our hometown and what we do now. I opened up about my life story of my family and I moving abroad, then becoming independent to study abroad alone in Australia but then deciding to return to Korea to join the Army. Once I wanted to marry a girl who I really liked and was my ideal woman (which ended up being an epic fail in my life), and wanted to live as a freelancer who wanders alone to eat delicious food and meet people who I like. Nevertheless, I couldn't say "I missed you. I came here, not just drop by, to see you again before I leave" and "I was so shocked and you are married and have a daughter who looks exactly the same as you."

She was sitting down in front of me, and almost finishing her supper (sundaeguk) while listening to my life story. I observed, by glance, her face thoroughly. Maybe her freckles had faded and gained some wrinkles at the end of her eyes but her dimples and bright smile were right there, as in my childhood memory.

Sundae is being steamed on a metal pot.
She listened to my story with widened eyes, laughter, claps and murmurs, saying "Really?" and "Oh my God, Jerry". She looked as happy about our small reunion as I was. To me, she was one tough woman who fought daily and the kind mom of one daughter who resembles her so much.

Me...? I don't know...just a lonely jerk who roams around Korea and so-called 'gourmet' with low self-esteem? Whatever...

It was almost 10 o'clock on Saturday night. The customers were all gone and Ginny already went to sleep with her grandparents. The restaurant hall was dark with only some fluorescent tubes shining I and her. She said she was so tired of bargaining with farmers and dealers at a farmers market in Seoul.

"Hannah, I was so surprised when I first met Ginny. She is just a younger version of you, don't you think?"

"Hahaha, everyone says that. I think so and she is just gorgeous, like her mom. Ahahaha"

"Yeah, the power of genetics. Anyway, where's her father? Does he live in another city or is he on a business trip or something?"


Suddenly, she rubbed her eyes with her hands and I could see they were red. Her eyelashes were soaked. I instantly instinctively realized that I had pushed her 'tear button'. I wondered what happened to her in the last 20 years. She got up on her feet and headed to the shop's kitchen.

"Jerry, I'm gonna bring some soju (Korean Rice Wine) now. Do you drink soju? I will get some more steamed sundae from the kitchen too."

"Uhm...nah, I'm alright. Thanks."

"Ah...you are still not funny."


"Nothing. Never mind."

Soju (Korean Rice Wine) with a variety of flavors in a freezer.

It was for a short moment that I was sitting alone while she was away getting a dish of sundae and soju. It felt so long to me. A series of questions about her and her family endlessly popped up in my head. 

Cheating? love-child? divorce? separated? accident? death?

Soon, she came back to the table with a soju and a tiny glass cup in her right hand and a dish of sundae in her left hand.

"Here's my natural tranquilizer. The best friend ever."

"Ah....Great. I guess I have to stay over tonight."

"That's right. Don't worry, we have extra room for you. (Giggle)"

She sat and opened a bottle of soju with a metal spoon that she was using, and poured crystal-clear liquor into a tiny soju glass. Then she quickly popped one shot into her mouth, then poured a second shot again.

"Yes! Sweet home, sweet soju."

"Sure, it is...sure..."

She drank three shots of soju straight, then smacked the table with the bottom of the soju glass really hard.


"Aww! Hannah, that just hurt my eardrums."



"Well...I really liked him. So much. Like the apple of my eye."

"You mean, your husband?"

Hannah nodded.

"He wasn't a very handsome guy or a prince in a Porsche, but diligent, warm-hearted, responsible and kind. We met each other in the Uni that we went to together. He said I was his everything and so did I."

She took another shot, and chewed a slice of sundae. I poured soju for her.

A dish of assorted sundae and sundaeguk

"I met him in a business administration class. He wanted to be a chef with his own restaurant, like this place - somewhere people can easily come and chat over a hot meal. A restaurant that means more than a restaurant. I liked his idea too, we thought we were great for each other. We fell in love so quickly and he proposed to me to marry him when we realized I was pregnant."

I listened to her story in silence. I couldn't say anything but 'I'm sorry for your loss'.

"One day, unfortunately.....yeah, like every sad story that you would have heard....in my case...it really happened to me....anyway.....he got hit by a truck...died on the spot."

"Aww....that's...more than terrible..."

"Yeah...I know, I know...shut up. I don't want to hear 'I'm so sorry for your loss' anymore."

"Okay...go on..."

I could see her eyes welling up. She sniffled and took another shot of soju.

"He was on the way to pick me up. We were supposed to go to a dress shop for our wedding."

"Oh, my..."

Sundaeguk with spicy chili paste

Soju glasses

"Well...people told me to start over with a new life, and abort the baby...I couldn't because Ginny is the only thing that he left for me."

Oh, man. I could feel my eyes were welling up too.

"People said it is not my fault...I know! But...what if...what if....I didn't beg him to go to the dress shop that day....it wouldn't have happened. I know it is my fault...but...I can't convince myself that it isn't my fault..."


"Ginny doesn't know how her father died because I can't tell her yet. But when she asks me why her father had to die and she says she misses her father who she has only seen in his picture...I pretend I'm okay and it is nothing to me, but it breaks my heart...Now, people around me think I'm a tough and strong superwoman mom who survived for her family...but I'm still a weak woman."

Her teardrops fell into the soju glass that she was holding. She drank it. 

It must be sweet, bitter and salty. Like our life.

She cried till her lachrymal gland dried up. Then, after a while, she fell asleep after sharing some cute drinking habits and story of her hardships as a mom. And the last word that she mumbled while asleep pushed my tear button.

"Honey.....I miss you..."

Hot sundaeguk and a bowl of rice with Ggakdugi (fermented radish kimchi), one of my favorite meal, yum!

It must have been more than 10 years since his death. Hannah still calls him 'Honey' even in her dreams. I felt some kind of jealousy towards this man who doesn't exist anymore. 

Silly me.

Bon appétit!

<To be continued>

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