Sonmaht 손맛. No measurements or set recipes to follow, just the innate ability to cook comfort food on a whim using experience and instinct as a guide. It’s a special gift usually reserved for mothers and grandmothers who‘ve been cooking all their lives to feed their children and community, imparting their personal touch to each and every dish all the while creating something that cannot be replicated by anyone else (even if an exact recipe was provided).
And so it was during lunch yesterday that I finally realized why I’ve immersed myself in korean food for eight long years—which was to develop my own sonmaht. Each dish conjuring up a memory of the magic that unfolds in the back kitchen of restaurants. If you’ve followed my stories, you’re probably familiar with some of the inner workings during my time as a quasi-cook. Washing octopus in a washing machine. Pre-setting haemul pajeon in the fridge. Draining 100 pogi (heads) of Napa cabbage to make baek kimchi. And for reference, it took me about a year to master restaurant-quality pajeon despite cooking five a day, six days a week (that’s over a 1,000 pajeon).
There’s been growing interest in Hansik, which makes me happy and hesitant at the same time. Happy bcuz people are learning that there’s more to Korean cuisine than just kimchi, bibimbap, and korean bbq. Hesitant bcuz I’m fully aware of the copycat recipes floating around by people who don’t mind pimping out Korean food for attention and profit. If you’re gonna post recipes, at the very least provide proper attribution or credit to its developer. I know many people who’ve worked tirelessly to create authentic recipes—even coming to Korea to learn from masters—and it would be a shame if they didn’t receive the recognition they deserve.