Soo Jae Bee

instant soo jae bee

Last time I was in New Jersey, my sister went to the Korean grocery store and bought me a box of this. I had never seen it before, but she told me I would love it. Problem was, the box was completely in Korean. And I had no idea what the finished product was supposed to taste like.

not a single word of english in the instructions

I turned the box over and tried to figure out what I was supposed to do. I could understand about a word or two here and there. After each step, there was an asterisk. These, I surmised, were special tips from the manufacturer on how to best make this dish. For these special tips, I especially could not understand what the hell the box was telling me to do.

2x2 servings

I opened the box and found two sets of identical packets. Apparently, and unlike ramen noodles which are single serving, this had 2x2servings. The small packet was the soup broth packet. The large packet was for the dumplings.

add 130ml water to the potato powder packet

I opened the large packet and added 130ml water, which is what I think the instructions wanted me to do.

looks a little dry

It really didn’t seem like enough water. But, after I pressed it all together, it was starting to look like an actual dough. Once the dough came together, I surmised that the instructions wanted me to let the dough rise for about ten minutes while tightly covered in plastic wrap. However, after waiting ten minutes, the dough was the same exact size.

before the rise
after the rise

 At that point, I started boiling about a liter of water and added the soup packet. Then, I had to figure out what to do with the ball of dough. Looking back towards the picture on the box, it looked like I need to make little chunks. So, I started tearing off little pieces of the dough ball in sizes about the size and shape of a guitar pick.

boiling the dumplings

Once I got all the pieces of dough in the broth, I let the whole thing simmer for about 5 minutes, per the instructions. Then, I dished it out into my oriental bowl that I bought precisely for the purpose of eating instant korean noodle dishes and had some kimchee with it.

soo jae bee and kimchee

This soup turned out to be pretty amazing. The broth was fishy, which doesn’t really sound all that delicious. But this was fishy in a good way like bouillabaisse is fishy and good. But instead of being safron-y and rich and dense like bouillabaisse, this was light and delicate like consomme. Plus, the extra five minutes the dumplings spent in the boiling broth imparted a wonderfully savory taste to the doughy disks, and it reminded me of a chicken and dumpling soup.
 
The texture of the dumplings was a little doughy and a little chewy, much like duk in a duk gook. But, I imagine that, at the time this dish gained popularity, food that was dense and meaty and chewy was probably highly sought after. My sister tells me that, right after the Korean War, rice was scarce. Instead of rice noodles or rice dumplings (duk), they used other starches to make dumpling soups.
 
My sister also tells me that my parents used to eat this a lot as they grew up. The fact that my sister knows this surprises me. My parents and I have never had a conversation about what it was like to grow up in the aftermath of the Korean War. I suppose it’s because I’ve never asked.
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