In this scene in Episode 4 from the Korean drama Brilliant Legacy (SBS, 2009 starring Dong Yi’s Han Hyo joo) Go Eun (Han Hyo joo) the poor heroine has lost her memory. (Why do so many characters lose their memory in Kdramas? 😕 ) Anyway, she meets an old lady who lets her stay with her while our heroine tries to remember who on earth she is. One day Go Eun comes home and she’s soaked because it’s pouring with rain outside. She suggests that, since it’s raining, they should eat: 김치전 kimchi jeon.
For some reason, jeon (a savoury pancake) washed down with makgeoli (milky coloured rice wine) has become the quintessential combination to eat and drink on a rainy day. When it rains in Seoul, I can expect a text message from Mr Kim suggesting that we have jeon and makgeoli for dinner. He says simply that rainy weather suits this kind of food. (Of course it’s ok to eat jeon on sunny days too. But the mood is different.)
There are lots of examples in Korean dramas of characters eating jeon on rainy days. But here’s one from Brilliant Legacy (SBS 2009)
할머니, 오늘은 비 오니까 김치전 부쳐 드릴까요?
Shall I make some kimchi jon since it’s raining?
You’ve got flour, right?
kimchi jon made from kimchi, flour and water, but anything can be added really – seafood, chilies or spring onion etc…
My favourite jeon and makgeoli shop was in a back street of insadong. It was in an old building where there were only about 6 tables. The owner made a lot of the makgeoli herself. Even when the main drag of Insadong was packed with visitors, this little place was calm and welcoming. ( update: I went by there recently (2015) and found to my chagrin that it’s closed down. I feel melancholy at the thought and it’s not even raining right now. )
My favourite makgeoli shop in Insadong
We are well into the rainy season in Seoul now. We popped over to see my in-laws as my sister-in-law and her family, who live abroad but have been back visiting Seoul for a holiday, were due to leave Seoul again. As we waved my sister-in-law and family goodbye, the mood became more solemn and the rain clouds came out in sympathy. We stood and watched them drive away and my mother-in-law fought back the tears with the thought of her daughter and young grandchildren leaving Korea again. So to cheer ourselves up we all went to a small nearby drinking establishment and ordered jeon and makgeoli.
Korean folk music played in the background while traffic rattled by outside in the pouring rain. We were the only customers as it was still too early for the evening crowd. Two ajumma (I’ve used the dreaded word again) working there sat at the other side of the room with a large bowl of spring onions, stripping off the outer leaves while we quietly drank our makgeoli watching the world go by.