Chapter 4: Chapter 4: 7 years earlier (3)
In response, Cho Ah Ra nodded without hesitation. Cho Min Joon was quite surprised. He didn’t expect her evaluation of his mom’s cooking to be that low.
But even if Lee Hye Sun was good at cooking, Cho Min Joon knew that he could cook better. Cho Min Joon’s skills were above that of an average amateur. He had talents that wouldn’t be easily beat by an at-home cook.
“Ah Ra, what do you want to eat?”
“Give me some dishes to choose from.”
“Hm, do you feel like eating Western food or some kind of soup? What about noodles?”
Cho Ah Ra gave it some thought. She was confused about the fact that her brother, who usually just rolled about at home, was suddenly trying to be a chef. Hence, she tried to think of the hardest dish to make. That’s when she remembered hearing that Chinese food was hard to make. Cho Ah Ra smiled and opened her mouth.
“Spicy seafood noodles!”
“Make me spicy seafood noodles. Why? Is that too hard?”
Cho Min Joon scoffed. Cho Ah Ra’s intentions were so clear that he wasn’t even mad. Cho Min Joon then responded with, “Okay.”
“I said okay.”
Cho Min Joon immediately went through the cupboard. There were no Chinese noodles, but he figured he could use rice noodles instead. As for seafood, he had clams, but there was no time to remove the sand. It was almost 6 already. And in order to properly clean clams, it took at least 3 hours.
“Ah Ra, check the other fridge if we have any pork.”
She must have felt a little bad about her request because she immediately did as Cho Min Joon asked. She went through the fridge and came back with a lump of pork.
“It’s pork neck.”
It was also Cho Min Joon’s favorite part of pork. Compared to pork belly, pork neck had a deeper flavor. And when chewed inside the mouth, it was very chewy. Cho Min Joon thought about it for a moment. Would this go well with spicy seafood broth? He figured that it’d be okay. But just in case, he had to mince it so that it would have the correct texture.
Cho Min Joon took out a knife. He then began to mince the pork neck. What Cho Min Joon focused on the most was his handling of the knife. Most normal people thought it was okay as long as the food was cut, but the result differed depending on how the knife was handled.
The same applied to the mincing of the meat. If the knife happened to be dull or if he didn’t apply enough pressure, the meat could end up being ripped apart in a way that didn’t really look pleasant. Then again, as long as some care was put into it, even kids could mince meat. They wouldn’t be as fast as Cho Min Joon though. Cho Ah Ra stared in awe.
“When did you get so good at using the knife?”
“This is no big deal.”
Cho Min Joon smirked. He actually improved while he worked at the restaurant. He didn’t remember how many pieces of onions and garlic he sliced there. At the time, he considered it a pain in the ass, but he now realized that that experience was needed. However, that didn’t mean that he would do it all over again.
Once he minced the meat, Cho Min Joon cut up the green onions and garlic. After cracking the garlic on its side, he minced it into small pieces. As for the green oinions, he sliced it to be long and thin. Cho Ah Ra looked onwards with her jaw dropped. He was even faster than how he handled the meat. His way of handling garlic and green onions was no joke. It almost looked like she was watching TV.
“Mom! Min Joon is amazing with the knife!”
Cho Ah Ra called for her mom, but Lee Hye Sun responded as if she couldn’t be bothered. ‘How good could he be anyway?’ That was her thought. Cho Ah Ra felt frustrated, but she didn’t press Lee Hye Sun. He was finished with the knife work anyway.
Cho Min Joon put a wok on the stove and poured vegetable oil onto it. And once it was properly heated up, he put the garlic and green onions on the wok. The moisture mixed with the oil and made a crackling sound. The sound made him feel happy. At times, the oil got on his hand and burned it, but that couldn’t be helped.
He put a pot beside the wok and boiled some water. Rather than adding cold water into the wok later, it was better to use hot water instead.
The Korean scent of the green onions and garlic tickled his nose. Once the garlic turned yellow, he added the pork neck. The meat oil and the vegetable oil mixed together to suffuse a delicious scent. The pork neck cooked quite nicely.
And then, it was time to add the hot pepper flakes. Cho Min Joon quickly added it and poured in oyster sauce as well. Cho Min Joon then added dried radish greens. Cho Ah Ra, who was watching, spoke with a reluctant look on her face, “This looks good and all, but is it okay to add the greens? This isn’t pork bone stew.”
“It’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure?”
He wasn’t sure if it would be fine since he had never tried it before. But he thought that the dried radish greens would go well with it. It was possible that the spicy seafood noodles might turn out to be a little more Korean. He considered adding cilantro, but Cho Ah Ra didn’t like it. And if he had, it would have turned out more Thai than anything else.
“Min Joon, can I taste the meat?”
Cho Min Joon smirked and handed her a spoonful of the pork neck. Cho Ah Ra tasted it and smiled.
“I love meat.”
Cho Min JOon nodded and had a taste of the pork neck as well. It was very delicious.
“We could probably just eat this as is instead of adding broth and noodles.”
“That’s because you took a bite. If you keep eating it, it’ll be salty.”
“Hm, maybe you’re right.”
It was going to be salty even with broth, so it would be unbearable without the broth. Cho Min Joon chcked the boiling water. It was already boiling. Cho Min Joon lifted the pot and slowly poured it into the wok. It made a burning sound before the broth spread the scent of green onions and hot pepper flakes.
“…This will be delicious.”
“Don’t tell me to make this for you ever again.”
Cho Min Joon left the boiling wok and headed towards the cutting board. He pulled out the onions and sliced it into little pieces. It only took him 10 seconds, and Cho Ah Ra was in immense awe at the speed.
“Min Joon, do you go to a cooking college?”
“That’s a compliment right?”
“I mean… this is so random. You’re good at cooking? How?”
Her shock could be heard in her voice. Cho Min Joon didn’t respond and just smiled. The truth was, he didn’t know what to say. ‘I practiced by myself?’ If he had, she would have known since they lived toegether. So, he just changed the subject.
“Bring me the cabbage.”
Cho Ah Ra obeyed him despite her shock. Cho Min Joon chopped up the cabbage not long after. It had to be small so that it could go into their mouths easily. After adding the cabbage and waiting between 1 to 2 minutes, he added the onions and rice noodles.
This is what people called Jemul Noodles. There was the disadvantage of the broth becoming too thick, but that’s what also made the flavors of the ingerdients stand out. But Cho Min Joon preferred to cook the noodles separately and then add the broth later. He liked his dishes to be clean. But the reason why he didn’t do that this time was simple.
‘Too much work.’
That process would have required more steps than usual. And he didn’t think that that would make the dish that much better, since it was just a matter of personal preference. He really didn’t want to go through all the trouble. On top of that, rice noodles didn’t make the broth as thick as other noodles. So he expected it to turn out just fine.
Cho Min Joon stirred the noodles as it cooked. Meanwhile, a notification popped up in front of Cho Min Joon’s eyes.
[Pork Neck Spicy Noodles]
Origin: (Too many ingredients for an accurate calculation)
Quality: High (average)
Cooking Score: 5/10