Korean Pajeon Sauce

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Vietnamese-American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Henderson, Nevada
Date of Performance/Collection: March 16th, 2014
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Vietnamese

Information about the Informant

My informant is from a Vietnamese family. She’s currently an undergraduate student at Indiana University Bloomington. In her spare time, she loves to knit and cook, primarily baked goods, but also some “Asian” recipes that she learned from her family. This is a recipe for a Korean sauce for “pajeons,” which is a type of pancake-like dish with green onions as a primary ingredient (for the pancakes, not the sauce).

Transcript

“To make the sauce for the Korean Pa jeon, I do–let’s estimate it to 3 tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of Worchestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon of chili garlic sauce, roasted sesame seeds, and 1 tablespoon of the–just the lemon ponzu sauce.”

Collector: “And you just mix it all together?”

“Yeah. And I think that’s it.”

Analysis

One of the things my informant shares with her mother is their mutual love of cooking. This is a recipe passed down to the informant from her mother, and is interesting because it clearly not “authentically” Korean. There is the obvious “inauthenticity” of a Korean recipe being passed down through a family of non-Korean though East Asian extraction, but in a closer examination of the ingredients that my informant gave me, one in particular stands out as unusual. Worchestershire sauce is definitely not of Korean, let alone, Asian origin, an ingredient that is strongly associated with the European continent. There is also the ingredient chili garlic sauce, with chili being a plant that is native to the Americas and which only spread after Columbus’s voyage. This raises questions, as is often the case, of what is authentic cultural food? Is the use of the chili pepper acceptable as the plant spread in the 16th century, but Worchestershire sauce is not because it has stronger ties to a non-Asian culture? This is a recipe that my informant and her mother have been using for years, but it’s clear that some elements did not come from some grand chain of passing-down all the way from the ancient Koreans.