Inspiration Station: Ram-don from Parasite

Congratulations to Parasite for winning big (and making history) at the Oscars on Sunday. I was hoping Joker would win Best Picture, but I did see Parasite and loved it, so I’m not mad about it. If you’ve seen it, you know there’s one foodie scene that’s pretty important: the ram-don scene. And since it’s been forever since I’ve done an “Inspiration Station” type post, I thought it was about time.

Let me back up and give you some plotline broad strokes. The movie is basically about a poor family, the Kims, who manage to infiltrate the lives of the wealthy Parks. It starts with one of the Kims tutoring the Parks’ son, but soon every Kim is employed by the Park family. A lot is done throughout the film to juxtapose these two families and their respective social classes. From the windows in their homes with very different views to the takeout they eat on very different plates, it’s very clear who are the haves and who are the have-nots. This distinction simmers throughout the film and eventually explodes in catastrophe as a warning that it’s important to not just see others, but to understand them.

The Dish:

There is one scene where the Park family returns to the house and requests the housekeeper whip up some ram-don. Note: ram-don is a mashup of ramen and udon, a name developed for English speaking audiences. In Korea, it’s called jjapaguri, also a mashup (of the brand names of noodles typically used in the dish). Basically it’s two types of cheap packaged noods cooked together with sauce. It’s non-fancy kid food. The American equivalent would be orange and white boxes of Easy Mac mixed together and eaten in after-school or drunk-food glory. The Park kid is still just a kid, who craves ram-don like all kids do; but what makes the scene special is that his mom flippantly asks for it to be topped with a very expensive cut of steak that just happens to be hanging around in her fridge. No big. This would be the equivalent of giving your kid chicken fingers topped with caviar as a snack. The Kims are literally struggling to find a pot to piss in, but this meal is nothing special for the Parks. After watching the movie, I had ram-don on the brain. Clearly I wasn’t the only one. The internet exploded with recipes so I used some as inspiration and made my very own ram-don for an intimate Oscars viewing party.

Traditionally, jjapaguri is made with two flavors of noodles: black bean sauce and seafood. We had a vegan guest so I nixed those flavors and made my own. First, cube 1 lb. sirloin and marinate in a mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, and scallions. I used about 1 tbsp of each – eyeball it. Set the steak aside to let it get flavorful. I let mine marinate for about 2 hours. A few minutes before you’re ready to eat, boil two packages of udon for 2-3 minutes. In the last minute, add in two packages of ramen. You could maybe have a 5th package of noodles, depending on how hungry you are. When the noodles have separated and cooked through, drain them and put them in a pan with some cooking oil, oyster sauce, more sesame oil, gochujang paste, and a bit more soy sauce. Toss til nice and saucy (won’t take long) and pile into a bowl, topping with more scallions (make sure there are some green parts in there so it’s nice and pretty – I added them right after taking the first photo). Using the same pan/wok, cook off your steak. Because the meat is cubed, this won’t take long – only about 3 minutes, max. Top the noodles with the steak and you’re good to go! Serves 3.

This was such good comfort food. It tastes like really really good takeout, but I didn’t have to wait for the delivery man. Also, once you’ve got the sauces in your pantry, this only costs about $20 for 3 people – can’t beat that. Also, that gochujang sauce is a game changer. It adds just the right amount of spice and, because it’s fermented, has a roundness of flavor I haven’t found in other chili sauces.

The Doodads:

  1. Peach Lip Scrub: The Kims do some damage with peaches in this film. This scrub won’t harm anyone and will keep your lips nice and hydrated.
  2. Thong: “Jessica” leaves a souvenir behind in the car, propelling the Kim family plan forward. I’m into Thistle & Spire’s designs – scandalous, yet classy. It’s a thing.
  3. Tent: When the camping trip is cancelled, the Park son sets up a teepee in the backyard. Crate and Kids makes some of the best, and I love that they can be personalized.
  4. Matching PJs: The Parks have a steamy scene in matching pajamas. Grown spouses wearing matching silk pjs just makes them seem so affected. These aren’t silk, but they’re classic and have a similar version for women.