Sequestration Meal #172


What seems like a ridiculously long time ago now, I went to H-Mart. And there I bought some dumplings.

At H-Mart I scour labels in English and Korean while people around me speak Chinese and Spanish and the music playing is usually in Korean; people look at me oddly while I sound out Hangul (the Korean alphabet) and try not to become totally lost by the mixture of what I hear and see that I understand and also don't and sometimes I forget that I need to pay attention to more than just "is this vegan" and "do I like the sound of the name of this thing," and also to cultural differences in the way flavors are described.

I used to teach English as a Second Language classes to mostly-Chinese students. The classes were free, but the group took turns cooking dinner before class to help "pay" the instructors, and thus I know, perhaps better that most, that the people of the Szechuan region have the spiciest food. At the time, my social circle was mostly made up of Korean women, whose fondness for hot peppers would also sometimes be startling in intensity; thus it is so among Koreans, whose "mild" levels of spicy would make my nose run and every bite a struggle. So I should have known that if I bought Szechuan-style "spicy" dumplings from a Korean brand I was in for some suffering, even if it was sold in the United States.

But the ingredients sounded so promising! These "veggie" dumplings did have veggies in them, but mostly seasoned TVP, and so they were a good protein source, I figured, and this was extremely exciting because you don't usually see TVP as anything other than a beef substitute, but here it was being praised as its own thing! So in the midst of a linguistic haze and an excess of enthusiasm, I bought the dumplings.

The first time I had them I was going to make a meal of just dumplings. I quickly regretted it. They were fire flavored with more fire and a side of fire and I couldn't make it through them. And then I hid them in the freezer and waited a day I was feeling brave or desperate or both. I can't say I was either when I pulled them out this time, but I knew better than to make them the meal. I had them with leftover hot dog fried rice, some sliced cucumbers with sesame seeds, and a basic dipping sauce that would go well with both dumplings and cucumbers (soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, mirin, water). 

And yet...this was a really good meal! I think the key was the fried rice not being at all spicy and being a bit greasy, and having the protein from the hot dogs, which helped to mitigate the fire. Cucumbers also helped cool things off, but not nearly so much as the rice. I felt like I'd cracked the spicy code: fatty protein. I had this same meal two lunches in a row. And now I have made it through most of the dumplings, and I feel somehow vaguely proud of my-non Asian self. I ate the 매운 만두. Go me! My 언니들 would be so proud.


  1. Hoooooo boy.... my mouth is on fire just reading this post! I am glad you were able to make it work for you.

  2. You are brave for tackling the spicy dumplings a second time; I'm glad you found a dish that worked for them!


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