For you Korean drama and food lovers, I’m excited to take a look at the dishes featured in Crash Landing On You!
For our Korean drama food series, we took a look at the dishes featured in Itaewon Class last time! In this post, we’ll be looking at the food characters in Crash Landing On You, 사랑의 불시착!
Crash Landing On You (CLOY) aired in 2019 and was one of the highest rated TV dramas in Korea. This is the story of an unlikely romance between an entrepreneur heiress, Yoon Seri and a North Korean military officer, Captain Ri Jeong Hyeok. Due to a freak tornado, Seri’s paragliding trip lands her over the North Korean border and into the hands of Captain Ri, literally. From that moment the audience already knows that love is inevitable but will become consumed by the journey.
One of the reasons why this drama soared in popularity was because of the unique larger story about the two Koreas, culture and identity. Captain Ri represents the militarized culture of North Korea while Seri exemplifies the pinnacle of South Korea’s capitalism. At first glance, Captain Ri and Se-Ri seem to have absolutely nothing in common and are adversarial. However, you soon start to realize that they are more similar than different in many ways.
And in this drama, food prominently bridges the two Koreas. Yes, there are a lot of food scenes which will make you hungry as you’re watching.
I love everything about this drama! The story line is unique with a nice balance of romance, comedy, and action. It’s also fascinating to see everyday life in North Korea and hear their dialect.
Onmyeon (Warm noodle soup) – Episodes 2 and 9
One of the first presentations of food in CLOY is when Captain Ri makes Se-Ri her first North Korean meal, a noodle soup. He makes it from scratch using a hand cranked noodle maker and then drains the noodles with a bamboo strainer. This is the first glimpse into a North Korean kitchen. You start to get a sense of the rustic simple lifestyle of North Korea that juxtaposes with the rapidly modernized South Korea.
Captain Ri’s soft and endearing personality shines through despite the intimidating position he carries as a military Captain as he carefully prepares this dish. He seasons the broth with doenjang (fermented soybean paste) and adds optional details such as the thinly sliced fried egg and finely chopped chili pepper garnishes.
This warm noodle soup, called onmyeon (온면, meaning warm noodles), is highly popular in the North alongside naengmyeon (냉면). Captain Ri’s homemade noodles look slightly yellow to indicate the possible use of corn flour, which is one of main grains in the North.
A noodle soup appears again in episode 9, where Captain Ri’s mother made Se-Ri a similar noodle dish as a way to comfort her and get to know her. The mom’s version looks lighter with the vegetable toppings on top rather than cooked in the soup as Captain did. Both dishes are very similar to janchi guksu (잔치국수).
Homemade noodle dishes are the ultimate language of love and comfort. You can also make it easily and deliciously for yourself or a guest (even an uninvited one like Seri) by following my janchi guksu recipe.
Kimchi – Episodes 2, 6 and 9
Captain Ri serves the noodle dish with kkakdugi (깍두기, cubed radish kimchi). His kkakdugi looks light, not red. His mom serves the noodle soup with mak kimchi (막김치, cut up napa cabbage kimchi) which also looks very light in color.
This reminds me of my mother-in-law’s kimchi. My mother-in-law grew up in the North, and fled to the South during the Korean war. Her kimchi was light and mild tasting. Kimchi is very different from region to region. The southern regions make their kimchi salty and use more fermented seafood and gochugaru as a way of preserving kimchi in warm weather.
In episode 6, Captain Ri’s men take Seri to her farewell picnic and prepare a seafood stew with fresh catches from the river and serve it with chonggak kimchi. Seri raves about the stew as she also bites into a long piece of crunchy chonggak kimchi.
Kimjang – Episodes 2 and 3
The women of Captain Ri’s village gather by the ocean side to make kimchi together, salting their cabbages with sea water. This is called kimjang, a kimchi making tradition. In Ep 3, they gather again in a neighbor’s house for the second part of kimchi making together.
This is a very familiar scene (minus the ocean side). I used to watch my mother make over 100 cabbages with her friends in the neighborhood. In modern day South Korea, kimchi is kept in kimchi refrigerators but it’s interesting to see an underground kimchi cellar at Captain Ri’s house, where other food items are stored. You can use my recipe to host your own kimjang for a small group of friends or family.
Grilled meat – Episodes 2 and 12
Captain Ri grills pork at his house over a small pail containing charcoal briquettes. His men and Seri enjoy grilled meat together with raw napa cabbages as wraps along with ssamjang.
Later, Seri hosts a beef BBQ dinner at her house over a nice electric grill highlighting the differences in resources but commonality in food. You will notice that on the grill at Seri’s house the beef is accompanied by mushroom caps, onions and garlic. These are commonly found on Korean BBQ grills. Another perhaps intentional difference is lettuce wraps as opposed to napa cabbage wraps served by Captain at his house. In both cases, the meats don’t appear to have been marinated. See how you can grill fresh meat without seasoning or marinating here.
Gamjajeon (Potato pancake) – Episode 3
After finding out about Seri’s stay at Captain Ri’s house, the curious women of the village bring some food and alcohol drink to Captain Ri’s house — a stack of potato pancakes (called gamja buchimgae or gamjajeon), steamed corn on the cob, and chestnut wine.
Another savory pancake that’s popular in the North is nokdujeon (or nokdu bindaetteok), which is made with mung beans. Both of these pancakes are very common in the North, and although not identifiable, there were stacks of some sort of pancakes on the special occasion tables in the village.
Clam Bulgogi – Episode 4
In this episode Seri reluctantly tries clam bulgogi, which is uniquely a North Korean clambake, and falls instantly in love with it. It is also known as Petrol Clams because petroleum (aka gasoline) is often used as the cooking fuel. Gasoline is squirted all over the clams and then ignited. The fire will cook the clams through the shells and once the gasoline burns off the fire will extinguish and the clams are ready to be eaten.
Surprisingly, when you pick up a clam and open the shell you will find a juicy plump clam that is perfectly cooked without a hint of gasoline. Gasoline is used in North Korea because of accessibility but if you wanted to try this at home I would recommend using alcohol, soju or vodka would work, and making sure you do this in a wide open space that is designated for a campfire.
If done safely, this may quickly turn out to be one of your favorite ways of cooking clams. And you can finish off your bite of clam the way the soldiers do, by pouring a shot of soju into the clam shell!
Sujeonggwa – Episode 6
Se-Ri says her goodbye to the women in the North Korean village while drinking Sujeonggwa. It’s a spicy and sweet dessert drink that’s made with ginger and cinnamon and often garnished with pine nuts and dried persimmons. It is supposed to help with digestion so you may see it being served after dinner in Korean restaurants. It’s delicious and simple to make. Growing up, this was our favorite winter drink that’s also served on traditional holidays. I hope to share my recipe soon.
Korean Fried Chicken – Episodes 6 and 13
Like many other Korean dramas, fried chicken is a repeat character in CLOY. Fried chicken is popular in both South and North Korea and it is enjoyed most often with beer which is why it is nicknamed Chimaek in Korean, “chi” for chicken and “maek” for maekju which means beer. The North Korean version of fried chicken with beer appears when Seri and Captain Ri travel to Pyongyang and experience their first snow together. The whole chicken fried up to crispy golden brown looks so delicious!
The Korean chicken chain restaurant BBQ Olive Chicken, which is a sponsor, was prominently displayed in several parts of the drama which resulted in a huge increase in sales for them. You can follow my chicken recipes to enjoy chimaek at home while watching CLOY. I would recommend trying my dakgangjeong and yangnyeom chicken recipes, both of which are on the BBQ menu.
Ramyun – Episodes 5 and 11
In episode 5, Captain Ri’s men gather at his house and eat ramyun (라면) after being released from the State Security Officer. They are being comforted by warm bowls of ramyun after being badly beaten up by the Security Officer for not divulging information about Seri. It’s interesting that one of the guys calls ramyun noodles kkoburang guksu (꼬부랑국수) meaning wavy noodles.
Later in episode 11, Gu Seung Joon explains a social implication of ramyun in South Korea. He tells her the line “Would you like to have some ramyun?” is not something you can say to just anyone. If you’re a K-drama fan, you probably know how this line is used as a way to invite someone into your home in romantic relationships.
I know you don’t need a recipe to make ramyun, but try my sundubu ramyun for something different from your average ramyun.
During Se-Ri’s stay in North Korea she indulges in a number of snacks including boiled potatoes, hard boiled eggs, corn on the cob, chestnuts, peanuts, dried pollack and nurungji dipped in sugar. All of these snacks are also popular in South Korea.
Koreans often enjoy boiled potatoes with fresh kimchi. It may sound like a strange combination but the potato is the starch replacement for rice and pairs really well with kimchi or dongchimi (radish water kimchi).
Captain Ri’s men discover the joys of a Korean Spa. One of the signature foods to try is the steamed sauna egg that is cooked in the extremely high temperature. This method of cooking results in a brown colored egg that has a roasted nutty flavor. This can be made in a rice cooker or an instant pot at home but if you have an opportunity to enjoy one at the spa, that is always the preferred way.
Seri enjoys boiled eggs on the train to Pyongyang. She uses the crack and roll method which many Koreans use. You crack the shell on the table and then use your palm to roll the egg without crushing it to separate the shell from the egg. Later in Seoul, her assistants mention to Captain Ri that Seri likes to eat eggs but in a very particular way. They have to boiled for 8 minutes and 27 seconds. If they are cooked for 8 minutes and 30 seconds she does not like them because they are too dry.
In one episode, Seri comments about how she can’t stop eating nurungji dipped in sugar. Nurungji is the hard rice crust that forms on the bottom of the pot when the rice is scorched. If you eat the nurungji dry, it is like a crunchy rice cracker that elevates to a new level of deliciousness when dipped in sugar. I loved it growing up. You may become hooked too if you try it. Next time you make a pot of rice try scorching the rice on the bottom to make a crunchy layer of nurungji to try. Sometimes, Koreans boil nurungji with water, drink the liquid like a beverage and eat the softened nurungji like a porridge.