Being a cold, rainy, October Sunday, we stayed at home, wrapped up in a sweater and blanket, working on our respective projects. Aaron wanted to give Maangchi’s Spicy Stir-Fry Pork, or Dwaejigogi-bokkeum 돼지고기볶음, a try, and I’m always up for a new Korean recipe, especially one from her since the Dakgangjeong we made for my mom’s birthday was so delicious. The spicy stir-fry pork not only looked tasty, it gave me a chance to casually suggest we start a new Korean drama, which I haven’t been able to watch in four months due to our schedules.
We settled on a show called Let’s Eat, which is one part Agatha Christie murder mystery and one part romance between two foodies who are obsessed with any kind of amazing dish, from cheap takeout to the best restaurants in Korea. It seemed appropriate.
Not having time to make red pepper paste, one of the key ingredients that takes at least several months in an earthen pot to mature, we ordered some online and had it ready to go. Aaron picked up pork shoulder at the the store (we couldn’t find pork belly anywhere! What’s up with that?) and a few of the vegetables we needed. He chopped what needed to be chopped, cut what needed to be cut, and measured what needed to be measured, putting it all in a pan ready to be heated over flame for ten minutes …
At this point, it smelled great so we were so ready to dive into it. We got our lettuce and rice, which served as a wrap, and sat down to watch the drama. It looked beautiful on the plate …
Taking the first bite, we love it. It’s fantastic. We can’t wait to make it again! “Oh man, this is delicious!” we say as the subtitles appear on our new drama.
And then it happens.
Somewhere, from inside my mouth, the fires of Mordor were unleashed.
I start sputtering. I can’t breath. This sets off my diaphragm, which tries to correct itself. I’m trying to speak, simultaneously gasping in between hiccups, my eyes watering, my throat burning, my sinuses running. Desperate, I grab a nearby glass and in a matter of seconds manage to down at least 20 ounces of water before running to the nearest guest bathroom to try and find Kleenex. That was a mistake because water doesn’t cut the burn, it spreads it. Remembering that milk and / or bread can counteract the chemistry, the two of us – Aaron had stopped laughing at me by this point and his eyes gone wide as started rocking back and forth breathing through his mouth – finished off the end of a loaf of French Miche bread and drank 32 ounces of whole milk in an attempt to make the pain stop. It was like trying to stop a forest fire with a squirt bottle.
We’re not lightweights when it comes to spicy foods. On the milder end, of my favorite things in the entire world is a huge plate of nachos covered in fresh jalapenos and we routinely use multiple types of peppers in many of dishes, including the white chicken chili recipe we shared with you. I like making the dipping sauce I use for homemade Japanese Gyoza so hot it makes you want to cry. None of that prepared us for this stir fry. Maybe we managed to pick the single Serrano pepper in all of Missouri that happened to be germinated in the furthest reaches of hell. Whatever the cause, we were not equipped for Sauron and his minions to wage war on us.
Fifteen or twenty minutes later, we had eaten all we could, in tiny, slow, pain-infused bites, seduced by the juicy pork and wonderful sauce. If it wouldn’t have sent us to the hospital, we might have even tried to lick the plate.
The base recipe is wonderful. We’re making it again tomorrow because it was so good. For now, to see if we can figure out what caused the liquid fury in the dish, we’re changing the red pepper flake proportions and leaving out the Serrano to see if that makes a difference.
The crazy thing is one of the people on Maangchi’s blog says they feed this to their children and the kids love it. I’m tempted comment and say, “Hang on there, Mommy Dearest …” That or they’re raising young chain smokers who can no longer sense spice.
If you think you’re brave enough, try the recipe. It’s great. I recommend you crank up your speakers and play this song while you eat, though, because it’s probably the only way you’re going to get through it.