I love Koreatown in the springtime…

Wherein I blog about all things Korean in Los Angeles

Pax Mongolica May 20, 2007

Filed under: Korea — Raven @ 1:14 am
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There was a time when the Mongols ruled half the world. Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit, but I’m too lazy to look up exactly how much they ruled. Suffice it to say that, like the Romans, they were all over the important parts of the world (I mean the parts they saw as important, which aren’t the same parts the Romans thought were important). And, like the Romans, they left stuff behind. Linguistic stuff.

I know how this linguistic stuff got into Russian. Russia was, naturally, one of the places the Mongols decided was important, and unlike the wimpy French and Germans, they weren’t deterred by the Russian winter. So they showed up and took over and left behind some words (I’m sure they left behind some babies, too, but those aren’t relevant to this blog post).

The Mongols also invaded Korea, which became their tributary for about 80 years. I am now discovering Korean words that have counterparts in Russian or the Central Asian languages. Granted, I don’t have too many so far. But here’s what I’ve got:

1. 가람 (karam). According to my dictionary, this means a Buddhist temple. Russian has the word храм (khram), which means a church or temple.

2. 만두 (mandu). This is a dumpling. Kazakhs refer to their dumplings as манты (manty).

3. 사랑 (sarang). This is not to be confused with the word 사랑 which is spelled and pronounced exactly the same and means love. This one, again according to my dictionary, means a detached room used as a man’s quarters. This may be a bit of a stretch, but I’m wondering if it’s related to the Mongol word sarai, which I’m told means palace, although it might mean city (I’m having trouble finding the exact etymology). The Russians, showing their great disdain for things Mongol, adopted the word and use it to mean barn (сарай).

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got so far. Maybe I’m reaching. But I think the parallels are interesting. Now I just need mdb to weigh in on these words in Chinese and someone who speaks Hindi (anyone?) to weigh in on the Indian variations, if any.

P.S. I looked it up after all. Read more about the Pax Mongolica here.


Revenge on the bibimbap lady May 7, 2007

Filed under: cuisine,restaurants — Raven @ 2:48 am
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Dear Bibimbap Lady,

Just because I’m white doesn’t mean I want to order #1 (i.e., bibimbap for non-Koreans), especially when you’ve just heard me tell you I want to order #14.


P.S. Just wait till I can order in Korean! That’ll show you!

Well, actually I probably could order in Korean now. The problem would arise when I got a response, since I almost certainly wouldn’t understand it. I’d be fine as long as all I had to do was say “I’d like this” and then pay.

The bibimbap lady who has earned the honor of being featured on my blog runs a place called Gamja Bawi in the Koreatown Plaza food court. For those of you who have been there, it’s the one on the south wall with the biggest variety of bibimbap (some of you know this because you were there with me). I’m sure the lady means well and is concerned for my taste buds, but I don’t like being restricted to one variety of bibimbap just because I don’t happen to be Korean.

Also, her bibimbap is tasty, but when you order a kind that’s supposed to have a lot of meat in it, it would be nice if you could find the meat. Okay, so I exaggerate a little, but it really was skimpy.

The cold noodles from the place on the west wall, however, were awesome, especially on a hot day like today when we needed something refreshing.

As of today I’ve also become a fan of papingsu, specifically the variety we ordered, which was actually nokcha pingsu (I love green tea ice cream). I was also very impressed with myself because Bon V. and I were sitting at our table chatting and waiting for our order to be up, and suddenly I hear the lady behind the counter call, “녹차 빙수!” And I said to Bon V., “That’s us.” Processing time: instantaneous. Now keep in mind I hadn’t known the Korean name for what we ordered until a few minutes earlier, when I read it on the posted menu. And I thought I’d forgotten it again right away. And it wasn’t in front of me at the time. So I have no idea how I understood this. But I was very pleased. Yes, I take pleasure in small things.

In addition to a lot of good food, this trip to the K-town Plaza also yielded a script idea (actually several, but only one I remember).

And then I got home and found a tree branch had fallen on the exact spot where I parked my car last night. I’m really glad I went out today!