When I was young, my mom taught me a Korean children song about kids going to school.
It’s a very cute song, and as ancient as it can be for a 24-year-old modern college student like me. I’d long forgotten it. I think the last time I sang it, I was about 10 and clinging to a doll with straw-colored hair and ruby-pink lips that played that song when her palms were pressed.
This week, as I entered the grand USC south gate, I heard that old song play in my mind: “The school bell goes ding ding ding/ Come, hurry, let’s all gather around/ The teacher is waiting for us/ The school bell goes ding ding ding/ Come, hurry, let’s all gather around/ Let’s get along well today once more/ Let’s study freaking hard.” (Translated roughly from Korean.) Here’s a video you can enjoy (bugger, it won’t let me embed!).
There was no bell to welcome us, but to hear the chatters, joyful shouts and laughter of my schoolmates chimed like school bells to me. The sounds, sights and smells of young people skateboarding, biking, walking, running with backpacks and laptop bags harkened a new day, a new semester of school.
As much as I talk about how much I wish I could start working in the real world, I know I’ll dearly miss the safe bubble of college campus, where a mistake counts as education and the only “boss” I need to please are my professors, whose primary goal is for me to learn something useful.
This is my last year in college (unless I attend grad school, which I strongly doubt). My friend Jordan and I were talking about it with a combination of excitement and regret—excitement that we’re finally almost “done” with being a semi-adult, and regret that we may not have taken more advantage of all that a college lifestyle has to offer us.
So we made up a list of goals—a bucket list of sorts—for this semester. Here’s mine:
- Attend a USC football game: Shame on me, I’ve never gone to a football game in my entire life. USC is very proud of its football team, and it’s disgraceful that I still don’t know our football players’ names…actually, I still don’t even know how football works.
- Don’t drop out of my hip hop class, no matter how much I stink: Yes, I’m taking a hip hop class this semester! I won’t ever be the next B-girl, but my goal is to at least be able to dance freestyle without flinging like a rabid monkey.
- Take a pottery class: Been wanting to do this for some time!
- Learn line dancing, and go line dancing: Got to put my cowboy boots to good use!
- Attend more USC’s Visions & Voices events: USC is freaking rich, and thus it’s also incredibly rich in its resources. They have the fiscal and prestigious power to invite many outstanding guest speakers, performers and leaders to hold numerous arts and humanities-related events throughout the semester. I hope I don’t sound like USC’s PR parrot.
- Write/study at the USC library: USC has several libraries, and one of the most impressive ones is Doheny, a 9-floored, Hogwarts-style castle glossed with marble floors and lined with fragrant old books.
- Go to the beach more often to watch the sun rise or sun set: Picture says all.
- Understand Koreatown more: I’ve been living in the Koreatown area for a year now, and every time someone asks me for dining recommendations here, I blank out because I haven’t visited many of the great traditional Korean restaurants here. Through a conversation with someone, I also realized that I don’t understand the Korean American mindset as I well as I do the (immigrant) Korean mindset. They definitely flow in a different rhythm, and since I’ll soon be an American myself (yay!) I should learn more about the political, religious, social conversations of Korean Americans. Which brings me to…
- Be an American: For real! I’m finally applying to be a U.S. citizen, after much delaying and excuses about having no money and no time. It’ll be months and months before I gain my citizenship, but I’m super excited.
Now, boring prattles about myself aside…I wanted to share with you something amazing.
Everybody with some proximity to fast foods restaurants know what KFC is…but do you know what Korean Fried Chicken is?
Fried chicken isn’t just a Southern thing—it’s a favorite bar food, snack food, after-school food, lunch break food, whenever for whatever occasion food in South Korea. It’s just a national favorite dish, not counting kimchi of course. We call it yangnyeom chikin (양념 치킨) in Korean, but here in the U.S. a lot of Koreans call it Korean fried chicken to distinguish it from the American-style one.
The difference is in the skin, which is fried two times—first time to crisp up the crust and remove fat from the skin, the second time to cook the chicken piece all the way through.
The result is a non-greasy, crackly, double-layer of paper-thin, crispy crust and tender flesh underneath. Usually the chicken isn’t seasoned before frying but after. My favorite is the spicy version, in which the cooked chicken is coated with a thick, spicy and sweet garlicky sauce. Like all Korean food, this is plastered all over with pungent garlic.
I got a small bucket of KFC at Drunken Chicken, a relatively new KFC joint in Koreatown. I chose that one for economical reasons: I had a coupon for 50 percent off. Sweet! KFC can get pretty expensive.
God it’s SO good. No wonder it’s a national favorite, no matter whether you’re a teething pre-schooler or a toothless granny. The texture of the skin is thick, sticky and crackles as you bite into it. And then your teeth sinks into the tender flesh—strips of juicy, velvety meat that tones down the bold spice of the crust.
My mouth waters and my eyes weep. Oh for a drumstick right now!
One thing about Korean and their eating style: they always, always, always have some kind of pickle with whatever they eat, especially if it’s something they deem “rich.” Go to an Italian pasta restaurant, and they’ll serve pickle next to your alfredo fettuccine. Pizza? Here’s a bowl of pickles. Same with fried chicken, but the pickle they serve is radishes:
Cubes of white, vinegary, puckery-sweet radish. The sweet and sour taste draws out saliva in your mouth so you can digest your fatty meat better, I suppose.
They also served coleslaw, which is another typical side dish for deep-fried dishes in Korea (and Japan, I think).
If you live in a city, I’m sure you can find a KFC joint without too much problem. Google “Bonchon” or “Kyocheon,” the two most famous international KFC chain. If you can’t find any, don’t despair. Move to Los Angeles’ Koreatown, where there’s like 5 branches within a 2-mile radius. Hm, is that too much for a piece of KFC? I don’t think so.
Question of the Day: Favorite type of fried chicken?